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This Day In History: President Franklin D. Roosevelt Asked Congress To Declare War On Japan

December 08, 2016

This day in history, December 8, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan.

As America’s Pacific fleet laid in ruins at Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt requested, and received, a declaration of war against Japan.

Leaning heavily on the arm of his son James, a Marine captain, FDR walked haltingly into the House of Representatives at noon to request a declaration of war from the House and address the nation via radio.

“Yesterday,” he proclaimed, “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. 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.”

Roosevelt’s 10-minute speech, ending with an oath – “So help us God” – was greeted in the House by thunderous applause and stamping of feet. Within one hour, the President got his declaration of war, with only one dissenting vote, from a pacifist in the House. Montanan Jeanette Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress and a dedicated lifelong pacifist, casted the sole Congressional vote against the U.S. declaration of war on Japan.

FDR signed the declaration at 4:10 p.m., wearing a black armband to symbolize mourning for those lost at Pearl Harbor. On both coasts, civilian defense groups were mobilized. In New York, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia ordered the rounding up of Japanese nationals, who were transported to Ellis Island and held in custody indefinitely. In California, anti-aircraft batteries were set up on Long Beach and the Hollywood Hills. Reports on supposed spy activity on the part of Japanese Americans began pouring into Washington, even as Japanese Americans paid for space in newspapers to unreservedly declare their loyalty to the United States.

War is also declared upon Japan by British, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, the Free French, and several South American countries. China also declared war upon Germany, Italy and Japan. Though China and Japan had already been at war for seven years at that point, China made a formal declaration once again during its entry into WWII.