Tuesday, December 08, 2009

"Franklin Delano Roosevelt Live-Blogs World War II" (via Brad DeLong)

December 7, 1941 was the date of Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, which brought the US into World War II (a reprise of the Japanese navy's undeclared surprise attack on the Russian fleet in Port Arthur in 1904, which began the Russo-Japanese War). On December 8 President Franklin Roosevelt addressed Congress and asked for a declaration of war against Japan.

Brad DeLong decided, correctly, that it was worth reproducing this historic speech for consideration. As Brad's title suggests, Roosevelt's speech, brief and to the point, powerfully conveyed the sense of history suddenly going into high gear and rolling ahead at breakneck speed.

You can hear audio recording of Roosevelt's speech here ... and, believe it or not, there is an almost complete YouTube video of the speech here. Part of what is missing from the YouTube video, for some reason, is Roosevelt's concluding paragraph:
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.
Unless I'm mistaken, that was the last time the US Congress ever voted a formal declaration of war (as envisaged in Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution) ...

... though one has to add that Congress has voted to explicitly approve the use of military force on several occasions since then, including both Iraq wars and the 2001 anti-Taliban war in Afghanistan. The January 1991 Congressional vote authorizing military force against Iraq in the first Gulf War, which I guess came closest to a formal declaration of war, was by no means a foregone conclusion--it passed the Senate by a margin of 52-47, after an extensive and relatively genuine debate. In my view, that was the right decision, and it was also right, indeed essential, to put that question to a vote. (Of course, it's also true that by January 1991 about a half-million US troops had already been assembled by Presidential prerogative in Saudi Arabia, on the borders of Kuwait and Iraq, waiting for the signal to go.) But the overall tendency has been to let the basic principle involved--that deciding to go to war should require a formal and explicit declaration of war approved by Congress--slip gradually into quaint obsolescence. This is not a good idea..

--Jeff Weintraub
J. Bradford DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal
December 7, 2009
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Live-Blogs World War II

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 that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces - with the unbounding 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.

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