Full Text December 7, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Statement on the 70th Anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Statement by President Barack Obama on the 70th Anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor

Seventy years ago today, a bright Sunday morning was darkened by the unprovoked attack on Pearl Harbor.  Today, Michelle and I join the American people in honoring the memory of the more than 2,400 American patriots—military and civilian, men, women and children—who gave their lives in our first battle of the Second World War.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the families for whom this day is deeply personal—the spouses, brothers and sisters, and sons and daughters who have known seven decades without a loved one but who have kept their legacy alive for future generations.

We salute the veterans and survivors of Pearl Harbor who inspire us still.  Despite overwhelming odds, they fought back heroically, inspiring our nation and putting us on the path to victory.  They are members of that Greatest Generation who overcame the Depression, crossed oceans and stormed the beaches to defeat fascism, and turned adversaries into our closest allies.  When the guns fell silent, they came home, went to school on the G.I. Bill, and built the largest middle class in history and the strongest economy in the world.  They remind us that no challenge is too great when Americans stand as one.  All of us owe these men and women a profound debt of gratitude for the freedoms and standard of living we enjoy today.

On this National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, we also reaffirm our commitment to carrying on their work—to keeping the country we love strong, free and prosperous.  And as today’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan come to an end and we welcome home our 9/11 Generation, we resolve to always take care of our troops, veterans and military families as well as they’ve taken care of us.  On this solemn anniversary, there can be no higher tribute to the Americans who served and sacrificed seventy years ago today.

On This Day in History… December 7, 1941: 70th Anniversary of Japan’s Bombing Attack on Pearl Harbor

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:

Day in History

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University. Ms. Goodman has also contributed the overviews, and chronologies in History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-2008, 4th edition, edited by Gil Troy, Fred L. Israel, and Arthur Meier Schlesinger to be published by Facts on File, Inc. in late 2011.

IN FOCUS: ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY…. DECEMBER 7, 1941: 70TH ANNIVERSARY OF JAPAN BOMBING PEARL HARBOR

Official United States Navy Photograph

On this day in history… December 7, 1941: At 7:55 am local time, Japanese warplanes attacked the United States Pacific fleet at their base, Pearl Harbor in Oahu, Hawaii. The Japanese hit nineteen ships, eight of which where battleships. The ships were either enturely sunk or severely damaged from the attack; this included 188 aircraft that were also wrecked. The attacks killed 2,280 and wounded 1,109 from the military, and also killed 68 civilians.

The next day on December 8, 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed Congress, calling December 7 a date that will live in infamy, and declaring war against Japan; leading the United States into World War II.

THE HEADLINES THEN…

GUAM BOMBED; ARMY SHIP IS SUNK; U.S. Fliers Head North From Manila — Battleship Oklahoma Set Afire by Torpedo Planes at Honolulu 104 SOLDIERS KILLED AT FIELD IN HAWAII President Fears ‘Very Heavy Losses’ on Oahu — Churchill Notifies Japan That a State of War Exists Japan Starts War on U.S.; Hawaii and Guam Bombed — New York Times, Dec 8, 1941. p. 1

Congress Declares War on Japan; 3,000 Casualties in Hawaii Air Raid; Senate votes 82 to 0, House 388 to 1 within 33 minutes after President’s address–Two U.S. warships sunk, others damaged– Washington reports destruction of Tokyo planes and subs. Losses In Pearl Harbor World War in Fact 3,000 Casualties in Air Raid on Hawaii Counterattack Starts Landon Pledges Support War Against the Axis Attack on Hawaii Congress Votes Declaration Of War Against Japan More Aid for President Connally’s Resolution — Christian Science, Dec 8, 1941. p. 1

TOKYO ACTS FIRST; Declaration Follows Air and Sea Attacks on U.S. and Britain TOGO CALLS ENVOYS After Fighting Is On, Grew Gets Japan’s Reply to Hull Note of Nov. 26 TOKYO ACTS FIRST AND DECLARES WAR By The Associated Press, New York Times, Dec 8, 1941. p. 1.

