The inauguration of the first Afghan President, Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction, US declaring war, and Pearl Harbor. What do all of these things have in common? All of these events occurred on December 7th. It was on December 7th, 1941 that 353 Japanese bombers attacked the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, destroying 19 ships, 188 aircraft and killing over 2,000 Americans. It was this act that drove the United States into World War II. In 2002, Saddam Hussein made his formal statement denying any possession of weapons of mass destruction while just two years later, in 2004, Hamid Karzai was elected the first President of Afghanistan. December 7, 1917 was also an important date because it was on this day when America declared war on the Austria-Hungary Empire, which marked the US entrance into the First World War. Watch the This Day in History video to find out more.
FDR’s “Day of Infamy” Speech
In the early afternoon of December 7, 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt was just finishing lunch in his oval study on the second floor of the White House, preparing to work on his stamp album, when his telephone rang.
The White House operator announced that Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox was on the line and insisted on talking with him. Roosevelt took the call.
The Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, just before 8 a.m. Hawaii time, Secretary Knox told the President. Harry Hopkins, a top aide who was with Roosevelt at the time, could not believe the report. But Roosevelt did. "It was just the kind of unexpected thing the Japanese would do. At the very time they were discussing peace in the Pacific, they were plotting to overthrow it," he said. 1
For the rest of that afternoon, sixty years ago, Roosevelt and his advisers were busy at the White House receiving fragmentary reports about the damage to U.S. installations, ships, and planes in Hawaii. Security was increased around the White House, and plans for a bomb shelter for the President underneath the nearby Treasury Department building were under way. Across the nation, news of the attack spread by radio and word of mouth, and Americans began thinking about what life in a nation at war was going to be like.
|"Day of Infamy" Speech: Draft No. 1|
|Franklin Roosevelt's changes to the first draft of his speech are clearly visible on "Draft No. 1." In the opening sentence, he changed "world history" to "infamy" and "simultaneously" to "suddenly." At one point, he considered putting the words "without warning" at the end of the sentence but later crossed them out. (Franklin D. Roosevelt Library)|
A First Draft
Roosevelt decided to go before Congress the next day to report on the attack and ask for a declaration of war. In early evening, he called in his secretary, Grace Tully. "Sit down, Grace," he said. "I'm going before Congress tomorrow, and I'd like to dictate my message. It will be short." 2
Short it was. But it was to become one of the most famous speeches of the twentieth century, giving birth to one of the most famous phrases of the century.
"Yesterday, December seventh, 1941, a date which will live in world history," he began as Tully took down the words, "the United States was simultaneously and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan." 3
Biographer Nathan Miller recalls: "He inhaled deeply on his cigarette, blew out the smoke, and began dictating in the same calm tone he used to deal with his mail. He enunciated the words incisively and slowly, carefully specifying each punctuation mark and new paragraph. Running little more than five hundred words, the message was dictated without hesitation or second thoughts." 4
Tully typed up what Roosevelt had dictated, and the President went to work on this first draft by hand.
On draft No. 1, Roosevelt changed "a date which will live in world history" to "a date which will live in infamy," providing the speech its most famous phrase and giving birth to the term, "day of infamy," which December 7, 1941, is often called.
A few words later, he changed his report that the United States of America was "simultaneously and deliberately attacked" to "suddenly and deliberately attacked." At the end of the first sentence, he wrote the words, "without warning," but later crossed them out.
Thus that first historic sentence— the one that is usually quoted from the speech— was born: "Yesterday, December 7, 1941— a date which will live in infamy— the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by the naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan."
There were other changes in that first draft also. At one point, Roosevelt noted that the distance from Japan to Hawaii meant that the attack must have been planned "many days ago." He changed that to "many days or even weeks ago." Historians now know that the Japanese had considered a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor for many years.
Drafts No. 1 and the third draft have Roosevelt's handwriting all over them, but there are none of his marks on the second draft, which makes only one change from the first draft-that of the famous first sentence.
