Responding to Pearl Harbor

Stunned by the tragic events of Pearl Harbor, the American people looked to President Franklin D. Roosevelt to put their emotions into words…and he didn’t let them down.  Just as eloquently spoken as his Fireside Chats, the message President Roosevelt gave to Congress on December, 8, 1941, has become one of the most memorable speeches of his presidency.

Today’s spotlight document is Roosevelt’s annotated draft of this speech requesting the declaration of war against Japan.

“Yesterday, December 7, 1941,—a date which will live in infamy.” First page of the Annotated Draft of Proposed Message to Congress Requesting Declaration of War Against Japan, 12/7/1941. From Collection FDR-FDRMSF: Franklin D. Roosevelt Master Speech Files. National Archives Identifier: 593345

“Yesterday, December 7, 1941,—a date which will live in infamy.”
First page of the Annotated Draft of Proposed Message to Congress Requesting Declaration of War Against Japan, 12/7/1941. From Collection FDR-FDRMSF: Franklin D. Roosevelt Master Speech Files.
National Archives Identifier: 593345

In the hours following the Japanese attack, President Roosevelt dictated this message, then annotated it with handwritten alterations and changes.  The president made quite a few modifications to the original dictation — but possibly one of the most interesting of these changes is the replacement of “world history” with “infamy” in the famous opening line.

The final draft that F.D.R. gave at the Joint Session of Congress incorporates these alterations, and received thunderous applause for its successful conveyance of the nation’s fury and indignation.

Find this document and others on Pearl Harbor on DocsTeach, our online tool for teaching with documents.

Today’s post came from Holly Chisholm, former social media intern in the Education and Public Programs division.

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