Words That Men Live By
Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt (1941)
WASHINGTON, D. C., Dec 8, 1941 - To a nation stunned by the news of Japan’s sneak attack yesterday on Pearl Harbor – and while – reports of the disaster still were incomplete – President Roosevelt tonight broadcast a message of confidence in the war that suddenly has burst upon the United States.
He spoke again over the radio from his study in the White House, within a few hours after sending to the Congress a message requesting affirmation of the declaration that a state of war exists with Japan – action which was taken immediately.
This would not be an easy or a short conflict, the President stated; it would be long and costly and difficult, but the expressed full confidence in victory.
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 have prepared the full record of our past relations with Japan, and it will be submitted to the Congress. It begins with the visit of Commodore Perry to Japan eighty-eight years ago. It ends with the visit of two Japanese emissaries to the Secretary of State last Sunday, an hour after Japanese forces had loosed their bombs and machine guns against our flag, our forces and our citizens.
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 under the very shadow of the flag of peace borne by their special envoys in our midst.
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 collaboration, 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 Czecho-Slovakia – without warning.
Later in 1939, Hitler invaded Poland – without warning .
In 1940, Hitler invaded Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg – without warning .
In 1940 Italy attacked France and later Greece – without warning.
And in this year 1941, the Axis powers attacked Yugoslavia and Greece and they dominated the Balkans – 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 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.
So far, the news has been all bad. We have suffered a serious set-back in Hawaii. Our forces in the Philippines, which include the brave people of that commonwealth, are taking punishment, but are defending themselves vigorously. The reports from Guam and Wake and Midway Islands are still confused, but we must be prepared for the announcement that all these outposts have been seized.
The casualty lists of these first few days will undoubtedly be large. I deeply feel the anxiety of all families of the men in our armed forces and the relatives of people in cities which have been bombed. I can only give them my solemn promise that they will get news just as quickly as possible.
This government will put its trusts in the stamina of the American people and will give the facts to the public as soon as two American people 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.
Most earnestly I urge my countrymen to reject all rumors. These ugly little hints of complete disaster fly thick and fast in wartime. They have to be examined and appraised….
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 materiel 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, of shells and equipment – that is what these eighteen months have given us.
But it is all only a beginning of what 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 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 Americans and 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, division and disputes, indifference and callousness. That is now all past – and, I am sure, forgotten….
~ Postlogue ~
We are going to win the war and we are going to win the peace that follows.
While the President delivered this “fireside chat” the United States was only at war with Japan. Technically relations were unchanged with Germany and Italy.
It was not until the morning of December 11 that Germany and Italy formally declared war on the United States, in accordance with their alliance with Japan.
But all that the President could say, or needed to say in his capacity as the country’s President had been expressed in the speech digested here. The rest was anti-climax.
Not until January 6, 1942, when the President went to Capitol Hill to address the Congress in person, would he enlarge upon the theme.Printable version