Apparently Roosevelt took back his marked-up first draft and made more revisions, which became the third draft. Writes Halford R. Ryan: "It [a second draft] contains his emendations from draft one. Curiously, however, he did not make changes on draft two but went back to draft one and made corrections on it. That is, draft one has words on it that are not in draft two but are in draft three: therefore, draft three is actually a compilation of changes on draft one." 5
|One of the few changes to the speech not initiated by Roosevelt himself was an addition by aide Harry Hopkins. Under the heading "Deity," Hopkins suggested the next-to-the-last sentence that evolved into: "With confidence in our armed forces— with the unbounding determination of our people— we will gain the inevitable triumph— so help us God." (Franklin D. Roosevelt Library)|
Roosevelt updated the speech too, as reports of Japanese actions arrived at the White House, adding lines to note Japanese attacks on Guam and the Philippine Islands. He also added a sentence near the end of the text: "No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people will in their righteous might win through to absolute victory." In other revisions, the President added further sentences to note Japanese attacks on Hong Kong, Malaya, Wake Island, and Midway Island.
Two of Roosevelt's speechwriters, Samuel I. Rosenman and Robert Sherwood, were in New York City on December 7 and did not participate in drafting the speech the President handled this one mostly by himself. During the editing of the various drafts, Roosevelt rejected a longer version by Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles, which reviewed the events leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. 6
However, Hopkins had a few minor word changes and one significant addition (which he labeled "Deity")-the next to the last paragraph, which read: "With confidence in our armed forces, with faith in our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph so help us God." At some point, it was expanded to "With confidence in our armed forces-with the unbounding determination of our people-we will gain the inevitable triumph-so help us God." Along with the first sentence, it became one of the most often heard quotes from the speech. 7
Usually a Long Process
Rosenman, Sherwood, and Hopkins were usually involved in drafting major speeches, along with others in the government, depending on the subject. Usually, a speech took from three to ten days to prepare, far longer than the December 8 speech. But Rosenman insisted that all the speeches eventually were Roosevelt's. "The speeches as finally delivered were his-and his alone-no matter who the collaborators were. He had gone over every point, every word, time and again. He had studied, reviewed, and read aloud each draft, and had changed it again and again, either in his own handwriting, by dictating inserts, or making deletions. Because of the many hours he spent in its preparation, by the time he delivered a speech he knew it almost by heart." 8
Rosenman also wrote: "The remarkable thing is that on one of the busiest and most turbulent days of his life, he was able to spend so much time and give so much thought to his speech." 9
Roosevelt's speech amounted to a call to arms for a national audience that would suddenly need to shift to a war footing that meant wage and price controls shortages of food, fuel, and other strategic materials and, of course, the induction into the armed forces of their sons, husbands, fathers, and sweethearts.
Changes During Delivery
The next day, at 12:30 P.M., in the House of Representatives, Roosevelt delivered his six-minute address to a joint session of Congress and a nationwide radio audience. He was interrupted several times by applause and departed only a few times from the wording on the final draft of the speech, which included four minor handwritten changes. One of them qualifies the sentence "In addition American ships have been torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu." Roosevelt used the term "reported torpedoed."
|President Roosevelt delivers the "Day of Infamy" speech to a joint session of Congress on December 8, 1941. Behind him are Vice President Henry Wallace (left) and Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn. To the right, in uniform in front of Rayburn, is Roosevelt's son James, who escorted his father to the Capitol.|
When Roosevelt delivered the speech, most of his on-the-spot changes involved word order. But many people had never heard of Oahu, the Hawaiian island on which Pearl Harbor and Honolulu are located, so it became "the American island of Oahu" to establish the fact that America had been attacked. And the sentence "Very many American lives have been lost" became "I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost." In fact, 2,403 Americans died in the attack.
A Lost Copy?
UPDATE 12-2-2016: Since this article was written, an investigation by the Roosevelt Library and the Center for Legislative Archives in 2014 confirmed that the “reading copy” remains a missing document. Neither the House copy nor the Senate copy, both doubled-spaced typewritten, is the “reading copy” that President Roosevelt used while speaking, the investigation concluded.
