Photograph of FDR signing the Declaration of War with Japan

December 8, 1941 -
Franklin Roosevelt asks Congress for a Declaration of War with Japan

On December 8, 1941, the day after Japanese forces attacked the American military base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Franklin Roosevelt addressed Congress and asked for a Declaration of War with Japan. The Senate and House of Representatives approved the war declaration unanimously with the exception of one vote - Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin became the first member of Congress to vote "no" on both the declaration of war on Germany during World War I and the declaration of war on Japan in 1941 - and FDR signed the resolution that day.

Franklin Roosevelt gave one of his most famous speeches to Congress on December 8, 1941 when he asked Congress to declare war on Japan. After the first draft of the speech was written, FDR made handwritten changes and used that text as his final speech. Compare the first page of FDR's original draft and handwritten corrections to his final speech:

Address to Congress
Requesting a Declaration of War with Japan
December 8, 1941

Thumbnail sketch of FDR's draft. See below for text.

Audio (2.8 MB, Real Audio )

Mr. Vice President, and Mr. Speaker, and Members of the Senate and House of Representatives:

Yesterday, December 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, 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 7, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.

Audio (2.8 MB, Real Audio )

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