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

Primary Source

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 attack shattered Americans' hope that vast ocean distances would protect the United States from involvement in World War II.

Excerpt from "We Are Going to Win the War and We Are Going to Win the Peace That Follows"

The sudden criminal attacks perpetrated by the Japanese in the Pacific provide the climax of a decade of international immorality.

Powerful and resourceful gangsters have banded together to make war upon the whole human race. Their challenge has now been flung at the United States of America. The Japanese have treacherously violated the long-standing peace between us. Many American soldiers and sailors have been killed by enemy action. American ships have been sunk; American airplanes have been destroyed.

The Congress and the people of the United States have accepted that challenge.

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 ….

I can say with utmost confidence that no Americans, today or a thousand years hence, need feel anything but pride in our patience and in our efforts through all the years toward achieving a peace in the Pacific which would be fair and honorable to every Nation, large or small. And no honest person, today or a thousand years hence, will be able to suppress a sense of indignation and horror at the treachery committed by the military dictators of Japan ….

The course that Japan has followed for the past ten years in Asia has paralleled the course of Hitler and Mussolini in Europe and in Africa. Today, it has become far more than a parallel. It is actual collaboration so well calculated that all the continents of the world, and all the oceans, are now considered by the Axis strategists as one gigantic battlefield.

In 1931, ten years ago, Japan invaded Manchukuo—without warning.

In 1935, Italy invaded Ethiopia—without warning.

In 1938, Hitler occupied Austria—without warning.

In 1939, Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia—without warning.

Later in 1939, Hitler invaded Poland—without warning.

In 1940, Hitler invaded Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg—without warning.

In 1941, also, Hitler invaded Russia—without warning.

And now Japan has attacked Malaya and Thailand—and the United States—without warning.

It is all of one pattern.

We are now in this war. We are all in it—all the way. Every single man, woman, and child is a partner in the most tremendous undertaking of our American history. We must share together the bad news and the good news, the defeats and the victories—the changing fortunes of war ….

This Government will put its trust in the stamina of the American people, and will give the facts to the public just as soon as two conditions have been fulfilled: first, that the information has been definitely and officially confirmed; and, second, that the release of the information at the time it is received will not prove valuable to the enemy directly or indirectly ….

It must be remembered by each and every one of us that our free and rapid communication these days must be greatly restricted in wartime. It is not possible to receive full, speedy, accurate reports from distant areas of combat. This is particularly true where naval operations are concerned. For in these days of the marvels of radio it is often impossible for the commanders of various units to report their activities by radio at all, for the very simple reason that this information would become available to the enemy, and would disclose their position and their plan of defense or attack.

Of necessity there will be delays in officially confirming or denying reports of operations but we will not hide facts from the country if we know the facts and if the enemy will not be aided by their disclosure.

To all newspapers and radio stations—all those who reach the eyes and ears of the American people—I say this: You have a most grave responsibility to the Nation now and for the duration of this war.

If you feel that your Government is not disclosing enough of the truth, you have every right to say so. But—in the absence of all the facts, as revealed by official sources—you have no right in the ethics of patriotism to deal out unconfirmed reports in such a way as to make people believe that they are gospel truth.

Every citizen, in every walk of life, shares this same responsibility. The lives of our soldiers and sailors—the whole future of this Nation—depend upon the manner in which each and every one of us fulfills his obligation to our country.

Now a word about the recent past—and the future. A year and a half has elapsed since the fall of France, when the whole world first realized the mechanized might which the Axis Nations had been building for so many years. America has used that year and a half to great advantage. Knowing that the attack might reach us in all too short a time, we immediately began greatly to increase our industrial strength and our capacity to meet the demands of modern warfare.

