President Franklin D. Roosevelt talks about Pearl Harbor

On November 2nd, President Franklin D. Roosevelt (portrayed by Albert McFadyen of Lockport, N.Y.) came to Grand Island to talk about the war years.

He sat at a table in St. Stephen Roman Catholic “old” church, with a radio close at hand, and he carried his audience through the years of war.

on war in europe:
“In September of 1939, war broke out in Europe. This nation will remain neutral, but even a neutral has a right to take account of the facts. I have seen war, and I hate war. There will be no  blackout of peace in the United States of America.”

on hollywood:
“We were just coming out of the depression. Hollywood was brightening our days and taking out the doldrums and anguish from people’s lives. More movies were made in 1939 than in any other time.”

The movies that were made in 1939 included: Gone with the Wind, Ninotchka, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Stagecoach, How Green Was My Valley, Wuthering Heights, Gunga Din, The Grapes of Wrath, and The Wizard of Oz.

how can we avoid war?
“In 1941, we knew that world events were turning dark and negative. Japan invaded China in 1932. Hitler was wreaking havoc in Europe.”

the four freedoms speech, part of the State of the Union address on January 6th, 1941:

“In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look
forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.
The first is freedom of speech and expression—everywhere in
the world.
The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his
own way—everywhere in the world.
The third is freedom from want—which, translated into world
terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a
healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants—everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world
terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a
thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical
aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world.”

attempts to avoid war with japan:
some history: Secretary of State Cordell Hull met with Japanese ambassador Kichisaburō Nomura and the two attempted to improve relations and ensure peace. Relations were already strained by then. After Japan attacked Indochina in 1940, the United States responded by embargoing scrap metal shipments to Japan and by closing the Panama Canal to Japanese shippers. As Japan continued to occupy larger portions of Indochina, the United States froze Japanese assets on July 26th, 1941. On August 1st, the United States embargoed oil and gasoline shipments to Japan. At the time, more than 80 percent of Japan’s oil came from the United States.

Negotiations failed. Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, bringing the United States into World War II.

missed opportunities:
President Roosevelt pointed out that there were various times when warning could have been given of incoming bombers. 

On December 7th, at 3:42 a.m., the mine sweeper Condor observed a submarine periscope. The minesweeper was within two miles of Pearl Harbor. The destroyer Ward then looked for a submarine and, at 6:45 a.m., the Ward sank a submarine. No warning was given at that point after an officer said, “I want this to be confirmed.”

At 7:02 a.m., two army privates, Joseph Lockard and George Elliott, were working at the Opana radar unit in the hills above Pearl Harbor. “They picked up blips approaching Hawaii.” They were told not to worry about that, that it was nothing. At the time that Lockard and Elliott detected the blips, Japanese planes were 132 miles away from Pearl Harbor. It was another missed opportunity for a warning, President Roosevelt related.

Privates Lockard and Elliott continued to monitor the radar until they lost contact. They then went to breakfast. After breakfast, they were informed of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

President Roosevelt: Yesterday, December 7th, 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 attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused
severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that
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.
And this morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island…
I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked
and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has
existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.”

sleeping giant:
The attack on Pearl Harbor was planned by Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, who had been educated in the United States. His attack signal was “Tora! Tora! Tora!”

The United States was completely surprised by the attack. Eight U.S. Naval ships were sunk or destroyed. Eventually, all but the U.S.S. Arizona were brought up from beneath the water. There was a good deal of damage to cruisers, destroyers, a minelayer, and aircraft. A total of 2,403 Americans were killed, and 1,178 were injured.

Admiral Yamamoto: I feel that all we have done is to waken a sleeping giant and fill it with a terrible resolve. This is a dagger pointed at the heart of Japan.

Tomorrow: President Roosevelt talks about World War II.

6 thoughts on “President Franklin D. Roosevelt talks about Pearl Harbor”

  1. Corinne Rodrigues

    What terrible times the world went through during World War II. Such wasted lives. But how much it showed the resilience of the Allies. Not to forget the individuals who gave up so much to make peace a reality.
    Thank you for sharing, Alice.

  2. I've been to the room (in the Little White House in Warm Springs, GA) where Roosevelt died. What a great man he was. If only, now, we could have another great person as President as we face an uncertain future.

  3. All wars are fascinating and in retrospect there doesn't seem anything glorious in dying for one's country especially when wars are created by power hungry monsters. I feel terrible for the poor souls who were conscripted and forced into fighting for their country. Indeed we owe them a lot for the freedoms we enjoy the world over.

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