Friday, December 07, 2007

Pearl Harbor: The Date of Infamy

Franklin Roosevelt's Declaration of War against the Empire of Japan is one of my favorite speeches from the 20th Century. The line, "December 7th, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy" - is the most memorable of the speech and one of the best recalled in US history. However, the speech only begins there.

In this speech, relatively short by modern standards, Roosevelt persuasively and eloquently makes the case of war. In a chilling fashion he does an inventory of Japan's offensives. And, although the US was clearly a victim in this shameless act of aggression, Roosevelt maintains a position of strength. In essence, he doesn't cower, but says "you are missing with the wrong country."

Like I said, the speech is short, so I don't want my thoughts to be longer than the presentation itself; so here are the words of Roosevelt. His reminders, in light of our current conflict are very helpful today:

"Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives: 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 Malaya.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

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.

But 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 victory.

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."

Powerful reminders. War is challenging, but often necessary, when our country is attacked without provocation. Let us never forget the lessons of this December day.

Kevin Price is host of the Houston Business Show (M-F at 11 AM on CNN 650) and Publisher of the Houston Business Review. Get your free subscription while visiting here.

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