The “reading copy,” typed triple-spaced and in a loose-leaf binder, has not been seen since James Roosevelt brought it back to the White House after the speech on December 8, 1941, and placed it atop a coat rack.
|The President made a few handwritten changes before he spoke and other changes during delivery. Afterwards, he either left it on the podium or handed it to a clerk. It was presumed lost until 1984, when it was "discovered" in the records of the Senate. (NARA, Records of the U.S. Senate)|
Usually, when addressing Congress, Roosevelt brought back to the White House the "reading copy" of the speech he had just given. But on this occasion, he did not have it when he returned to the White House. A search of his coat, and that of his son James, who had escorted his father, was made. He even wrote to James, asking about it.
"I have had a howl go up from the Library at Hyde Park and from Grace here that you have taken away with you the war Message to Congress," FDR wrote his oldest son. "As a matter of fact, it probably ought to be in the Government permanently because they have everything else and this particular one is just about the equal in importance to the First Inaugural Address." 10
But James Roosevelt didn't have it either, and it was thought to be "lost"-for forty-three years. In 1984, an archivist at the National Archives and Records Administration discovered the copy in the records of the Senate, which had been sent to the National Archives Building. Roosevelt apparently had left the copy on the lectern after he finished speaking to the joint session or handed it to a clerk. In any event, a Senate clerk wrote "Dec 8, 1941, Read in joint session" on the back and filed it away with Senate records.
Today, NARA's Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives Building holds both the Senate reading copy (Record Group 46) and another copy, virtually identical to the Senate copy but typed separately, in the House records (Record Group 233). The final "as given" version, with changes made by the President during delivery, is held by the Roosevelt Library in Hyde Park, New York.
|Roosevelt added a few words to his speech as he delivered it, including noting that Oahu was an "American Island." Other changes during delivery involved word order. (Franklin D. Roosevelt Library)|
Before December 8 was over, Congress sent Roosevelt his declaration of war against Japan. But Roosevelt was careful to limit his comments in the December 8 speech and in a radio "fireside chat" a few days later to Japan, for Germany and Italy were not officially at war with the United States. That changed on December 11, when Germany and Italy declared war on the United States, which quickly declared war on Germany and Italy.
The Prologue staff expresses its thanks to Alycia Vivona of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library for her kind help in providing documents and background material for this article. Our thanks also go to Raymond Teichman of the Roosevelt Library and Rod Ross of the Center for Legislative Archives.
1. Nathan Miller, FDR: An Intimate History (1983), p. 477.
3. Text of draft No. 1 of speech, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library. All of the drafts of the speech are in the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library in Hyde Park, NY, except the copy from which Roosevelt read on December 8, 1941. It is in the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC.
4. Miller, FDR: An Intimate History (YEAR), p. 479.
5. Halford R. Ryan, Franklin D. Roosevelt's Rhetorical Presidency (1988), p. 152.
6. Grace Tully, FDR, My Boss (1949), p. 256.
7. Harry L. Hopkins, memorandum, Dec. 8, 1941, Papers of Harry L. Hopkins, FDR Library
8. Rosenman, Samuel I., "Working With Roosevelt," Harper & Bros., 1952, page 11.
10. FDR to James Roosevelt, Dec. 23, 1941, President's Personal Files 1820, FDR Library.
Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Pearl Harbor was the beginning of World War II for the United States, an attack on the unsuspecting island of Oahu while peace negotiations between America and Japanese were still in session. The Japanese sent a two page message, declaring war upon the United States but it did not reach the Americans until Pearl Harbor was already under attack. From December 7, 1941 until September 2, 1945, the United States was at war on two fronts in the Pacific with the Japanese and in Europe against Nazi Germany. Between those two dates ferocious battles were waged and many lives were lost on both sides.
Every day of fighting during WWII was vital to the cause but perhaps, none more so than the two most fateful days in Japanese history and as well as world. On August 6, 1945 America and the United Kingdom reached the Quebec Agreement which laid the ground work for the USA to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively. The B-29 Bomber, now renamed the infamous “Enola Gay” after the mother of pilot Paul Tibbets, was accompanied by two other bombers named “The Great Artiste” and “Necessary Evil.” The aptly named “Necessary Evil” was to witness for the record the most destructive event in history.
Atomic Dome, which is preserved to this day as a reminder as to the horrors of war.
