Pearl Harbor: Remembered
On December 7, 1941, at about 9:00 AM Eastern U.S. time, the final part of a 14 part Japanese message is sent by Tokyo to its' Washington D.C. embassy. The message states that the diplomatic relations with the United States is going to be ended. The message is decoded by U.S code breakers.

The Japanese embassy is further directed by Tokyo to deliver the main message at 1:00 P.M. (U.S. Eastern Time), to the White House. The military in Pearl Harbor is sent a message advising of the Japanese message, but it is not sent through regular military communications channels. It will take several hours to be delivered.

The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor at 7:55 A.M. (Hawaii time.)

In Washington D.C. it was early afternoon. President Roosevelt was having lunch with Harry Hopkins, his trusted friend and chief policy aide. The phone rang . It was Roosevelt's Secretary of War, Henry Stimson. Stimson told the President of the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. Hopkins refused to believe the report. The President believed it.

The rest of the afternoon was spent receiving news of the attack, in bits and pieces, from the Navy Department. Other members of the President's advisory committee would eventually come to the Oval Office and be brought up to date regarding the events at Pearl Harbor. Grace Tully, the President's secretary would take down the information from the phone in shorthand as it was relayed by the Navy then transcribe it to her typewriter. The massive impact of what had happened slowly became apparent to all. Shortly after 5:00 P.M. the advisors, with the exception of Hopkins, left the Oval Office. Roosevelt requested that his secretary, type a draft of the speech he had prepared for his war message to Congress. He spoke the words to her slowly and clearly.

The entire message delivered to a joint session of Congress on December 8th was short. It took the President less than six minutes to read. The opening phrase, "Yesterday, December 7,1941 - a date which will live in infamy -- The United States was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan." would later be regarded as the most famous phrase ever uttered by an American President.

roosevelt's secretary quote

FDR signs declaration of war

photo of FDR's speech
Original text of the President's speech showing his last minute corrections.
Credit: National Archives and Records Adminstration

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