Precious months were gained by sending vast quantities of our war

President Franklin D. Roosevelt speaking to the U.S. Congress on December 8, 1941, one day after the Pearl Harbor attack. During this speech Roosevelt requests a declaration of war against Japan; thirty-three minutes after concluding the speech President Franklin D. Roosevelt speaking to the U.S. Congress on December 8, 1941, one day after the Pearl Harbor attack. During this speech Roosevelt requests a declaration of war against Japan; thirty-three minutes after concluding the speech, Congress passed the resolution declaring war between the United States and Japan. Published by Gale Cengage Corbis. Reproduced by permission.
material to the Nations of the world still able to resist Axis aggression. Our policy rested on the fundamental truth that the defense of any country resisting Hitler or Japan was in the long run the defense of our own country. That policy has been justified. It has given us time, invaluable time, to build our American assembly lines of production.

Assembly lines are now in operation. Others are being rushed to completion. A steady stream of tanks and planes, of guns and ships, and shells and equipment—that is what these eighteen months have given us.

But it is all only a beginning of what still has to be done. We must be set to face a long war against crafty and powerful bandits. The attack at Pearl Harbor can be repeated at any one of many points, points in both oceans and along both our coast lines and against all the rest of the hemisphere.

It will not only be a long war, it will be a hard war. That is the basis on which we now lay all our plans. That is the yardstick by which we measure what we shall need and demand; money, materials, doubled and quadrupled production—ever-increasing. The production must be not only for our own Army and Navy and Air Forces. It must reinforce the other armies and navies and air forces fighting the Nazis and the war lords of Japan throughout the Americas and throughout the world.

I have been working today on the subject of production. Your Government has decided on two broad policies.

The first is to speed up all existing production by working on a seven-day-week basis in every war industry, including the production of essential raw materials.

The second policy, now being put into form, is to rush additions to the capacity of production by building more new plants, by adding to old plants, and by using the many smaller plants for war needs.

Over the hard road of the past months, we have at times met obstacles and difficulties, divisions and disputes, indifference and callousness. That is now all past—and, I am sure, forgotten.

The fact is that the country now has an organization in Washington [D.C.] built around men and women who are recognized experts in their own fields.—I think the country knows that the people who are actually responsible in each and every one of these many fields are pulling together with a teamwork that has never before been excelled.

On the road ahead there lies hard work—grueling work—day and night, every hour and every minute.

I was about to add that ahead there lies sacrifice for all of us.

But it is not correct to use that word. The United States does not consider it a sacrifice to do all one can, to give one's best to our Nation, when the Nation is fighting for its existence and its future life.

It is not a sacrifice for any man, old or young, to be in the Army or the Navy of the United States. Rather is it a privilege.

It is not a sacrifice for the industrialist or the wage earner, the farmer or the shopkeeper, the trainman or the doctor, to pay more taxes, to buy more bonds, to forego extra profits, to work longer or harder at the task for which he is best fitted. Rather is it a privilege.

It is not a sacrifice to do without many things to which we are accustomed if the national defense calls for doing without.

A review this morning leads me to the conclusion that at present we shall not have to curtail the normal use of articles of food. There is enough food today for all of us and enough left over to send to those who are fighting on the same side with us.

But there will be a clear and definite shortage of metals of many kinds for civilian use, for the very good reason that in our increased program we shall need for war purposes more than half of that portion of the principal metals which during the past year have gone into articles for civilian use. Yes, we shall have to give up many things entirely.

And I am sure that the people in every part of the Nation are prepared in their individual living to win this war. I am sure that they will cheerfully help to pay a large part of its financial cost while it goes on. I am sure they will cheerfully give up those material things that they are asked to give up.

And I am sure that they will retain all those great spiritual things without which we cannot win through.

I repeat that the United States can accept no result save victory, final and complete. Not only must the shame of Japanese treachery be wiped out, but the sources of international brutality, wherever they exist, must be absolutely and finally broken.

In my message to the Congress yesterday I said that we "will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us." In order to achieve that certainty, we must begin the great task that is before us by abandoning once and for all the illusion that we can ever again isolate ourselves from the rest of humanity.

In these past few years—and, most violently, in the past three days—we have learned a terrible lesson.

It is our obligation to our dead—it is our sacred obligation to their children and to our children—that we must never forget what we have learned.