The atomic bomb named “Little Boy” consisting of 141 pounds of Uranium 235 took approximately 45 seconds to fall from roughly 31,000 feet. Because of a crosswind the bomb missed its intended target, the Aioi bridge and instead exploded over the Shima Surgical clinic. The “Enola Gay” traveled almost 12 miles before the shock waves were felt. Today in Hiroshima there is a plaque, which denotes the exact spot where the bomb unleashed devastation. The plaque sits only a brief walk from the Atomic Dome, which is preserved to this day as a reminder as to the horrors of war.
Nagasaki unlike Hiroshima was not the initial target, nor was Aug 9 supposed be the day of the second bombing. However, due to an averse weather forecast, the original target of Kokura and its date of Aug. 11 was changed. The plane was named “Bockscar” and the Bomb “Fat man.” On route the primary target was still Kokura as “Bockscar” made three bombing runs over the city. Due to heavy black smoke emanating from Yawata Steel Works, the bomber was unable to get a clear visual on the target. With fuel running low, the pilots made the decision to move on to the secondary target, Nagasaki.
Hiroshima Gokoku Shrine after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima
Between the two bombings at least 129,000 people died. Hiroshima and Nagaskai are the only two instances in human history that atomic weapons have been used. Shortly after the bombings on August 15, 1945 Japan announced their surrender. Foreign Affairs minister Mamoru Shigemitsu signed the Japanese Instrument of Surrender aboard the USS Missouri on September 2,1945. Today it sits in Pearl Harbor and is available to visit.
Attack on Pearl Harbor: On This Day, 1941
Seventy-five years ago, shortly before 8 a.m. on Sunday, December 7, 1941, Japan launched a surprise attack against US armed forces in Hawaii. Japanese pilots targeted Army, Navy, and Marine airfields, followed by naval ships at Pearl Harbor, with the aim of devastating the entire US Pacific fleet.
The two-hour attack left 2,403 Americans dead and 1,178 injured, and was followed by a formal declaration of war against the United States. On December 8, after a nearly unanimous vote by Congress, the US formally declared war on Japan.
This interactive story map uses a timeline and photographs, documents, and letters to provide a full visual of the attack from both an American and Japanese perspective. Launch a larger version of the storymap in a new window here.
Click here to learn how to create your own interactive storymap, and discover more Gilder Lehrman resources related to the attack on Pearl Harbor and US involvement in World War II here.
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Pearl Harbor - The Aftermath
The day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States declared war on Japan. As this was during World War II, Japan in turn joined the forces with Germany, who responded by declaring war on the United States on December 12, 1941. This catapulted the United States officially into World War II. They fought alongside the Allied forces of the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands for the next four years. The Japanese-American conflict didn't come to an end until 1945 - a few days after the United States dropped atomic bombs on two Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing approximately 100,000 people.
Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor: Dec. 7, 1941
At 7:48 a.m. Hawaii time on this day in 1941, an Imperial Japanese torpedo bomber appeared out of the clouds above the island of Oahu. A swarm of 360 Japanese warplanes followed, attacking in two waves, descending on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in a surprise attack that for a time decimated much of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and immediately propelled the United States into World War II.
Two U.S. Army radar operators detected the first wave when it was still at 136 nautical miles at sea. But it was misidentified as six U.S. Army Air Force B-17 bombers that were scheduled to arrive that day from California.
Some 90 minutes after it began, the attack was over. Overall, 2,008 sailors were killed and 710 others wounded 218 soldiers and airmen — who were part of the Army until the independent U.S. Air Force was formed in 1947 — were killed and 364 wounded 109 Marines were killed and 69 wounded and 68 civilians were killed and 35 wounded.
In total, 2,403 Americans died and 1,178 were wounded. Eighteen ships were sunk or run aground, including five battleships. All the Americans killed or wounded during the attack were noncombatants, given the fact there was no state of war between Washington and Tokyo when the attack occurred. The Japanese lost some 30 planes, five midget submarines and fewer than 100 men.
At the time, all three Pacific Fleet carriers — the Enterprise, Lexington and Saratoga — were at sea on training maneuvers. Six months later in the Battle of Midway, they would score a victory over the Japanese which would reverse the tide of the war.
