Ateneo De Naga high school 1980

Those who do not remember history are bound to live through it again.

Friday, December 07, 2012

The speech that echoed through infamy

On December 6, 1941, an Australian Royal Air force plane was on patrol at the gulf of Siam when he spotted Japanese escorts, cruisers and destroyers near the Malayan coast, south of cape Cambodia. The pilot of the plane reported by radio telling his base that the ships seemed to be heading for Thailand. Japanese planes serving as air cover for the naval force immediately attacked and shot down the Australian plane.

On December 7, 1941, after being updated by the intelligence report, Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt felt convinced that the Japanese naval fleet was heading to Thailand and not the United States. While Pres. Roosevelt was enjoying his stamp collection and chatting with his advisor, Harry Hopkins, news reached the president that Japan rejected the 10-point peace proposal. The proposal was submitted by the U.S. negotiators to the Japanese to end the economic sanctions and oil embargo imposed by the U.S. to Japan. Pres. Roosevelt said, “This means war!” Hopkins recommended that the U.S. strike first. The president then responded, “No, we can’t do that. We are a democracy and a peaceful people”.

At 1:45 pm on December 7, 1941, while Pres. Roosevelt was reviewing his stamp book, the phone rings. Secretary of the navy, Frank Knox, was on the line and informed the president that the navy department received a radio report from Honolulu stating that Pearl Harbor was under attack and it was not a drill.

That same afternoon, the navy presented a memorandum letter to the president which is the first known written report about the damage assessment at Pearl Harbor. In his own writing, Pres. Roosevelt noted on the letter the date and time he received the letter which was Dec. 7, 1941, 3:50 p.m.

Shortly after 5pm, Pres. Roosevelt summoned his secretary, Grace Tully, into his study. The president lit a cigarette and told Ms. Tully, “Sit down, Grace. I am going before the congress tomorrow. I would like to dictate my message. It will be short”.

After taking a long drag on his cigarette, Pres. Roosevelt began dictating to Ms. Tully: “Yesterday—comma—December 7—comma—1941—comma—a date that will live in world history—comma—the United States of America was simultaneously and deliberately attacked by the naval and air forces of the empire of Japan—period.”….

After dictating the short speech, Pres. Roosevelt showed a copy of his speech to secretary of state, Cordell Hull. Sec. Hull thought that the speech was one of the worse speech he has seen because it was too short and does not give a lot of details. Sec. Hull wanted the contents of the speech to have the detailed facts outlining Japanese treachery which would indict Japan in the eyes of the American public.

Though Pres. Roosevelt listened to the suggestions of Sec. Hull, he did not lengthen his speech. What Pres. Roosevelt wanted was to deliver a speech that has a clear message without any complicated and legalistic information in its contents. Its message should bring the nation of United States together to fight the aggression committed against it.

While reviewing the written speech, Pres. Roosevelt decided to cross off the words, “World History” and replaced it with “Infamy”. This revision is probably the most significant change in the speech that strengthened its tone.

Pres. Roosevelt knew that it is extremely important to deliver a speech that would arouse the whole nation into fighting off this external aggression. The military needs to be hurriedly rebuilt to enable it to go to war against Japan. On the spring of 1941, the U.S. only had 1 combat division compared to Japan that has 100+ divisions and the Germans that has 200+ divisions.

To deliver probably the most important speech in his presidential career, Pres. Roosevelt had to have a voice that is clear and strong. According to some records, the president was suffering from one of his chronic sinus infections on Dec. 7, 1941. The sinus will surely hamper Roosevelt’s ability to talk in a normal tone when he delivers his speech to congress the following day. During the 1930s and 40s, the drug of choice for the treatment of sinus was cocaine. The treatment procedure requires that the physician apply a diluted amount of cocaine solution directly on the sinus using a cotton swab. The cocaine would shrink the sinus offering immediate relief.

On December 7th from 5:30pm to 6:40pm, Pres. Roosevelt went to isolation with his personal physician, Dr. Ross McIntire, a prominent ear, nose & throat specialist who joined the president’s staff in 1937. It was believed that Dr. McIntire applied a diluted amount of cocaine on the president’s sinus to relive him of his sinus congestion.

On the evening of December 7th, Pres. Roosevelt and first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt had a scheduled dinner at the White House. The White House staff was given a Sunday off and so first lady Eleanor Roosevelt personally prepared, cooked and served dinner for two dozen guests. Two of the guests at dinner were Edward R. Murrow, a famous radio broadcaster & journalist and Col. William “Wild Bill” Donovan, who was the president’s coordinator of information. The first lady explained to the dinner guests that the president is unable to joint them because he was at a meeting with the congressional and military leaders.

During dinner, Mr. Murrow was asked to remain after dinner to have a meeting with the president. After the meal, Mr. Murrow was ushered outside the oval study (not to be confused with the oval office) and waited for the president. He was later joined by Col. Donovan. At about midnight, pres. Roosevelt invited Murrow and Donovan into the oval study for some midnight snack of sandwiches and beer. The meeting lasted for 25 minutes and it was believed that Pres. Roosevelt did not hold back any information to both men. Roosevelt laid out the damage reports, battle statistic, casualties, everything! After the meeting, the president retired to his adjoining bedroom.

