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Pearl Harbor: How FDR and Congress Responded

by Countable | 12.7.17

Today marks the 76th anniversary of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, which killed more than 2,400 Americans at the Hawaiian naval base and surrounding areas and plunged the nation into World War II. The attack caught American forces by surprise and inflicted heavy casualties, preceding other coordinated attacks on U.S. and British bases throughout the Pacific.

Pearl Harbor Day is an occasion to not only recall the lives lost and forever altered by the attacks that day, but also the sense of national unity and resolve it produced as Americans mobilized themselves to do their part to win WWII. Led by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Congress, America began the transition from a nation at peace to waging a global war the next day.

With the knowledge that Pearl Harbor which served as the home port for America’s Pacific fleet — had been devastated by the attack— FDR asked to address a joint session of Congress after consulting with his Cabinet. Shortly after noon the House was called to order, he delivered his famous "Day of Infamy" speech just before 12:30 p.m.:

During his speech, FDR called for "absolute victory" in the face of “the unprovoked and dastardly attack” and asked Congress for a declaration of war against Japan. Lawmakers didn’t take long to oblige, as the Senate voted 82-0 immediately after the speech to approve the declaration and the House followed suit shortly thereafter on a 388-1 vote at 1:10pm. FDR signed the declaration three hours later — though that may not have been constitutionally necessary because Congress is explicitly granted the power to declare war.

The lone dissenting vote came from Jeannette Rankin (R-MT), a pacifist who was also the first woman elected to Congress. Rankin had opposed the declaration of war to enter World War I as well, and did so again nearly three decades later on the grounds that "As a woman, I can’t go to war and I refuse to send anyone else." (Rankin abstained from voting on the war declaration against Germany and Italy two days later).

Prior to the vote Sam Rayburn, a Democrat who became the longest-serving Speaker of the House, said of the war declaration that "I think that is one thing on which there would be unity," which was reflective of the national mood at the time. Rankin’s principled vote aside, he was largely correct in that judgement, as 16 million Americans went on to serve during WWII and contribute to the defeat of Japan and Nazi Germany. Of that total, over 400,000 were killed.

Times have changed in the last 76 years, but the resolve and unity displayed by the American people and their political leaders in the wake of the attack should be remembered in addition to the servicemembers who lost their lives that Hawaiian morning.

— Eric Revell

Countable

Written by Countable

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(23)
  • David
    12/08/2016
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    Ed your an idiot. When people talk if getting together its folks like you that make americans look like fools. I know who you voted for. Hows it working for ya? Is he helping out the people who bought the bullshit?

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  • Cris-Gato
    12/08/2016
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    Wow Ed, that's quite a bit of baseless spin you posted. Did you think that up yourself or did you hear it from conspiracy theorists like alex jones or uncle ted? Obama has been an exemplary President, especially by how he ended two of Bushes dismal wars and got Bin-laden. He'll be remembered as much a success and hero of the people as FDR. While Bush and Trump will be for being the exact opposite. PS keep up with the good fight Dave.

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  • Ed
    12/08/2016
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    If Pearl Harbor had happened today the democrats would've imported a couple million more Japanese then they'd give Japan $300 million dollars and apologized for ruining their bombs and planes.

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  • Matthew
    12/08/2016
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    FDR was amazing. Flawed. But amazing

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  • JaxonEvans
    12/08/2016
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    Ed your comment is first of all baseless, and second of all divisive. We need to come together as a country, not spew more fabricated hate speech.

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  • Robert
    12/08/2016
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    Ed : How many times did your Daddy hit you in your head? Take your meds and go to sleep.

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  • Karan
    12/07/2017
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    Can you fuckers arguing in the comments just appreciate the sacrifice that our soldiers made and honor those who lost their lives in service to our country on this day? Is that so fucking hard dumbasses all of you except you Mathew you’re alright you’re not arguing

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  • Matthew
    12/07/2017
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    I can’t believe it’s been almost 11 months without a President that has the wisdom, intellect, compassion, thought process, calmness, courage, AND VOCABULARY to help get the country through a crisis like Pearl Harbor . . .

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  • Peter
    12/16/2016
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    look you guys think i know nothing you right i know nothing but what i know is what i see with my four eyes. peter. not easy to uncover the past just by saying it but i don't worry if you do. that's why i need to go back to my native country. ok. fine you go first though. not so simple though. i am full of b.s. peter.

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  • Peter
    12/20/2016
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    david i know you vote for mrs clinton ever run for class president or cheerleading tryouts or anything. people hate people like you they are mad that's why they vote for trump trump is mad too that's why he has no choice to vote but for himself. ok. peter.

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  • Peter
    12/16/2016
    ···

    if the donald gets what he wants all the time you guys are in big big trouble starting with the wall street ending in hollywood and vine. peter.

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  • Donna
    12/07/2017
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    My family was affected by this attack and the subsequent entry of our nation into WWII. I lost two uncles I never knew. Both of my parents lost a brother they loved. I have been to Pearl Harbor. Every citizen of this nation should do so. It is humbling to be reminded of the brave men and women still sacrificing their lives to keep our nation safe. We need to take a step back in these polarized times and remember what this country stands for, the good we have done as a nation and all the good we still have to offer each other and the world.

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  • Phyllis
    12/09/2017
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    I remember Pearl Harbor, frighting. The result was the second most egregious action by our government, The I turn ent of Japanese Americans. The worst being the slaughter of the American Indians.

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  • Peter
    12/16/2016
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    we have the B-52 bomber. use them. we don't need to drop the atomic bombs on japan. we have the UN. why we don't understand japanese. they do not negotiate. we have to pay with our lives war after war. peter.

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  • Peter
    12/16/2016
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    they act like a dictator. they don't need drop the bomb on japan to end wwii now you know why does terrorists act like that. peter.

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  • Peter
    12/16/2016
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    but u forgot usa is much more advanced than japan and their allies. peter.

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  • Peter
    12/16/2016
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    look those people in congress is treating the backbone of america the middle class which are the true heroes of usa not these checks and balances in congress in modern times all the time. check your facts before you become jaded like those in congress. peter.

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  • Peter
    12/16/2016
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    that is what they do to me i am not that good in those kind of video games. peter.

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  • Peter
    12/16/2016
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    those in power work for us not them if you think like that you should be the first one to go fight our enemies not our backups. peter. think before you use it to act. is not that simple. peter.

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  • Peter
    12/16/2016
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    fdr and the congress bomb japan back to feudal japan. you know samarai and all . peter.

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