This Day in History: 12/07/1941 - Pearl Harbor Bombed - HISTORY
Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Sunday, December 7, 1941
Aboard a Japanese carrier before the attack on Pearl Harbor, crew members cheer departing pilots. Below: A photo taken from a Japanese plane during the attack shows vulnerable American battleships, and in the distance, smoke rising from Hickam Airfield where 35 men having breakfast in the mess hall were killed after a direct bomb hit.
Above: The USS Shaw explodes during the Japanese air raid. Below Left: The battleship USS Arizona after a bomb penetrated into the forward magazine causing massive explosions and killing 1,104 men. Below Right: Dousing the flames on the battleship USS West Virginia, which survived and was rebuilt.
Sequence of Events
Saturday, December 6 - Washington D.C. - U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt makes a final appeal to the Emperor of Japan for peace. There is no reply. Late this same day, the U.S. code-breaking service begins intercepting a 14-part Japanese message and deciphers the first 13 parts, passing them on to the President and Secretary of State. The Americans believe a Japanese attack is imminent, most likely somewhere in Southeast Asia.
Sunday, December 7 - Washington D.C. - The last part of the Japanese message, stating that diplomatic relations with the U.S. are to be broken off, reaches Washington in the morning and is decoded at approximately 9 a.m. About an hour later, another Japanese message is intercepted. It instructs the Japanese embassy to deliver the main message to the Americans at 1 p.m. The Americans realize this time corresponds with early morning time in Pearl Harbor, which is several hours behind. The U.S. War Department then sends out an alert but uses a commercial telegraph because radio contact with Hawaii is temporarily broken. Delays prevent the alert from arriving at headquarters in Oahu until noontime (Hawaii time) four hours after the attack has already begun.
Sunday, December 7 - Islands of Hawaii, near Oahu - The Japanese attack force under the command of Admiral Nagumo, consisting of six carriers with 423 planes, is about to attack. At 6 a.m., the first attack wave of 183 Japanese planes takes off from the carriers located 230 miles north of Oahu and heads for the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor.
Pearl Harbor - At 7:02 a.m., two Army operators at Oahu's northern shore radar station detect the Japanese air attack approaching and contact a junior officer who disregards their reports, thinking they are American B-17 planes which are expected in from the U.S. west coast.
Near Oahu - At 7:15 a.m., a second attack wave of 167 planes takes off from the Japanese carriers and heads for Pearl Harbor.
Pearl Harbor is not on a state on high alert. Senior commanders have concluded, based on available intelligence, there is no reason to believe an attack is imminent. Aircraft are therefore left parked wingtip to wingtip on airfields, anti-aircraft guns are unmanned with many ammunition boxes kept locked in accordance with peacetime regulations. There are also no torpedo nets protecting the fleet anchorage. And since it is Sunday morning, many officers and crewmen are leisurely ashore.
At 7:53 a.m., the first Japanese assault wave, with 51 'Val' dive bombers, 40 'Kate' torpedo bombers, 50 high level bombers and 43 'Zero' fighters, commences the attack with flight commander, Mitsuo Fuchida, sounding the battle cry: "Tora! Tora! Tora!" (Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!).
The Americans are taken completely by surprise. The first attack wave targets airfields and battleships. The second wave targets other ships and shipyard facilities. The air raid lasts until 9:45 a.m. Eight battleships are damaged, with five sunk. Three light cruisers, three destroyers and three smaller vessels are lost along with 188 aircraft. The Japanese lose 27 planes and five midget submarines which attempted to penetrate the inner harbor and launch torpedoes.
Escaping damage from the attack are the prime targets, the three U.S. Pacific Fleet aircraft carriers, Lexington, Enterprise and Saratoga, which were not in the port. Also escaping damage are the base fuel tanks.
The casualty list includes 2,335 servicemen and 68 civilians killed, with 1,178 wounded. Included are 1,104 men aboard the B attleship USS Arizona killed after a 1,760-pound air bomb penetrated into the forward magazine causing catastrophic explosions.
In Washington, various delays prevent the Japanese diplomats from presenting their war message to Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, until 2:30 p.m. (Washington time) just as the first reports of the air raid at Pearl Harbor are being read by Hull.
