Franklin D. Roosevelt: Pearl Harbor Speech (1841)

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (January 30, 1882 – April 12, 1945) also known by his initials, FDR, was the 32nd President of the United States (1933–1945). He was a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century, leading the United States during a time of worldwide economic crisis and world war. Also, he was the only American president elected to more than two terms. During his presidency, he facilitated a durable coalition that realigned American politics for decades. On December 8, 1941, he delivered a speech at the United States Capitol, Washington, D.C., in response to the Attack on Pearl Harbor. The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941. The attack was intended as a preventive action in order to keep the U.S. Pacific Fleet from interfering with military actions the Empire of Japan was planning against overseas territories of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States. In the attack, 2,402 men were killed and 1,282 wounded.
Watch the following video and listen to Roosevelt's Pearl Harbor speech. If you like, you can read along with the text. Otherwise, jump to the post-listening exercise directly after watching the video.
Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives: Yesterday, December 7th, 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 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.
Read the question and answer it. More than one answer is possible.
  • What does Roosevelt accuse Japan of?
    • He accuses Japan of having negotiated for continued peace with the United States under false pretenses before the attacks.
    • He accuses them of not having given any warning in advance.
    • He accuses them of having attacked Washington D.C.
    • He accuses Japan of having killed many Americans in the attacks.
    • He accuses Japan of other attacks that had happened years before.
Why is this speech so important? What was the consequence? Try to explain in a few sentences.
Roosevelt's Pearl Harbor speech is so important because he finished his speech with a request for Congress to make a formal declaration of war against Japan. The consequence was that the United States entered into World War II.

If you are interested, do an internet search on the Pearl Harbor attacks and the time that followed.

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