After Mr. Murrow returned to his hotel, he was not able to sleep. He chained smoked while pacing inside his hotel room. He was troubled because he just returned from a meeting with the president and was told detailed information that any news reporter would kill for. Mr. Murrow was thorn between broadcasting what he was told by the president, which would probably make him very famous, or just keep silent. That night, he told his wife, “It is the biggest story of my life, but I don’t know if it is my duty to tell it or forget it”.

Eventually, Mr. Murrow decided to wait for Pres. Roosevelt to announce to the nation what happened at Pearl Harbor. It is believed that Mr. Murrow did this noble deed not as a journalist but as a responsible American citizen.

Many years after the war had ended, Mr. Murrow was asked by the famous author-journalist John Gunther to give details about his meeting with Pres. Roosevelt on the evening of Dec. 7, 1941. Mr. Murrow replied, “That story would send Casey Murrow(Mr. Murrow’s son) to college, and if you think I am going to give it to you, you’re out of your mind”.

Mr. Murrow took the knowledge he knew about the meeting with president Roosevelt on evening of Dec. 7, 1941 to his grave when he died on April 27, 1965.

On the morning of December 8, 1941, Pres. Roosevelt was reading the reports that just came in and when he read the part that stated that the Philippines was attacked, he became quite irritated.

General Douglas McArthur, who was based in the Philippines, had received warnings from the U.S. military leaders that there is a possible impending attack against the Philippines by the Japanese. When Brigadier Gen. Gerow telephone Gen. McArthur to ask him if he had received the cable sent to him, he said yes but did not give any explanation why he did not respond. When Gen. Gerow said, “I wouldn’t be surprised if you got an attack there in the near future”, Gen. McArthur arrogantly replied, “Tell general Marshall that our tails are up in the air”.

On Dec. 8th at 12:35pm Philippine date and time, Japanese planes appeared above Clark Airbase in the Philippines. As the Japanese planes started their attack, someone at the base shouted, “Here they come!”. 

After the smoke cleared, half of the B-17 bombers and two-thirds of the P-40 planes were destroyed. Two days later on Dec. 10th, the Japanese planes straffed Nichols and Del Carmen airfields half of the remaining P-40s and all but five P-35s. It was only the third day of the war and the Japanese had already eliminated the U.S. air power in the Philippines.

It took only less than 24 hours for the Japanese to catch the American forces unprepared again and the attack at Clark air field and other U.S. bases around the Philippines became the second Pearl Harbor disaster.

On December 8, 1941, President Roosevelt prepared to go to the Capitol to deliver his speech before the joint session of congress. The secret service were a bit concerned that there might be a Japanese agent that might attempt to assassinate President Roosevelt as he traveled the short distance by car from the White House to the Capitol. They had a presidential limousine that the president uses regularly but the problem is it was not bullet proof. FDR’s speech was scheduled to be delivered at noon on December 8th and the secret service had to procure an armored car fast. During those days there was a U.S. government rule restricting the amount of a purchase of any government vehicle to no more than $750, which is about $10,000 in today’s money. This restriction also applies to the presidential vehicle. This purchase restriction made it very difficult for the secret service agents to buy a cheap armored car. Fortunately, one of the secret service agents knew about an armored car in possession of the U.S. government. Al Capone’s car, which had been sized by the U.S. treasury years back in 1931 during an I.R.S. tax evasion case against the famous gangster, had been sitting on a parking lot in the treasury department.

Al Capone’s car is a 1928 Cadillac 341A town sedan that was painted green and black to resemble a police car in Chicago. It had sirens and flashing lights behind the front grills and a scanner radio. It had 3,000 pounds of armor and a 1-inch thick bullet-proof glass windows. Mechanics worked through the night of December 7th thru 8th to make sure that the car run perfectly.

When Pres. Roosevelt noticed that the car that he was about to ride to the capitol was not his usual limousine, he asked secret service agent-in-charge Mike Riley where he got the new car. When agent Riley told Roosevelt that it was Al Capone’s car, Roosevelt replied, “I hope Capone won’t mind”.

On December 8, 1941 at 12:30 pm, Pres. Roosevelt delivered this speech:

Yesterday, Dec. 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.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with the government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleagues delivered to the Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or 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. 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.

This morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday 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.

Always will we 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 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 very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.

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 unbending 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, Dec. 7, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.

It took only 6 minutes and 30 seconds for Pres. Roosevelt to deliver the 25-sentence speech that contained fewer than 500 words. The short speech was so persuasive that it only took 33 minutes for the declaration of war to pass through the senate. In the house of representatives, only one voted to dissent was counted and that vote was cast by Montana pacifist Jeanette Rankin who, incidentally, also voted against the entry of the United States into world war I back in 1917.

After 4 p.m. on December 8, 1941, Pres. Roosevelt signed the declaration of war.

After delivering his speech, pres. Roosevelt misplaced the reading copy of the speech. Instead of bring the reading copy back to the White House for Grace Tully to file it away, it was left at the House Chamber where the speech was delivered. A senate clerk took the copy and wrote on it, “Dec. 8, 1941, read in joint session” and filed it away.

The reading copy remained missing for 43 years until March 1984 when an archivist located the copy at the Records of the U.S. senate under record group 46, in the national archive building. This is where the document remains to this day. 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

March 16 2013

The attack of pearl harbor was provoked by the US Government to let themselves enter into the war. This is also true with WW1 and the WTC bombings which was considered by many as the new "Pearl Harbor".

8:37 PM  

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