News of the "sneak attack" is broadcast to the American public via radio bulletins, with many popular Sunday afternoon entertainment programs being interrupted. The news sends a shockwave across the nation and results in a tremendous influx of young volunteers into the U.S. armed forces. The attack also unites the nation behind the President and effectively ends isolationist sentiment in the country.
Monday, December 8 - The United States and Britain declare war on Japan with President Roosevelt calling December 7, "a date which will live in infamy. "
Thursday, December 11 - Germany and Italy declare war on the United States. The European and Southeast Asian wars have now become a global conflict with the Axis powers Japan, Germany and Italy, united against America, Britain, France, and their Allies.
Wednesday, December 17 - Admiral Chester W. Nimitz becomes the new commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Both senior commanders at Pearl Harbor Navy Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, and Army Lt. General Walter C. Short, were relieved of their duties following the attack. Subsequent investigations will fault the men for failing to adopt adequate defense measures.
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(Photo credits: U.S. National Archives)
Pearl Harbor is bombed
At 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time, a Japanese dive bomber bearing the red symbol of the Rising Sun of Japan on its wings appears out of the clouds above the island of Oahu. A swarm of 360 Japanese warplanes followed, descending on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in a ferocious assault. The surprise attack struck a critical blow against the U.S. Pacific fleet and drew the United States irrevocably into World War II.With diplomatic negotiations with Japan breaking down, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his advisers knew that an imminent Japanese attack was probable, but nothing had been done to increase security at the important naval base at Pearl Harbor.
It was Sunday morning, and many military personnel had been given passes to attend religious services off base. At 7:02 a.m., two radio operators spotted large groups of aircraft in flight toward the island from the north, but, with a flight of B-17s expected from the United States at the time, they were told to sound no alarm. Thus, the Japanese air assault came as a devastating surprise to the naval base.Much of the Pacific fleet was rendered useless: Five of eight battleships, three destroyers, and seven other ships were sunk or severely damaged, and more than 200 aircraft were destroyed.
A total of 2,400 Americans were killed and 1,200 were wounded, many while valiantly attempting to repulse the attack. Japan's losses were some 30 planes, five midget submarines, and fewer than 100 men. Fortunately for the United States, all three Pacific fleet carriers were out at sea on training manoeuvres.
'What Is the Significance of Pearl Harbor?'
That is a quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt's address to Congress on Dec. 8, 1941, the day after the attacks on Pearl Harbor. The significance of Peal Harbor was not that the American people were attacked, but that they came together and grew stronger. The significance of this event was that it made the American people into one United States.
On Dec. 7, 1941, the American people's perception of themselves was changed forever. The average citizen suddenly became an immensely important part of a huge, intricately woven country full of a people who wanted not only to help each other but to help the world against a great evil.
The men of our country suddenly remembered their fathers and grandfathers, veterans of other great wars against not only other countries, but any idea or singular person that threatened the country and people they loved. The women suddenly thought back to their mothers and aunts, the suffrage women, the women that could make a difference. Pearl Harbor drew the people together to change the world and defend the thing they loved more than themselves, freedom.
The attacks on Pearl Harbor still invoke feelings of patriotism and sadness. It is an event considered a turning point in American history, and it is an event that every child learns of and respects. Americans today have our own Pearl Harbor in Sept. 11. Americans knew what to fight for that day.
They knew to remember their fathers and grandfathers, mothers and grandmothers and say, "I'm proud to be an American," just as the ones before them were, just as those that survived Pearl Harbor did.
The significance of Pearl Harbor is it reminded Americans of what they loved and what they most hold dear. It gave them a reason to fight for their lives and their freedoms. It reminded them that others give their all to give them what they have. Pearl Harbor was a symbol of America's survival, of America's hope. Nothing can take away our people's spirit. The love of America and Americans will always persevere, and the might of the American people will always win through absolute victory.
East Henderson High School
On the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy carried out a surprise attack on the American Navy base at Pearl Harbor. The Japanese sent out an aircraft carrier force which bombed many of the ships anchored at Pearl Harbor, including "Battleship Row."
Twelve battleships and other ships were either sunk or damaged and along with this, 343 aircraft were either destroyed or damaged. In the process, 2,403 Americans lost their lives and 2,000 others were wounded. I feel appropriate in saying that the bombing of Pearl Harbor was the single most important act of the 20th century in American history. It was a day of tragedy and a day that will live on in infamy.
