Roosevelt: "I ask that the Congress declare,
that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan, on Sunday
December 7th 1941. A state of war has existed between the United
States (States) and the Japanese Empire."
The attack on Pearl Harbor on the 7th of December
1941, ("a day that will live in infamy" ), forced the
United States into the war. (Full speech to Congress when Roosevelt
declares war on Japan). Two days after the attack on Pearl
Harbor and a day after Roosevelt's speech to Congress, the President
made a radio broadcast,on
the 9th December, to the American people regarding the sneak attack.
Although ostensibly neutral, America had been
supplying Britain with equipment through the "Lend - Lease" program.
Everything from tanks to weapons, ships and food had been supplied
to assist Britain in its valiant attempt to fight off the Nazis.
American support was absolutely vital, since all the other European
countries had fallen or capitulated, and Britain - alone - stood
against Nazi Germany.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt's policy of helping
Britain was not popular with the American public. To most politicians
and the general public alike, the war was Europe's problem, and
the Europeans were expected to address the situation alone. But
Roosevelt, looking ahead, realized if all opposition fell against
the Axis powers, America would be surrounded, and alone. The Axis
powers would then turn their attention toward the United States
in an evolving bid for world domination.
Even though the US Navy had been subject to a
few isolated attacks - on one occasion more than 100 sailors were
killed - American isolationism prevailed. It would take more than
the distant death of a comparative handful of military men to
incite the will of the American public to war.
At 8.00am on Sunday the 7th of December 1941,
the attack came that not only incited but galvanized the American
people, and so changed the shape of the war.
Admiral Yamamoto's fleet of 6 aircraft carriers,
2 battleships, 2 heavy cruisers, 1 light cruiser and 9 destroyers
moved secretly across the Pacific and attacked the American naval
port of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.
The plan, "Operation Z," was to destroy the US
Pacific Fleet, thus leaving the Japanese unopposed in the Pacific.
More than 4,500 Americans were killed or wounded in the unprovoked
dawn attack, and it was enough to prompt the United States to
officially declare war on the Japanese Empire. President Roosevelt,
in addressing the United States Congress: "I ask that the Congress
declare that, since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan
on Sunday December 7th 1941, a state of war has existed between
the United States and the Japanese Empire."
But the attack did not cripple the US Pacific
Fleet as intended. As luck would have it, four American aircraft
carriers were out of port at the time of the attack. With the
United States now entering the war, Churchill remarked (an observation
later included in his book, regarding the Pearl Harbor attack):
"I went to bed and slept the sleep of the saved and the thankful."
A couple of days later Hitler formally declared
war on the United States, if for no other reason than that Nazi
Germany held itself out as an ally of Japan. So the Untied States
entered the Pacific and European theatres of World War Two.
There have been many questions raised about this
event. Was the attack a surprise? Or was it a clever political
move by the United States? The United States and Britain had both
broken the secret Japanese communication codes - in particular,
the Japanese Navy code JN25 - before 1941. In November of that
year, a message sent from Tokyo to all Japanese embassies abroad
had been intercepted and decoded by US Army Intelligence. It informed
the embassies that if the words "East wind rain" were heard on
the Japanese overseas service, it would signal an impending clash
with the United States. Further, monitoring of the Japanese merchant
fleet showed that prior to the attack, all vessels were heading
for the safety of Japanese waters -- apparently to avoid the risk
of capture when war was declared.
The British estimated that the entire Japanese
merchant fleet would be within the safety of Japanese-controlled
waters by the first week of December 1941. Another JN25 message
from Admiral Yamamoto to his fleet, intercepted and decoded in
the days before the attack: "Climb Nitakayama 1208." 12.08, of
course, turned out to be the date of the attack, the 8th of December
Tokyo time, 7th of December US time.