U.S. AND JAPS AT WAR; CONGRESS GETS F.D.R. MESSAGE IN CRISIS TODAY Report Fleet Acts to Contact Foe — Chicago Daily Tribune: Dec 8, 1941. p. 1

U. S. Warships Struck in Pearl Harbor Attack. – Chicago Daily Tribune, Dec 8, 1941, p. 8.

Attacks Precede War Declaration; Tokyo Notifies Envoys After Surprise Raid Upon Pearl Harbor Base — Los Angeles Times, Dec 8, 1941. p. 1

Japanese Bombs Burst on U.S. Islands — The Washington Post, Dec 8, 1941, p. 10

Tokyo Bombers Strike Hard At Our Main Bases on Oahu; JAPANESE HIT HARD AT BASES ON OAHU AMERICAN NAVAL BASE ATTACKED PROM AIR — The United Press, New York Times, Dec 8, 1941, p. 1.

JAPANESE INVADE MALAYA: F.D.R. WAR MESSAGE TODAY; Guam Is Attacked; Nippon’s Seizure Of Wake Reported Enemy Aircraft Carrier Said To Be Sunk After Surprise Raid on Pearl Harbor Base — The Associated Press, The Atlanta Constitution, Dec 8, 1941, p. 1.

Hawaii Attacked Without Warning With Heavy Loss; Philippines Are Bombed; Japan Declares War on U.S.; Hawaii Bombed, Losses Heavy — The Washington Post, Dec 8, 1941, p. 1.

JAPS OPEN WAR ON U.S. WITH BOMBING OF HAWAII; Fleet Speeds Out to Battle Invader Tokyo Claims Battleship Sunk and Another Set Afire With Hundreds Killed on Island; Singapore Attacked and Thailand Force Landed — Los Angeles Times, Dec 8, 1941, p. 1.

THE HEADLINES NOW…

    • Pearl Harbor on the nation’s front pages: The attack on Pearl Harbor was front-page news the next day, and some newspapers even managed to put out special issues the same day of the attack…. – WaPo, 12-7-11
    • A date which will live in infamy: Dec. 7, 1941: The United States naval base at Pearl Harbor is attacked by Japanese planes launched from six aircraft carriers. Four US battleships are sunk, and four others damaged. Over 2400 Americans are killed, including 1177 on the battleship … – LAT, 12-6-11
    • Survivors, veterans mark somber Pearl Harbor remembrance: Some 120 aging survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor were among 5000 people who marked its 70th anniversary on Wednesday with a quiet, often emotional ceremony at water’s edge. With a light rain falling, … – Reuters, 12-7-11
    • Pearl Harbor remembrances: In ceremonies throughout the country, people gathered to remember a day that changed history on a December morning 70 years ago. In Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, a US Marine firing detail prepares for a service commemorating the 70th anniversary of the attack … – WaPo, 12-8-11
    • Nation pauses to remember Pearl Harbor: Survivors of the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor gathered Wednesday to remember the 2,400 people who lost their lives exactly 70 years ago.
      “Just as every day and unlike any other day, we stop and stand fast in memory of our heroes of Pearl Harbor and the Second World War,” Rear Adm. Frank Ponds, commander for Navy region Hawaii, told the gathering.
      U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus took note of the devastating legacy of the two-hour attack on Pearl Harbor 70 years ago.
      “The history of December 7, 1941, is indelibly imprinted on the memory of every American who was alive that day. But it bears repeating on every anniversary, so that every subsequent generation will know what happened here today and never forget,” Mabus said…. – CNN International, 12-7-11
    • Nation Marks 70th Anniversary Of Pearl Harbor: In wheelchairs and on walkers, the old veterans came Wednesday to remember the day 70 years ago when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. But FDR’s “date that will live in infamy” is becoming a more distant memory. … – AP, 12-7-11
    • Snafu mars Pearl Harbor 70th anniversary ceremony: A snafu marred the critical moment of silence Wednesday at the Pearl Harbor ceremony observing the 70th anniversary of the Japanese attack.
      Each year, the tradition calls for a moment of silence to start with the sounding of a ship’s whistle. The quiet is then broken when military aircraft fly over the USS Arizona Memorial in missing-man formation.
      The timing is carefully choreographed so that the moment of silence begins exactly at 7:55 a.m. — the moment Japanese planes began bombing the harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. But on Wednesday, emcee Leslie Wilcox was still speaking at 7:55 a.m., even as the Hawaii Air National Guard’s F-22′s roared overhead on schedule 42 seconds later.
      The moment of silence was held a few minutes late, just before 8 a.m. It was obvious to those who had attended the commemoration before that something was off, but some in the audience for the first time didn’t notice…. – CBS News, 12-8-11
    • Pearl Harbor remembered 70 years later: Ceremonies commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor have been held across the United States. It was the surprise attack on the US navel base in Hawaii which brought America into World War II. Survivors gathered on the island to remember the fallen.Nearly 2,500 American service members died on December 7 1941…. – euronews, 12-7-11
    • Pearl Harbor Day: Survivors remember attack, pay respects on 70th anniversary: The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 remains deeply imbedded in the American psyche. On the 70th anniversary, Michael Ruane looked back at how the nation reacted to that fateful event: For a time on Dec. 7, 1941, millions of Americans were … – WaPo, 12-8-11
    • Survivors remember Pearl Harbor: About 120 survivors of the Dec. 7, 1941, bombing of Pearl Harbor observed a moment of silence to commemorate the Japanese attack and the thousands who lost their lives that day 70 years ago…. – WaPo, 12-8-11
    • Pearl Harbor Day: Nation promises survivors it will never forget: A grateful nation delivered a heartfelt message Wednesday morning to the dwindling number of survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack: Rest easy. We’ll take it from here. Allow us to repay the debt by carrying your burden. On the face of it…. – LAT, 12-7-11
    • Pearl Harbor Day: Survivors remember attack, pay respects on 70th anniversary: The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 remains deeply imbedded in the American psyche. On the 70th anniversary, Michael Ruane looked back at how the nation reacted to that fateful event: For a time on Dec. 7, 1941, millions of Americans were … – WaPo, 12-7-11

