Roosevelt, Franklin D.: Excerpt From "We Are Going to Win the War" Primary Source

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Primary Source

(American Home Front in World War II: Primary Sources)

A World War II poster featuring the powerful image of the American eagle, calling all Americans to do what they can to defend the United States against its enemies. The Library of Congress. A World War II poster featuring the powerful image of the American eagle, calling all Americans to do what they can to defend the United States against its enemies. Published by Gale Cengage The Library of Congress
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signing the declaration of war against Japan, December 8, 1941. National Archives. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signing the declaration of war against Japan, December 8, 1941. Published by Gale Cengage National Archives

Excerpt from "We Are Going to Win the War and We Are Going to Win the Peace That Follows," a speech delivered on December 9, 1941

Reprinted from The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1941 Volume.

Published in 1950.

"Together with other free peoples, we are now fighting to maintain our right to live among our world neighbors in freedom and in common decency, without fear of assault …."

On December 8, 1941, President Roosevelt made a now famous speech, later published in 1950 in the The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1941 Volume, to Congress about the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The president asked Congress to declare a state of war between the United States and Japan. He began with these words: "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." He went on to explain that Japan had "undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area." Thirty-three minutes after Roosevelt concluded his "Day of Infamy" speech, Congress completed and passed a joint resolution declaring that "war existed between the United States and Japan."

On the evening of December 9, 1941, President Roosevelt spoke directly to the American public via radio broadcast, calmly explaining how U.S. participation in the war would affect the home front. Roosevelt had used the "fireside chat" format, radio broadcasts that addressed everyday

citizens in an informal, comforting manner, since he first took office in 1933. The first fireside chat occurred on March 12, 1933, in which Roosevelt explained to the nation the measures he was taking to solve the banking crisis that was gripping the nation at the height of the Great Depression. On December 9, as on many other occasions, the president's clear reassuring voice infused Americans with confidence as they listened. Roosevelt first recapped the world situation and then summarized that portion of his speech by saying, "We are all in it—all the way." Next Roosevelt explained that the U.S. government would be checking all news reports from the war zones for accuracy, and he asked American journalists to keep rumors and hearsay out of their reports. The president also stated that news stories would be screened before publication so that any information that might be valuable to the enemy could be removed.

In the next part of his speech, Roosevelt called for all-out production in the war industry and announced an extended workweek for all existing production facilities. He also announced that taxes would go up to help pay for the war. The president advised the public that they might also experience shortages of consumer goods. Lastly Roosevelt described the lesson that the Pearl Harbor attack had taught the nation. His words on this point would be brought to mind almost sixty years later, after terrorists attacked the U.S. mainland on September 11, 2001 (see sidebar on page 30).

Things to remember while reading the excerpt from "We Are Going to Win the War and We Are Going to Win the Peace That Follows" …

  • Before Pearl Harbor was attacked, most Americans had not taken war preparation to heart. After the attack, Roosevelt knew that the public's attitude had changed through telegrams and letters to the White House and through media reports on the public mood.
  • After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the voices of isolationism (the belief in remaining uninvolved in another country's problems) and pacifism (opposition to the use of military force for any reason) quieted immediately.
  • The Pearl Harbor...

(The entire section is 3,495 words.)