70 Years Ago: A Date Which Will Live In Infamy

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, members of the Senate and the House of

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
Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.
Last night Japanese
forces attacked Guam.
Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine
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, that 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

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.


Share With Friends

Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.


  1. In 1902 Great Britain and Japan concluded an alliance which led indirectly to the ententes with Russia and France. During the First World War England could safely leave the defence of the Far East to her ally. Fast forward to the Washington naval agreements shortly after that war. The US wanted an end to British naval hegemony at the least cost to herself; the British wanted to cut their defence expenditure. America insisted on British abrogation of the Anglo-Japanese alliance as a pre-condition; already she was seeing Japan as a dangerous rival in the Pacific. The British government shamefully aquiesced. The Japanese had always set great store by the alliance, as it demonstrated that they were recognized as a Great Power by Europe.

    By the 1930s the US had retreated into isolation and Britain had the nightmare of what is probably the greatest strategic overstretch since Charles V in the 16th century. Not only had we to hold the Mediterranean with Italy as a potential enemy, we faced a hostile Japan. The surrender at Singapore in February 1942 is the greatest defeat for British arms in our entire history, and there were many in the USA who exulted over it. Roosevelt believed that the greatest threat to world peace was the British Empire, not the Soviet Union.

    In the 1950s John Foster Dulles was determined to remove all British and French influence from the Middle East. Ten years later America was embroiled in Vietnam and you were asking what Britain and France were doing to prevent the increase of Soviet inluence in (wait for it) the Middle East.

  2. ” Not only had we to hold the Mediterranean with Italy as a potential enemy, we faced a hostile Japan.”

    In regard to Italy John I do not think that was much of a challenge. I think Churchill’s reaction after the Italians entered the War on the side of Germany says it all. He said it seemed only fair since the Brits had been saddled with them in the First World War! In regard to Japan I think the abrogation of the Anglo-Japanese alliance had little to do with Japan’s desire to seek lebensraum in China and to dragoon all of East Asia into a Co-Prosperity Sphere under the hegemony of Japan. That was all a product of the internal political struggles within Japan as detailed in David Bergami’s magisterial, albeit garishly titled, Japan’s Imperial Conspiracy. Japan embarked on the path of conquest because Hirohito sided with the militarists. Japan went on a path of conquest because the War in Europe, gravely weakening all the Western powers except the US, seemed to afford Japan a golden opportunity. I doubt if any piece of parchment with Great Britain would have caused the Japanese to act any differently, since the Emperor was intent on war.


  3. “Piece of parchment”? Don, you’re starting to sound like Bethmann-Hollweg in 1914. I read Bergamini’s book when it came out in 1972, and although it has attracted adverse criticism from scholars then and since, I agree it is a considerable achievement. However, as David Steed pointed out in a paper delivered to the LSE in 2003: “The Alliance was renewed in 1911, it continued to work, it was the cornerstone of Japanese foreign policy, it delivered in the First World War, and both Allies accepted the need for further renewal in 1921.” He goes on to say: “The beginnings of an American hegemonic approach to the Pacific-Asia region can be seen in the years before 1921, and the Anglo-Japanese Alliance was identified as an obstacle to that approach. American opposition to the Alliance had a limited effect before 1918; by 1921 it can be seen as the most important factor in the destruction of the Alliance.”

    As a footnote, American foreign policy seems to me to have tended to be confrontational and driven by populist rhetoric (the ‘war on terror’ being a good example). During the Cold War this paid off; but Lord Palmerston showed that the best way to thwart a potential enemy is often to co-operate with him. This does not necessarily imply appeasement in the derogatory sense it only acquired after 1938.

Comments are closed.