The attack propelled American into WWII.
75 years ago today, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. On December 8, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered one of the most famous speeches, which the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum will display until December 31:
“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 speech became known as the “Day of Infamy” speech, but Roosevelt’s show that he almost did not use infamy. Instead, he originally wrote world history, but scratched it out and replaced it with infamy.
— US National Archives (@USNatArchives) December 7, 2015
It also turns out that officials wanted him to deliver a longer speech:
Paul Sparrow, director of the FDR Library, said: “Some of his advisors, the Secretary of State, Secretary of War, wanted him to deliver a much longer speech.”
The State Department drafted a 17-page speech rehashing the history of U.S.-Japanese relations, but Roosevelt set it aside and went with his gut.
“He knew that the American public wanted to hear that we had been wronged and that we will find a way to victory,” Sparrow said.
“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.”
Language does matter, as White House speechwriter Sarada Peri explains:
“If you think about that word choice change . . . it’s not just a rhetorical flourish,” White House speechwriter Sarada Peri told The Washington Post’s Lillian Cunningham in her Presidential podcast. “It actually, it gives greater meaning. He is making a judgment call about what this moment is. It is an act that is treacherous and requires some kind of response, and it’s part of what speech writing is about, which is clarifying to the point of finding the right word.”
His personal secretary Grace Tully described the moment in her memoir:
I sat down without a word; it was no time for words other than those to become part of the war effort.
Once more he inhaled deeply, then he began in the same calm tone in which he dictated his mail. Only his diction was a little different as he spoke each word incisively and slowly, carefully specifying each punctuation mark and paragraph . ..
The entire message ran under 500 words, a coldblooded indictment of Japanese treachery and aggression, delivered to me without hesitation, interruption or second thoughts.
Congress voted for war only an hour after FDR delivered his speech.DONATE
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