“If December 7 is going to teach us anything, it should be that we must remain vigilant at all times, not just to avoid war, but vigilant among ourselves so that we would not use this as a justification to set aside our most honored document, the constitution.” — Sen. Daniel Inouye

  • Senator Inouye Recalls Pearl Harbor Attack’s ‘Black Puffs of Explosion’: Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, a witness to the Pearl Harbor attacks, spoke today on the Senate floor about the 70th anniversary of the day he thought the world was ending.
    The bombing, he said, “began a period of my life where I became an adult and I hope a good American.” He added, “It is something that I will never forget that changed my life forever.”
    Only 17, Inouye was getting ready for church on Sunday morning Dec. 7, 1941, in Hawaii. He was listening to music when the radio announcer interrupted the programming with screaming. Inouye and his father ran outside…. – ABC News, 12-7-11
  • Pearl Harbor Day: Celebrities Who Served In World War II (PHOTOS): When the bombs rained down on Pearl Harbor, Americans immediately went to work. In addition to a homefront that saw citizens plant victory gardens, buy war bonds and fill the factories, the military flooded with brave young heroes, ready to defend…. – Huff Post, 12-8-11
  • Pearl Harbor Still a Day for the Ages, but a Memory Almost Gone: For more than half a century, members of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association gathered here every Dec. 7 to commemorate the attack by the Japanese that drew the United States into World War II. Others stayed closer to home for more intimate regional chapter ceremonies, sharing memories of a day they still remember in searing detail.
    But no more. The 70th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack will be the last one marked by the survivors’ association. With a concession to the reality of time — of age, of deteriorating health and death — the association will disband on Dec. 31…. – NYT, 12-6-11
  • Remembering Pearl Harbor, 70 years later: Seventy years ago Dec. 7, the nation was shocked by the news from Pearl Harbor, a place many Americans had never heard of before. The battleship USS West Virginia is engulfed in flames after the surprise Japanese attack …Yet without declaring war, Japan had launched a massive air attack on the ill-prepared U.S. naval forces in Hawaii. The damage — 2,402 Americans killed, four battleships sunk, 188 aircraft destroyed — wouldn’t be known publicly for weeks.
    The 70th anniversary is being marked by hundreds of Remember Pearl Harbor events, new books, and Wednesday’s two-hour History Channel special, Pearl Harbor: 24 Hours After (8 p.m. ET)…. – USA Today, 12-6-11
  • ‘Pearl Harbor: 24 Hours After’: History’s splendid Pearl Harbor documentary shows FDR quickly set national tone: Network / Air Date: Wednesday at 8 p.m., History
    The 24 hours after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, were “the turning point of the 20th century,” declares the narrator of this History special.
    Even by standards of TV shows, that’s a bold claim. But “Pearl Harbor” spends the next two hours systemetically and effectively arguing that it’s true…. – NY Daily News, 12-6-11
  • Declassified Memo Hinted of 1941 Hawaii Attack: Three days before the Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt was warned in a memo from naval intelligence that Tokyo’s military and spy network was focused on Hawaii, a new and eerie reminder of FDR’s failure to act on a basket load of tips that war was near…. – U.S. News & World Report, 11-29-11
