Posted by: davidbowerkingwood | December 7, 2012

December 7, 1941

“A Date Which Will Live in Infamy”

As the years pass there are fewer and fewer of us who can remember where they were and what they were doing when the bombing of Pearl Harbor was announced on the radio; I still remember that Sunday afternoon. I was an eight year old boy riding in the backseat on a Sunday afternoon drive to look for campsites for the Boy Scout Troop my stepfather led. I’m sure that none of us could imagine the impact that attack would have on our country and our lives.

Although, by God’s blessing, we were not as profoundly affected as many other countries around the world it would certainly change life as we knew it. Some of the older boys that had been members of the troop would join up and never return; their lives lost on a distant battlefield. My stepfather had concerns about all of the boys that had gone through the troop and especially the boy leaders who had become patrol leaders and later assistant Scoutmasters. There were too many sad moments when we got the news that another former scout had died in the war.

War is Declared

Little time was lost in Washington D. C. in reacting to the attack; Congress was convened and President Roosevelt spoke to both houses.

Address to Congress
Requesting a Declaration of War with Japan
December 8, 1941 

“Mr. Vice President, and Mr. Speaker, and Members of the Senate and House of Representatives:

Yesterday, December 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that Nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its Government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American Island of Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack against Malaya.
Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.
Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam.
Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.
Last night the Japanese attacked Wake Island. And this morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our Nation.

As Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.

But always will our whole Nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory. I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces- with the unbounding determination of our people- we will gain the inevitable triumph- so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.” 

Once the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor the United States responded on December 8th with a declaration of war on Japan; because of treaties between Japan, Germany, and Italy that meant we had declared war on all three nations. Below is a copy of the declaration of war on Japan.

Congressional Declaration of War on Japan

“December 8, 1941

JOINT RESOLUTION Declaring that a state of war exists between the Imperial Government of Japan and the Government and the people of the United States and making provisions to prosecute the same.

Whereas the Imperial Government of Japan has committed unprovoked acts of war against the Government and the people of the United States of America:

Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
That the state of war between the United States and the Imperial Government of Japan which has thus been thrust upon the United States is hereby formally declared;
and the President is hereby authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the United States and the resources of the Government to carry on war against the Imperial Government of Japan; and, to bring the conflict to a successful termination, all of the resources of the country are hereby pledged by the Congress of the United States.

Approved, December 8, 1941, 4:10 p.m. E.S.T.”

This was a remarkable moment in the history of the United States. The country had been burdened by an economic downturn know as the “Great Depression” which had created many hardships on the American people. In addition the Central Plains had been ravaged by a drought that was so bad the whole area became known as the dust bowl. Having been raised in Houston, Texas I was indeed fortunate to have experienced little hardship from the depression or the drought.

Fortunately the drought was beginning to lift by the time the war started and many speculate that the Second World War was the catalyst that brought the United States out of the Great Depression.

A Time for Remembrance

Today, December 7, 2012, let us remember the great price that has been paid that we might continue as a free nation. The old saying, “Freedom is not Free” is as true today as it was on that fateful day in 1941. Sadly a second date that will live in infamy has been added to the history of this country and that is September 11, 2001. This is another vivid reminder that our freedoms must be defended or they will be lost.


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