Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
The unexpected Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 -- "a date which will live in infamy," as President Roosevelt called it in his emergency address to Congress the next day -- devastated the U.S. Pacific fleet and left it temporarily powerless to halt Japan's expansion across Southeast Asia and the western Pacific Ocean. It also enraged Americans and propelled the United States into World War II. An excerpt from The Post of Dec. 8, 1941:
By Edward T. Folliard
Post Staff Writer
The United States of America and the Empire of Japan are at war. The conflict that Adolf Hitler started on September 1, 1939, has now truly become a death struggle of world-wide proportions.
Japan, Axis partner of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, struck the first blow in the long-feared battle of the Pacific, an audacious and still unexplained bombing attack on Hawaii.
Late reports said that the Japanese had caused damage of the gravest nature to the United States fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Tokyo and Berlin reports said the battleships Oklahoma and West Virginia and several destroyers had been sunk. The same Axis report said 300 American warplanes had been damaged.
Germany, under the Berlin-Rome-Tokyo pact, is obligated to go to Japan's assistance if Japan is "attacked." Therefore, it was considered portentous that a special German communique, issued in Berlin last night, referred to "clashes" between the United States and Japan.
In a lightning attack similar to those loosed by Hitler in Europe, waves of bombers bearing the Rising Sun emblem of Nippon roared over American naval and air bases at Hawaii at dawn yesterday, killing at least 104 American soldiers and wounding more than 300.
The Japanese also bombed American bases in the Philippines. The White House announced that news of this had come from Gen. Douglas MacArthur, while President Roosevelt was meeting with his Cabinet and legislative leaders and making arrangements to address a joint emergency session of Congress at 12:30 p.m. today. ...
In an all-out, conquer-or-die effort, the little brown men of Nippon struck out in all directions, invading Thailand (Siam), invading British Malaya, and bombing Britain's great base at Singapore.
Having attacked without warning, Japan later formally declared that she had entered a "state of war" with the United States, and with Great Britain as well.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had made a vain appeal to the Emperor of Japan to prevent "further death and destruction in the world," will ask Congress today to accept the challenge, and declare war on Japan. The power-mad militarists of Japan have left him no other course. ...
President Roosevelt, who now, like Woodrow Wilson becomes a "War President," went into action as soon as he received word from the War and Navy Departments of the Japanese onslaught.
In his role as Commander in Chief, he ordered the Army and Navy to execute "all previously prepared orders" for the defense of the United States. ...
Stunned at first by the suddenness and audacity of Japan's attack, the United States galvanized itself for the struggle. All talk of "disunity" disappeared. Workers called off strikes. So-called isolationists ceased to be isolationists. Democrats and Republicans threw away party labels, and Congress prepared for a war vote that may turn out to be unanimous.
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