Pearl Harbor was a red-letter day in America. To me, there are many significant things that can be said about it. Some people say the significance of Pearl Harbor was that Japan and America didn't have the closest relationship because of arrogance. Others say that the significance of Pearl Harbor was that America's thoughts on getting bombed were, "No, it won't happen to us."
The most significant thing that comes to my mind, though, is Pearl Harbor was the reason the United States went into World War II. Pearl Harbor vaulted America into a war that it had told itself repeatedly it would not get into.
When the Congressional vote went out just hours later, there was only one vote against declaring war on the Japanese. Over the next four years, America was involved in and came close to losing a war that could have destroyed the way we have learned to live today. It is debatable as to whether or not America would have ever entered the war without the events of Pearl Harbor.
Pearl Harbor Day is more than just a memorial day, it is a remembrance of the price of "the freedom we so often take for granted."
While the outcome of World War II is of great importance in American history, I still see the overall significance as the shock of an unprovoked, surprise attack when America was at peacetime. Think about what you have just heard, and remember what has happened, and think about what will happen in future times.
A nation so great, a nation so strong, a nation so powerful, yet a nation that was so unprepared was attacked on Dec. 7, 1941, by Japan.
The attack was perfectly planned and ready to be carried out, but before it could be implemented the Japanese had to make sure that the Fleet, that had just been moved to Pearl Harbor about two years prior, was in port. Thirty minutes after the attack had commenced, five out of eight battleships were either sunk, sinking or totally destroyed, and 15 minutes later both the Army and Navy aircraft were destroyed, totaling 188 aircraft. This day was then declared "A Day of Infamy," and the battle cry became "Remember Pearl Harbor" for the American people.
The day after the attack, Dec. 8, 1941, the United States declared war on the Axis powers (Japan, Germany and Italy) and joined the Allied powers (Great Britain, France, the USSR and China). The United States then became a part of World War II.
After the small victory at Coral Sea, the United States was now ready and willing to defeat the Japanese. At the Battle of Midway, the United States won a conclusive victory. Then finally, on Aug. 14, 1945, Japan surrendered.
World War II ended in August 1945. Almost 406,000 Americans out of 20 million people were killed. Many Americans that defended their country, their families, their freedoms, were now dead. Those Americans that gave their all to this country inspire us to fight for our freedom today.
I believe the significance of Pearl Harbor is to teach us to be prepared at all times. I believe that God let this event happen so He could teach this country to be prepared because anything can happen. God also shows us through this event that He will help us get through hard times.
Hendersonville Christian School
What do you think about when you think about World War II? Do you think about the storming of the beaches at Normandy? Or do you think about the flag rising at Iwo Jima? Whichever event is sketched into your mind as a significant event in World War II history, the event that I think is significant is the bombing at Pearl Harbor.
Unaware of risk of the attack at Pearl Harbor, Franklin Roosevelt transferred the Navy fleet of the United States to the Hawaiian Naval base. By late November 1941, informed United States officials fully expected a Japanese attack upon the East Indies, Malaysia or even, possibly, the Philippines.
Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese reconnaissance planes surveyed Pearl Harbor and reported back to Japanese control that the fleet was in the harbor. The attacks on the air fields started at 7:55 a.m., and the ships in the harbor were hit at 8 a.m. Battleships Arizona, California and West Virginia were sunk. The Oklahoma capsized and the Nevada was severely damaged. At the end of the assault, 96 Army aircraft were destroyed and 159 more were damaged.
Treaties between Japan, Germany and Italy brought the United States against three of the axis powers. The attacks on Dec. 7, 1941, brought attention to the intelligence failures and the lack of readiness of the United States military. The attacks on Pearl Harbor galvanized the American people and they pulled together in unity, which helped create the United States into a world power.
Minorities, companies, women and many others played huge roles into shaping this wonderful country into war readiness. Without the tragic happenings at Pearl Harbor, none of this would have ever been possible.
I honor all the men who perished in the attacks and may all the men who perished in the attacks and may all the survivors be praised in their work as protectors of this great country.
