Roosevelt tells of Japanese ‘treachery’ after Pearl Harbor (1941)

President Roosevelt, in a message to Congress, during this week in 1941, told how Japan’s aggression in the Pacific reached it climax the the attack on the United States [the Pearl Harbor attacks of December 7, 1941] at the very time voicing a desire for peace.

Photograph showing a small boat rescuing a USS West Virginia crew member from the water after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941. Picture: US Navy via AP
Photograph showing a small boat rescuing a USS West Virginia crew member from the water after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941. Picture: US Navy via AP

He declared: “There is the record for all history to read in amazement, in sorrow, in horror, and in disgust.”

His message was a chronology of American-Japanese negotiations.

“We are at war now,” he said. “We are fighting for self-defence of our national existence, of our right to be secure of our right to enjoy the blessings of peace.”

The President’s message to Congress disclosed that submarines participated in the attack on Hawaii and that it began at 1.20pm (Eastern standard time) on Sunday, December 7, while at 2.20pm Admiral Nomura, Japanese Ambassador in Washington, delivered to Mr Cordell Hull, Secretary of State, a message which said that the establishment of peace in the Pacific and world had been “the cherished desire” of the Japanese Emperor.

Of Japanese aggression in China, the President said that Japan, following Germany’s example, had announced that the 70,000,000 or 80,000,000 Japanese were superior to the other inhabitants of the Orient.

He added: “Their conceit would make them masters of a region containing almost one-half of the population of the earth. It would give them complete control on vast sea lanes and trade routes in importance to the entire world.”

He said that the Axis dictators had made it clear that the United States and the New World were included in their scheme of destruction last year when Hitler and Mussolini concluded a treaty with Japan deliberately aimed at America.

“Japan is following a similar strategy to Hitler,” he declared, “and it probable that further down the Japanese page are the names Australia, New Zealand and all the other islands in the Pacific, including Hawaii and the great chain of the Aleutian Islands.”

Japan had made it necessary, he said, for various countries, including America, to keep in the Pacific large armed forces and vast amount material which might otherwise have been used against Hitler.

“That,” President Roosevelt declared, “is exactly what Hitler wants them do.”