And what we all have learned is this:

There is no such thing as security for any Nation—or any individual—in a world ruled by the principles of gangsterism.

There is no such thing as impregnable defense against powerful aggressors who sneak up in the dark and strike without warning.

We have learned that our ocean-girt hemisphere is not immune from severe attack—that we cannot measure our safety in terms of miles on any map any more.

We may acknowledge that our enemies have performed a brilliant feat of deception, perfectly timed and executed with great skill. It was a thoroughly dishonorable deed, but we must face the fact that modern warfare as conducted in the Nazi manner is a dirty business. We don't like it—we didn't want to get in it—but we are in it and we're going to fight it with everything we've got.

I do not think any American has any doubt of our ability to administer proper punishment to the perpetrators of these crimes ….

We are going to win the war and we are going to win the peace that follows ….

What happened next …

Germany and Italy officially declared war on the United States on December 11, 1941. The U.S. government immediately infused American industry with massive amounts of money to convert to a full-fledged war economy. Production goals set for 1942 included sixty thousand warplanes, fortyfive thousand tanks, and twenty thousand antiaircraft guns. Administration officials made decisions on resource allocation so that critical industries would have adequate amounts of steel, rubber, aluminum, and other important materials. Large corporations received most of the government contracts for war production because they had large research staffs and their assembly lines were already in production; therefore, they could produce the most war materials in the shortest amount of time. These corporations were located in densely populated urban areas, so the pool of available workers was large. However, thousands of additional workers were needed to meet the government's production goals, so many Americans from rural areas flocked to the cities for war industry jobs.

People who remained in rural areas farmed and prospered. Fewer farms existed in the early 1940s than had existed prior to the Great Depression, but those that survived grew larger and were able to supply enough food for Americans on the home front and for Allied soldiers and civilians abroad. Union leadership promised that no strikes would occur during wartime, and the number of work stoppages dropped dramatically by the end of 1942.

Did you know …

  • American industrial leaders demanded that the way industries mobilize for war production be controlled by the private corporations, not by government agencies. They wanted to avoid the types of government control that Roosevelt placed on business during the Great Depression, even though such measures were designed to strengthen the U.S. economy. Hoping to build increased support from business for the war, Roosevelt agreed to let business leaders take the lead in mobilization. As a result, private corporations forged strong working alliances with the U.S. military services in order to meet production goals. This alliance, which became known as the military-industrial complex, would greatly influence U.S. foreign policy and economy into the twenty-first century.
  • Unemployment virtually disappeared once mobilization went into full swing. Anyone who wanted to work—including women and minorities—could find a job.
  • Cities struggled with the influx of thousands of new residents who came to find employment. As a result, severe housing shortages developed, public transportation was overcrowded, and there was a lack of recreational facilities, such as public parks.
  • Millions of men joined the military and crowded onto rapidly expanding military bases. Their wives and children followed them across the country to live near the bases.

Consider the following …

  • As large corporations converted to producing war armaments, they gobbled up materials such as metals and rubber. Predict what happened to many small companies trying to produce civilian products.
  • Mobilization changed American society dramatically. Identify and discuss several of those changes.
  • In his "Arsenal of Democracy" speech and in "Proclamation No. 2487" President Roosevelt asked workers not to disrupt production efforts with strikes (work stoppages); he wanted employers and workers represented by labor unions to cooperate for the sake of the war effort. What was the overall response of unions and management from 1942 to 1945?
  • Reread the final portion of this excerpt, beginning with "We have learned a terrible lesson …." Discuss the simi larities and differences between America's response to the Pearl Harbor attack and the nation's reaction to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S. mainland.

For More Information


Harris, Mark J., Franklin D. Mitchell, and Steven J. Schechter, eds. The Homefront: America during World War II. New York: Putnam, 1984.

Ketchum, Richard M. The Borrowed Years, 1938–1941: America on the Way to War. New York: Random House, 1989.

Roosevelt, Franklin D. The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1941 Volume. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1950.