North Henderson High School
When America is attacked, she doesn't fall apart because of disunity. She bleeds. And the blood of our nation is the freedom of the individual. Even as their lives pour from an open wound, others pull together to staunch the flow and to bring healing to the great body of our nation.
America has been strong in the past, and we will continue to remain so only as long as we value our liberty.
The unexpected attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, was an act of war before war was declared. The Japanese feared the Pacific fleet.
They should have feared the resiliency of the men and women who make up our nation. The people mobilized quickly, pulling out of the Great Depression in preparation to defend their freedom. Pearl Harbor became our rallying cry. The destruction of over 2,000 military and civilian lives, as well as the loss of five battleships, required a response.
After 15 minutes of discussion in the Senate and 40 minutes in the House, the United States Congress declared war on Japan with only one dissenting vote. The call to fight resonated in every heart, and people from all backgrounds came together as Americans.
Our soldiers showed unsurpassed courage and honor in battle. The men who survived Pearl Harbor endured to cripple the Japanese fleet at Midway, and to fight through disease in Guadalcanal. The same soldiers raised the flag in triumph at Iwo Jima.
Citizens, too, played a vital role in the war. The support and backing of the American people allowed our troops to have supplies they needed. All that could be spared was sent to benefit the Army overseas. Rations on gasoline and food were met with sacrifice and resourcefulness. The effort at home provided a chance for victory abroad.
The Great Generation rose to face the challenges of World War II. Today we are witnesses of their lives and remember their actions. Their work has made it possible to rest for a time in the shade of freedom.
Pearl Harbor is more than a battle. It's an example. America's response to aggression has been met with the same fervor in later attacks, including Sept. 11. It signifies the strength of individuals working together for the preservation of liberty. Pearl Harbor stands as a testament to the strength and unity of the free American people.
The Aftermath – Pearl Harbor after the attack
By the time the people at Pearl Harbor had the chance to come to terms with what had happened on December 7, 1941, there was no doubt that the aftermath of the attack would take a long time to clear. America had suffered amazingly at the hands of the Japanese, losing 1,999 sailors, 233 soldiers and 109 marines. Along with this, there were also 49 civilians killed by bombs of shells.
Dead bodies were everywhere: in the water, the streets, on the islands. Many would never be recovered and today they remain in the waters or immersed in the soil. There is no doubt the devastation of that event caused a lot of heartache, both physically and psychologically and there is no doubt the events of that day had a major impact on the American government and military forces.
Despite the devastation, the good news was that as soon as Japan had finished the attack, they left Hawaii. This gave the State the chance to commence the recovery and recuperation efforts immediately – once they were over the shock of what had happened.
Homes and businesses hung black out curtains in their windows, citizens were issues with gas masks, and businesses that were able to continue to operate did so at all times of day and night to ease transport issues. Supplies were limited, but everyone worked together to start the clean up.
Following the attack, the military in Pearl Harbor were more prepared. As support increased from military around the world, the number of soldiers, sailors and marines increased to more than 135,000 people (double the amount that was there before the attack). There were more gun batteries, the beaches were surrounded with barbed wire, and all the major buildings were painted in camouflage colors. At night, people were made to turn off all the lights early (or have limited lighting) and all the major provisions were rationed (such as gas).
Both the military forces and the locals were happy to oblige. Everyone was terrified of a repeat attack and wanted to do what they could to prevent that kind of devastation again.
One of the interesting things about the attacks was that Hawaii actually had quite a large Japanese-background population. While these people were not treated as though they were the enemy, there was some obvious suspicion, particularly those who were living along the West Coast of the State. As you can imagine, everyone becomes a suspect in times of such uncertainty.
In order to combat that suspicion, once they had permissions (in 1943), many of the Japanese civilians actually joined the United States military to prove their loyalty to their home.
This led to Hawaii receiving the highest enlistment rate per capita during the war, and the story of the Japanese-American 442nd Brigade is well known to this day. They 442nd Brigade fought in Europe, particularly in Italy, southern France and Germany and had a total of 14,000 men serve under the banner, earning almost 9,500 Purple Hearts.
Following the attack, it took the locals time to accept and to trust outsiders, but over time, Hawaii and Pearl Harbor transformed again into an amazing “paradise”.