Although it lasted a mere 7 minutes, 10 seconds, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s address to a joint session of Congress on Dec. 8, 1941, is regarded as one of the most passionate speeches in American history. Some historians question whether a war-anxious FDR really was surprised by Japan’s attack on the naval base at Pearl Harbor, resulting in more than 2,200 casualties and the near destruction of the Pacific fleet. In any event, reading his words, excerpted below, still recalls a catastrophic event. Today at noon, victims and survivors of the attack will be remembered in an annual ceremony sponsored by area veterans groups, to take place at the Kenduskeag Stream walkway in downtown Bangor.
Yesterday, Dec. 7, 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 United States was at peace with that nation and after solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor, looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.
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. … The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.
As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us. No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory. …
I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us. Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger. With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph, so help us God.
I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.