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President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Address to a Joint Session of Congress Asking for a Declaration of War Against Japan


The "Day of Infamy" Address
December 8, 1941

The USS Shaw hit by three bombs which exploded in the forward magazine during the attack on Pearl Harbor, 12/07/1941. (RG 128, Records of the Joint Committees of Congress)

FDR issued a national call to arms on the day after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. He expressed outrage at Japan and confidence in the "inevitable triumph" of the United States. On December 8, 1941, the United States declared war against Japan; on December 11 Germany and Italy declared war against the United States.
Records of the United States Senate

Click image for larger view: The USS Shaw is hit by three bombs which exploded in the forward magazine during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
Records of the Joint Committees of Congress, Record Group 128


Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941

On the morning of December 7, 1941, Japanese bombers staged a surprise attack on U.S. military and naval forces in Hawaii. In a devastating defeat, the United States suffered 3,435 casualties and loss of or severe damage to 188 planes, 8 battleships, 3 light cruisers, and 4 miscellaneous vessels. Japanese losses were less than 100 personnel, 29 planes, and 5 midget submarines.

The day after the attack, before a joint session of Congress, President Roosevelt asked Congress for a declaration of war against Japan.


The Original Radar Plot of Detector Station Opana
December 7, 1941
Records of the Joint Committees of Congress (Record Group 128)

The Radar Plot of Detector Station Opana was an exhibit of the Joint Committee. The 22 x 31-inch radar plot was made by Private Joseph L. Lockard at the Opana Radar Station on the morning of December 7, 1941. It indicated a large number of aircraft approaching the island of Oahu. The control officer believed the radar signals announced the approach of American B-17s scheduled for arrival the same day, but the signals actually tracked the first wave of Japanese bombers and torpedo planes that attacked Pearl Harbor.


Reading Copy of President Roosevelt's Address
Records of the United States Senate (Record Group 46)

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President Roosevelt's message conveyed the national outrage over the Pearl Harbor attack by pronouncing December 7, 1941 "a date which will live in infamy." The reading copy of the president's speech calling for a declaration of war against Japan was thought to have been lost until an archivist located it in 1984 within the records of the U.S. Senate. Roosevelt had departed from his custom of bringing his reading copy back to the White House and had either handed the speech to a Senate clerk or the clerk had picked it up from the lectern after the speech and filed it in the records of the Senate.

Four years after the attack, Congress established the Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack. Their task was to make a full and complete investigation of the facts relating to the events and circumstances leading up to or following the attack. In its investigation, the committee sought to determine whether shortcomings or failures on the U.S. side might have contributed to the disaster and, if so, to suggest changes that might protect the country from another attack in the future. The committee's public hearings began on November 15, 1945, and continued until May 31, 1946.

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