This Day in the Law
December 7

FDR Reacts to Surprise Attack on Pearl Harbor (1941)

On December 7, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt received the horrific news that Pearl Harbor had been attacked by Japan. News of the attack, which ultimately killed more than 2,400 members of the armed services, was relayed to him by Frank Knox, the U.S. Navy Secretary.

Prior to the attack on U.S. soil, President Roosevelt believed that an attack on the U.S. was imminent, particularly for the U.S. fleet stationed at the Philippines. However, few of President Roosevelt’s advisors suspected that such a debilitating blow would be delivered upon the fleet at Pearl Harbor. After receiving news of the attack, President Roosevelt spoke with Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of Britain, who stated that despite the ocean between them, they were “in the same boat.”

In the evening on this day referred to by the President as a day "that would live in infamy," Eleanor Roosevelt, the First Lady, addressed the somber nation via her weekly radio show. She acknowledged that the United States had been thrown into a war that they were disinclined to join in the first place, but she expressed that she was certain that the United States would step up to the challenge and conquer the wrongs that had caused the war in the first place.

After the First Lady delivered her weekly radio broadcast, President Roosevelt met with his Cabinet in the late hours of the evening of December 7, 1941. He dubbed the vicious attacks as "the most serious crisis" that had to be dealt with since the era of the Civil War. Despite his visible distress over the attacks of Japan, President Roosevelt woke up and addressed the nation on the very next day, firmly declaring his position that as to the United States and Japan, Congress should officially declare war.

Related This Day in the Law
On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 to Relocate Japanese-Americans to Internment Camps
On March 11, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Lend-Lease Act into law, allowing American-built war supplies to be shipped to World War II Allied countries on loan in return for military bases.
On April 3, 1948, President Truman singed the Marshall Plan. The Marshall Plan is named after Secretary of State George Marshall, who proposed the plan to provide economic assistance to postwar Europe.
On November 3, 1941, Hideki Tojo, the minister of war in Japan, issued Top-Secret Operations Order No. 1, which required the Combine Japanese Fleet to bomb Pearl Harbor on December 7th of that year.