  • Remembering Pearl Harbor: The phrase lives on, and 70 years have not dimmed the meaning and memory of that day…. – NYT, 12-6-11
  • Nation pauses to remember Pearl Harbor: Survivors of the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor will remember the 2400 people who lost their lives 70 years ago Wednesday. The annual commemoration in Hawaii begins at 7:40 am (12:40 pm ET ) at the Pearl Harbor … – CNN International, 12-6-11
  • Preserving veterans’ stories on 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Globe & Mail, 12-7-11
  • Pearl Harbor attacked: A witness remembers, 70 years later: Around 8 am on Dec. 7, 1941, Army Private Francis Stueve sat down to breakfast with the rest of the 89th Field Artillery battalion, stationed at Pearl Harbor. “As quiet a day as you’ve ever seen,” Stueve remembers now. “Beautiful sunshine, nothing … – WaPo, 12-6-11
  • Pearl Harbor survivors are fading away: Ten years ago, as America prepared to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, The News-Sun met with three Navy men from Waukegan who were there on the date which will live in infamy: Ambrose Ferri, John Haffey and Jay Kough….
    Those men have joined the ranks of Pearl Harbor survivors who lived to see postwar America, and now have started to fade away. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, there are only 3,000 Pearl Harbor veterans still among us nationwide…. – Chicago Sun-Times, 12-6-11
  • 70 years after attack on Pearl Harbor, Doolittle’s raid on Japan still garners interest: Almost 70 years after the United States struck Japan in a bold bombing raid that did little damage but lifted the spirits of a Pearl Harbor-weary nation, Thomas Griffin relishes the role he played that day as a navigator in one of Jimmy … – WaPo, 12-5-11
  • Pearl Harbour attacked 70 years ago – A soldier remembers: It was on this day (December 7th, 2011) in 1941 that Japan launched a surprise attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. At 07:55 local time the first wave of between 50 and 150 planes struck the naval base for 35 minutes dropping … – ABC Online (blog), 12-7-11
  • 70 Years Later: Using Historic Times Articles and Social Media to Remember Pearl Harbor: Overview | What happened on Dec. 7, 1941? Why is the attack on Pearl Harbor such an historically important event? In this lesson, students learn about the 1941 attack by reading an archival Times article from the day after, and then either create a series of Twitter posts that document the attack and resulting declaration of war, or write a “Historic Headlines”-style summary and analysis of the event and its repercussions — and their connection to today…. – NYT, 12-6-11

QUOTES

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Address to Congress Requesting a Declaration of War with Japan December 8, 1941

Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 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.

Statement by President Barack Obama on the 70th Anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor

Seventy years ago today, a bright Sunday morning was darkened by the unprovoked attack on Pearl Harbor. Today, Michelle and I join the American people in honoring the memory of the more than 2,400 American patriots—military and civilian, men, women and children—who gave their lives in our first battle of the Second World War. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families for whom this day is deeply personal—the spouses, brothers and sisters, and sons and daughters who have known seven decades without a loved one but who have kept their legacy alive for future generations.

