At 12:30 p.m. on December 8, 1941, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt stood before Congress and gave what is now known as his "Day of Infamy" or "Pearl Harbor" speech. This speech was given only a day following the Empire of Japan's strike on the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and the Japanese declaration of war on the United States and the British Empire.
Roosevelt's Declaration Against Japan
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii shocked almost everyone in the United States military and left Pearl Harbor vulnerable and unprepared. In his speech, Roosevelt declared that December 7, 1941, the day that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, would remain "a date which will live in infamy."
The word "infamy" derives from the root word "fame," and translates roughly to "fame gone bad." Infamy, in this case, also meant strong condemnation and public reproach due to the result of Japan's conduct. The particular line on infamy from Roosevelt has become so famous that it is hard to believe the first draft had the phrase written as "a date which will live in world history."
The Beginning of World War II
The nation was divided on entering the second war until the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred. This had everyone united against the Empire of Japan in remembrance and support of Pearl Harbor. At the end of the speech, Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war against Japan and his request was granted that same day.
Because Congress immediately declared war, the United States subsequently entered World War II officially. Official declarations of war must be done by Congress, who have the sole power to declare war and have done so on 11 total occasions since 1812. The last formal declaration of war was World War II.
The text below is the speech as Roosevelt delivered it, which differs slightly from his final written draft.
Full Text of FDR's "Day of Infamy" Speech
"Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives:
Yesterday, December 7th, 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, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.
Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.
It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.
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. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.
Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.
Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.
Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.
Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.
Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.
And this morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.
Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. 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 it 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, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire."