Sometimes, prose becomes poetry.
In history, there are those small pieces of oratory that encapsulate a moment, words that transport listeners to a time and place in the human story. Think of Washington reading Paine to the shivering, ill-clad soldiers at Valley Forge, Lincoln in the autumn splendor and pathos of Gettysburg — changing the world in nine sentences, or Franklin Roosevelt responding to a shattered winter Sunday morning…..
While interviewing WWII vets, they remember that day. They tell me, those here on the East Coast, of coming home from church, having lunch and then the world changed. The next morning, listening to scratchy sounds broadcast coast-to-coast, they talk of a leader who brought America together in shock, sorrow and resolve.
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 Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to the Secretary of State of form reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or 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 had 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. 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 Midway Island.
Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday 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.
Always will we 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 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 endanger us again.
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 unbounded 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 seventh, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
The White House, December 8, 1941
WWII music (with a few updates): GI Jive (Johnny Mercer); Don’t Get Around Much Anymore (I love Harry Connick’s version); Sunday, Monday or Always (Bing, who just croons this one); Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy (the Andrews Sisters is classic, but Bette Midler rocks it and the Puppini sisters are cute); Lili Marlene (Lale Anderson — to my Dad this was WWII); Swingin’ on a Star (John Lithgow, yes that John Lithgow, has a cool one); Again (Doris Day — this is such a yearny song); Johnny has Gone for a Soldier (James Taylor makes this shine); One O’Clock Jump (Benny Goodman); There’ll Be Bluebirds over the White Cliffs of Dover (Dick Todd); Elmer’s Tune (Glenn Miller); You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To (Dinah Shore); We’ll Meet Again (the Ink Spots); Carolina in the Morning (Dean Martin — this is a “home” song for me); Atom & Evil (the Golden Gate Quartet — atomic warfare in song, there’s really nothing like it); Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree (the Andrews Sisters — there’s no one else for this); and Oh, How I Hate to get up in the morning (Irving Berlin — I used to think this was a made-up song, my Dad would sing it in the AM as he flicked my lights on & off)
Words — so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in the dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them –> Nathaniel Hawthorne