We salute the veterans and survivors of Pearl Harbor who inspire us still. Despite overwhelming odds, they fought back heroically, inspiring our nation and putting us on the path to victory. They are members of that Greatest Generation who overcame the Depression, crossed oceans and stormed the beaches to defeat fascism, and turned adversaries into our closest allies. When the guns fell silent, they came home, went to school on the G.I. Bill, and built the largest middle class in history and the strongest economy in the world. They remind us that no challenge is too great when Americans stand as one. All of us owe these men and women a profound debt of gratitude for the freedoms and standard of living we enjoy today.

On this National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, we also reaffirm our commitment to carrying on their work—to keeping the country we love strong, free and prosperous. And as today’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan come to an end and we welcome home our 9/11 Generation, we resolve to always take care of our troops, veterans and military families as well as they’ve taken care of us. On this solemn anniversary, there can be no higher tribute to the Americans who served and sacrificed seventy years ago today.

HISTORICAL INTERPRETATION

  • Craig Shirley: Five myths about Pearl Harbor: President Franklin D. Roosevelt called Dec. 7, 1941, “a date which will live in infamy.” And that day, when the Japanese launched a surprise attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, has lived in infamy for 70 years. Yet even as the memory of the attack has lasted, so have the misperceptions surrounding it. On this anniversary, here are a few myths worth dispelling.

    1. The U.S. government had no knowledge of a potential Japanese attack before Dec. 7.
    Beyond the obvious signs of Japan’s increasing aggression — including its sinking of an American naval vessel in the Yangtze Riverand its signing of the Tripartite Pact with fascist Italy and Nazi Germany — various specific war warnings had been sent by Washington to military commanders in the Pacific for some days before Dec. 7.

    2. On Dec. 7, Japan attacked only Pearl Harbor.
    Though the attack on Pearl Harbor was the most crippling and caused the most American losses, Japanese forces also struck the Philippines, Wake Island, Guam, Malaya, Thailand and Midway that day.

    3. The U.S. military responded quickly and decisively.
    For months after Pearl Harbor, the United States suffered defeat after defeat in the Pacific theater.

    4. Japanese Americans were the only U.S. citizens rounded up after Pearl Harbor.
    Within 48 hours of the attack, more than 1,000people of Japanese, German and Italian descent, all considered “enemy aliens,” were detained by the FBI.

    5. The attack on Pearl Harbor convinced the public that the United States should enter World War II.
    The attack persuaded Americans to support entering part of the war, not all of it. Before Pearl Harbor, the United States was largely isolationist, and there was almost no call to get involved in another European war.

    WaPo, 12-2-11

  • Nigel Hamilton: Pearl Harbor — and Our Moral Identity as a Nation: As U.S. intelligence reported on the number of Japanese troop transports and warships gathering off the coast of Thailand and Malaya in the first days of December 1941, it became obvious to all but Republican ostriches that the Philippines would soon be targeted, and that the United States, unless it wished to become a vassal state, would be drawn into the war, whether it wished or not.
    On the night of December 6, 1941, discussing the latest intelligence reports with the President in his Oval study on the second floor of the White House, Harry Hopkins remarked sadly that it was a pity the U.S. could not pre-empt the Japanese attack on the Malay Barrier while the menacing Japanese invasion fleet was still off shore.
    “No, we can’t do that. We are a democracy and a peaceful people,” President Roosevelt said. “But we have a good record.”… – Huff Post, 12-5-11
  • Pearl Harbor anniversary: It still lives in infamy: Gilbert Sandler describes how, after Pearl Harbor, Baltimoreans worked and played, worried and sacrificed under the shadow of war
    Today, marks the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japan and the official entry of the United States into World War II. These stories are excerpted from the book, “Home Front Baltimore” (Johns Hopkins University Press)…. – Baltmore Sun, 12-7-11

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Publications in honor of the 70th anniversary include the following:

  • Stephen Gillon, Pearl Harbor: FDR Leads the Nation Into War (Basic, 2011).
  • Craig Shirley, December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World (Thomas Nelson, 2011).
  • Stanley Weintraub, Pearl Harbor Christmas: A World at War, December 1941 (DaCapo, 2011).
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