The Other "Day of Infamy" Speeches
"Yesterday, December 7th, 1941, a date which will live in infamy..."
On December 8th, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt made an impassioned and now famous speech before Congress. He spoke of the Japanese attacks on the United States and its allies the day before at Pearl Harbor and elsewhere in the Pacific, and the urgent need to go to war against this new enemy. His speech is by far the most well-known of that day, but there were others.
Presented below is the text of four speeches by members of Congress in the course of the debate on the pending declaration of war. I have transcribed these speeches from the audio recordings available here at the American Rhetoric web site. I feel these speeches give a more complete picture of the attitudes and opinions of America's leaders at this time of great crisis.
December 8th, 2009
Joseph Martin, Jr. (R-Massachusetts)
Mr. Speaker, our nation is today in the gravest crisis since its establishment as a republic. All we hold precious and sacred is being challenged by a ruthless, unscrupulous, arrogant foe. We have been the victim of a treacherous attack under cover of darkness. It came at a time when we were trying to establish a basis of peace through mutual understanding.
Our ships have been sunk. Our planes destroyed. Many lives lost. Cities and towns under the American flag have been ruthlessly bombed. No one hates war more than I. Every night I have uttered a silent prayer that America might be spared active involvement in a frightful war. I know the horrors which come with war: the loss of lives, the sacrifices which must be made by all, the sadness and desolation it always brings.
America is challenged. That challenge comes in a ruthless way which leaves but one answer for a liberty-loving, self-respecting people. We are compelled by this treacherous attack to go to war. From now on, there can be no hesitation. We must press the war with unstinted vigor and full efficiency. There can be no peace until the enemy is made to pay in full measure for his dastardly crimes. We in America wanted peace. We must now fight to uphold our national honor and make secure our freedoms.
The attack on our territory will rally every patriotic American to support of the nation's needs. In shipyards, in factories, in mines, in blast furnaces, on farms all over this broad land, there will be one spontaneous response. The people of America will unanimously meet the attacks of the aggressor and join in an irresistible effort of increased production. The boys in the training camps, and the sailors who maintain the vigils of the sea must have, they will have, the tools and equipment to win this war.
In view of the developments of the past forty-eight hours, the President's request has my support. When the historic roll is called, I hope there will not be a single dissenting voice. Let us show the world we are a united nation. Let us boldly proclaim we will not permit any force to strike down freedom and progress here in America, or replace our way of life with slavery and dictatorship. God will give us the strength and the courage to drive to victory in a just cause, a cause which means all that makes life worthwhile to the people not only of America, but in every country in the world.
Hamilton Fish III (R-New York)
Mr. Speaker, it is with sorry and deep resentment against Japan that I rise to support a declaration of war. I have consistently opposed our entrance into wars in Europe and Asia for the past three years. But the unwarranted, vicious, brazen, and dastardly attack by the Japanese navy and air force while peace negotiations were pending at Washington, and in defiance of the President's eleventh-hour personal appear to the Emperor, makes war inevitable and necessary.
The time for debate and controversy within America has passed. The time for action has come. Interventionists and non-interventionists must cease criminations and recriminations, charges and counter-charges against each other, and present a united front behind the President and the government in the conduct of the war. There can only be one answer to the treacherous attack of the Japanese, and that is war to final victory.
Cost what it may in blood, treasure, and tears, this unprovoked and senseless aggression by the Japanese armed forces upon our possessions must be answered by war. Although I have consistently fought against intervention in foreign wars, I have repeatedly stated that if we are attacked by any foreign nation, or if the Congress of the United States declared war in the American and constitutional way, I would support the President and the administration to the bitter end.
Mr. Speaker, whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad. The Japanese have gone stark-raving mad, and their unprovoked attack has committed for them military, naval, and national suicide. I shall at the proper time volunteer my services as an officer in a combat division, as I did in the last war, preferably with colored troops. There is no sacrifice too great that I will not make in defense of America, and to help annihilate these war-mad Japanese devils.
Now that we are to fight, let us go in with our heads up and our chins up in the American way. Let us serve notice upon the world that this is not only a war against aggression and in defense of our own territory, but a war for freedom and democracy all over the world, and that we will not stop until victory is won. I appeal to all American citizens, particularly the members of my own party and to non-interventionists, to put aside personal views and all partisanship and to unite behind the President, our commander-in-chief, in assuring victory to the armed forces of the United States.
Luther Johnson (D-Texas)
Mr. Speaker, in this tragic hour words will not convey our feelings, or express our righteous indignation. Japan's unprovoked attack without notice upon the United States, while peace negotiations were still in progress, was dastard treachery, and is characteristic of those totalitarian outlaws who talk peace while they have already drawn the dagger with which to strike.
We have but two choices today, either to fight or to surrender, and America, thank God, has never surrendered and never will surrender. America is united, America will fight, America will win.
Edith Rogers (R-Massachusetts)
Mr. Speaker, yesterday Japan stabbed us in the back. The indignation of the American people knows no bounds. Those of every strain in this country will rise to meet that challenge. They will fight to defend America. (?) and awful as war is, they want war declared.
Mr. Speaker, I remind you that the American men have been brave. American women, too, have been brave. They are willing today to make every sacrifice in order that we shall win. Thank God, Mr. Speaker, the country today is united, and united we march forward to victory.