"Franklin D. Roosevelt's Pearl Harbor Speech"

Start Your Free Trial

Download "Franklin D. Roosevelt's Pearl Harbor Speech" Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Primary Source

(American Decades Primary Sources: 1940-1949)

The U.S.S. Shaw explodes after being hit by three bombs during the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. NATIONAL ARCHIVES AND RECORDS ADMINISTRATION. The U.S.S. Shaw explodes after being hit by three bombs during the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. NATIONAL ARCHIVES AND RECORDS ADMINISTRATION. Published by Gale Cengage NATIONAL ARCHIVES AND RECORDS ADMINISTRATION.


By: Franklin D. Roosevelt

Date: December 8, 1941

Source: Roosevelt, Franklin D. "Franklin D. Roosevelt's Pearl Harbor Speech." December 8, 1941. Available at the Boulder Community Network Government/Political Center online at http://bcn.boulder.co.us/government/national/speeches/spch2... ; website home page http://bcn.boulder.co.us (accessed March 14, 2003).

About the Author: Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882–1945), born in Hyde Park, New York, served as the thirty-second president of the United States, from 1933 to 1945. The only person in the nation's history to be elected to the presidency four times, he is best remembered for leading the nation through two of its greatest challenges: the Great Depression and World War II (1939–1945). He died in office in April 1945.


Even as World War II flared overseas, the United States government adopted a policy of nonintervention and chose to stay out of the conflict as long as possible. For the most part, this policy corresponded to the mainstream public desire to avoid the casualties and hardships of another conflict like World War I (1914–1918). By 1941, however, President Roosevelt moved the nation closer to involvement in two main ways. First, the United States began supplying military and other aid to Great Britain and its allies, going so far as to accept noncash payment for such materials under theLend-Lease Act. Second, Roosevelt instructed the U.S. Navy to shoot at German submarines on sight. Despite these actions, the United States was not officially at war.

Then, on December 7, 1941, Japanese forces bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The attack destroyed nearly all of the U.S. Pacific fleet and hundreds of airplanes and killed approximately 2,500 U.S. military personnel and civilians. The next day Roosevelt addressed Congress and requested that the United States declare war on Japan. The president's speech was not only a formal step toward an official declaration but also an attempt to rally public support for the war. Japan was one of the Axis powers, along with Germany and Italy, so a declaration of war would engage the United States in a preexisting world conflict alongside the Allies (Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union). American popular opinion strongly supported the president, and Congress immediately complied with Roosevelt's request to declare war.


Three days after the United States declared war on Japan, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States. The United States found itself joining Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and, to a lesser extent, China against the Axis powers in a conflict that continued until 1945. Like the other nations in the war, the United States suffered many casualties. The war had a unique impact on the United States, however, in five major ways. First, the nation's economy, which had failed to return to its pre-Great Depression health, experienced a great rebound due to wartime spending and production. The country emerged from the war, in fact, with a

thriving economy. Second, the United States experienced great scientific developments because of advances in military technology. The most notable of these was the development of the atomic bomb, which ultimately played a significant role in ending World War II. Third, the nation emerged from the war as a political and economic world leader. This led to U.S. commitments to help rebuild war-torn Europe. In addition, it placed the United States in opposition to the other global super-power, the Soviet Union, in what would become a decades-long Cold War.

U.S. entry into World War II also changed everyday life in the United States. A fourth impact of the war was the great influx of women into the domestic work-force as they filled...

(The entire section is 1,346 words.)