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Pearl Harbor: How FDR and Congress Responded

What do you think of their response?

by Countable | 12.7.18

Today marks the 77th 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 Rep. 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 77 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

(Photo Credit: U.S. Navy / Public Domain)

Countable

Written by Countable

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(45)
  • Dan
    Voted Happy
    12/07/2018
    ···

    Nicely done. Let's hope that it doesn't take such an attack to unite the people of this country once again.

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  • Tooluser1
    Voted Sad
    12/07/2018
    ···

    FDR and Congressional Democrats responded by illegally and Unconstitutionally placing THOUSANDS of innocent Americans in concentration camps, while stealing their worldly goods. Lets not lionize a racist war criminal.

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  • Chips
    12/07/2018
    ···

    We need a national draft, every citizen serves 1 year military, then 1 year in some state or municipal service, we all need to serve our country, we all need to stand together

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  • Jim2423
    Voted Apathetic
    12/07/2018
    ···

    I do agree something had to be done to stop the take overs by Japan and Germany. Lots of Americans gave the ultimate sacrifice. Japanese Americans paid a price for just being of Japanese ancestry. Big businesses were making millions by supporting both sides. Then continued making millions supplying war products for us. Then after the war with the Marshal Act rebuilding Europe and Japan. I honor the millions that served in that war. But I often wonder if it could have been stifled sooner by some other means. Long before Pearl Harbor.

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  • Mark
    Voted Happy
    12/09/2018
    ···

    I have a first cousin once removed entombed in the USS Arizona. Our families first casualty of the war. My father and all four of his brothers served in WWII. My dad as a radio operator on a Navy carrier in the Pacific. His brothers served in the Army and fought in the European & Mediterranean / North African theaters. I remember as a kid I would ask questions of those uncles who survived the war, excited to hear their stories. No one was rude but my uncles would either walk away or change the subject. Only years later did I come to appreciate their silence, sacrifice and the heavy burdens of war that they carried with them for the rest of their lives.

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  • James
    12/09/2018
    ···

    I had two uncles there on that day! One in the navy on a destroyer tied up at the dock! They got strayfed by machine gun fire! He went on through the war serving on both destroyers and a heavy crusier in the Leyte Gulf when the Japanese really opened up with that Kamakaze stuff! Another uncle enlisted in the Army in April of 41 and arrived three days before at Schofield Barracks 25th Infantry Division! They got well strayfed by Jap zeros as well! That uncle of mine went on to fight in New Ginea, New Georgia, Solomon Islands! Can get Malaria and recouped to return to Philippines All while serving under Douglas Mac Arthur! Oh Yeah! My Dad was 8th U.S. Air Force., U.S. Army Air Corps! On my family We serve! I as well!

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  • Bernie
    Voted Sad
    12/08/2018
    ···

    Japanese internment.

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  • Poli.Sci
    Voted Happy
    12/08/2018
    ···

    I am no fan of FDR but what he did with Pearl Harbor’s attack, I give him lots of credit. Back when the Federal government had the balls to issue a tough response to an act of aggression. I want to thank all those veterans who served in the Second World War, both in the European and Pacific Theaters. I pray for all those who are currently out there for our country and I respect all those who choose that path. As I hold a BA in history and political science, this reaction by the Federal government has been written about a lot and I have studied it extensively. This reaction was very proportional and admired, but the following Administration’s inability to continue FDR’s policies led to the Cold War and the failure of Vietnam. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Read about it in some books and support your local book stores.

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  • SneakyPete
    Voted Happy
    12/08/2018
    ···

    Yamamoto's oft quoted “Sleeping Giant” quotation. Can his “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve” be reminiscence of what was seen in the 2016 Presidential election and the awakening of the American political silent majority? Just a thought on my part. SEE: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isoroku_Yamamoto%27s_sleeping_giant_quote SneakyPete..... 🤔🤔🤔. 12*8*18.....

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  • Chris
    Voted Happy
    12/07/2018
    ···

    They had no chpice but to react to an attack by an ever growing threat tp the world that they had tried every opportunity to avoid. War was inevitable and they finally had NO alternative.

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  • KansasTamale
    Voted Happy
    12/07/2018
    ···

    What FDR did should have been considered should have happened after 9/11 maybe we wouldn’t still be in a war that has been going on more than 18 years. Geo HW Bush should have been an advisory person for W because he listened to the WRONG people.

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  • Adam
    Voted Happy
    12/07/2018
    ···

    Back before Facebook, Fox News, CNN, Infowars and Huffington Post; when people just heard facts not unfounded conspiracy theories. America was amazing back when we all were on the same page.

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  • ColonelMoose
    Voted Happy
    12/07/2018
    ···

    I shudder to think how we would have responded had Obama been in office back then. We probably would have written Japan a passively aggressive letter condemning the attack and then offered to fly $150 billion in cash to the airport of their choice. somewhere along the way the Democrats caused America to lose its balls.

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  • JayinNC
    Voted Happy
    12/08/2018
    ···

    The only thing is the OSS did have intel that the Japanese were possibly going to attack, however it never made it to Pearl in time though. It did put us into the war at the perfect time to save Britain as well. I think the US defenses should have been at a higher state of alert.

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  • Jim
    Voted Happy
    12/07/2018
    ···

    My Father was among those killed in combat in the early stages of WWII. I grew up a Veterans advocate and 100% Patriot. I was 10 months old and never met my Father, but miss him to this day. God bless America-never drop your guard again!

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  • Garrett
    Voted Happy
    12/07/2018
    ···

    It was very good to see congress agree on a topic that would change the history of the planet. But I also understand the point of view of the lone vote and it is a valid one.

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  • Caren
    Voted Happy
    12/08/2018
    ···

    Something had to be done. FDR and Congress saw this and acted on what they deemed to be in the best interest of the country.

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  • James
    12/09/2018
    ···

    I had two uncles that were there on Dec 7 41! One navel and in a destroyer in the harbor that hot strafed heavily but he and most of his crew were fine and he served all the way thorough into Leyte Gulf! Uncle Bob passed about ten years ago! Another uncle enlisted in the Army in April 41 and took his infantry training at Ft. Leonard Wood. No. And arrived on Oahu at the 25th Infantry at Schofield Barracks a week before! The Japanese pilots strafed the area over and over again! Uncle Art fought with the 25th Division in New Ginea where he contracted malaria and recuperated to rejoin his outfit in time for the Philippine Liberation! Go Mac Arthur! Be proud Americans! Always!

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  • 1958FRO
    Voted Happy
    12/07/2018
    ···

    Japan bombed Pearl Harbor with no provocation from the United States. FDR and Congress at the time did what they had to do.

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  • BoldlyGo
    Voted Happy
    12/07/2018
    ···

    FDR responded to December 7th in a exemplary Manor! However. By inturning Japanese Americans that was one of our darkest passages in US history, akin to interning Central American asylum-seekers today which must end now⚖🗽

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