Infamy Speech was a speech delivered by United States President
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt to a Joint Session of the US Congress on
December 8, 1941, one day after the Empire of Japan's attack on the US
naval base at Pearl Harbor,
Hawaii and the Japanese declaration of war
on the United States and the British Empire. The name
derives from the first line of the speech: Roosevelt describing the
previous day as "a date which will live in infamy". The speech is also
commonly referred to as the "
Pearl Harbor Speech".
Within an hour of the speech, Congress passed a formal declaration of
war against Japan and officially brought the U.S. into World War II.
The address is one of the most famous of all American political
2 Impact and legacy
4 See also
7 External links
A first draft of the Infamy Speech, with changes by Roosevelt
Pearl Harbor speech
Entire speech. (3.1 MB, ogg/
Problems playing this file? See media help.
The wreckage of the USS Arizona ablaze after the attack
Infamy Speech was brief, running to just a little over seven
minutes. Secretary of State
Cordell Hull had recommended that the
President devote more time to a fuller exposition of Japanese-American
relations and the lengthy but unsuccessful effort to find a peaceful
solution. However, Roosevelt kept the speech short in the belief that
it would have a more dramatic effect.
His revised statement was all the stronger for its emphatic insistence
that posterity would forever endorse the American view of the attack.
It was intended not merely as a personal response by the President,
but as a statement on behalf of the entire American people in the face
of a great collective trauma. In proclaiming the indelibility of the
attack and expressing outrage at its "dastardly" nature, the speech
worked to crystallize and channel the response of the nation into a
collective response and resolve.
The first paragraph of the speech was carefully worded to reinforce
Roosevelt's portrayal of the United States as the innocent victim of
unprovoked Japanese aggression. The wording was deliberately passive.
Rather than taking the active voice—i.e. "Japan attacked the United
States"—Roosevelt chose to put in the foreground the object being
acted upon, namely the United States, to emphasize America's status as
a victim. The theme of "innocence violated" was further reinforced
by Roosevelt's recounting of the ongoing diplomatic negotiations with
Japan, which the president characterized as having been pursued
cynically and dishonestly by the Japanese government while it was
secretly preparing for war against the United States.
Roosevelt consciously sought to avoid making the sort of more abstract
appeal that had been issued by President
Woodrow Wilson in his own
speech to Congress in April 1917, when the United States entered World
War I. Wilson laid out the strategic threat posed by Germany and
stressed the idealistic goals behind America's participation in the
war. During the 1930s, however, American public opinion turned
strongly against such themes and was wary of, if not actively hostile
to, idealistic visions of remaking the world through a "just war".
Roosevelt, therefore, chose to make an appeal aimed more at the gut
level—in effect, an appeal to patriotism rather than to idealism.
Nonetheless, he took pains to draw a symbolic link with the April 1917
declaration of war; when he went to Congress on December 8, 1941, he
was accompanied by Edith Bolling Wilson, President Wilson's widow.
The "infamy framework" adopted by Roosevelt was given additional
resonance by the fact that it followed the pattern of earlier
narratives of great American defeats. The Battle of the Little Bighorn
in 1876 and the sinking of the USS Maine in 1898 had both been the
source of intense national outrage and a determination to take the
fight to the enemy. Defeats and setbacks were on each occasion
portrayed as being merely a springboard towards an eventual and
inevitable victory. As Professor Sandra Silberstein observes,
Roosevelt's speech followed a well-established tradition of how
"through rhetorical conventions, presidents assume extraordinary
powers as the commander in chief, dissent is minimized, enemies are
vilified, and lives are lost in the defense of a nation once again
united under God."
Roosevelt expertly employed one of the three terms defined by the
ancient Sophists as essential to their definition of rhetoric. Coming
from over two thousand years ago, the idea of kairos, which
relates to speaking in a timely manner, makes this speech powerful and
rhetorically important. Delivering his speech on the day after the
attack on Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt presented himself as immediately
ready to face this issue, indicating its importance to both him and
the nation. As Campbell notes in Deeds Done in Words: Presidential
Rhetoric and the Genres of Governance, war rhetoric is similar to
inaugural rhetoric in that the speaker utilizes their speech to inform
their audience that now is the necessary time for them to take
charge. In this sense, the timing of the speech in coordination
with Roosevelt’s powerful war rhetoric allowed the immediate and
almost unanimous approval of Congress to go to war. Essentially,
Roosevelt’s speech and timing extended his executive powers to not
only declaring war but also making war, a power that constitutionally
belongs to Congress.
The overall tone of the speech was one of determined realism.
Roosevelt made no attempt to paper over the great damage that had been
caused to the American armed forces, noting (without giving figures,
as casualty reports were still being compiled) that "very many
American lives have been lost" in the attack. However, he emphasized
his confidence in the strength of the American people to face up to
the challenge posed by Japan, citing the "unbounded determination of
our people". He sought to reassure the public that steps were being
taken to ensure their safety, noting his own role as "Commander in
Chief of the Army and Navy" (the
United States Air Force
United States Air Force was at this
time part of the U.S. Army) and declaring that he had already
"directed that all measures be taken for our defense."
Roosevelt also made a point of emphasizing that "our people, our
territory and our interests are in grave danger" and highlighted
reports of Japanese attacks in the Pacific between
Hawaii and San
Francisco. In so doing, he sought to silence the isolationist movement
which had campaigned so strongly against American involvement in the
war in Europe. If the territory and waters of the continental United
States—not just outlying possessions such as the Philippines—was
seen as being under direct threat, isolationism would become an
unsustainable course of action. Roosevelt's speech had the desired
effect, with only one Representative (Jeannette Rankin) voting against
the declaration of war he sought; the wider isolationist movement
collapsed almost immediately.
The speech's "infamy" line is often misquoted as "a day that will live
in infamy". However, Roosevelt quite deliberately chose to emphasize
the date—December 7, 1941—rather than the day of the attack, a
Sunday, which he mentioned only in the last line when he said,
"...Sunday, December 7th, 1941,...". He sought to emphasize the
historic nature of the events at Pearl Harbor, implicitly urging the
American people never to forget the attack and memorialize its date.
Notwithstanding, the term "day of infamy" has become widely used by
the media to refer to any moment of supreme disgrace or evil.
Impact and legacy
Roosevelt's speech had an immediate and long-lasting impact on
American politics. Thirty-three minutes after he finished speaking,
Congress declared war on Japan, with only one Representative,
Jeannette Rankin, voting against the declaration. The speech was
broadcast live by radio and attracted the largest audience in US radio
history, with over 81 percent of American homes tuning in to hear the
President. The response was overwhelmingly positive, both within
and outside of Congress. Judge Samuel Irving Rosenman, who served as
an adviser to Roosevelt, described the scene:
It was a most dramatic spectacle there in the chamber of the House of
Representatives. On most of the President's personal appearances
before Congress, we found applause coming largely from one side—the
Democratic side. But this day was different. The applause, the spirit
of cooperation, came equally from both sides. ... The new feeling of
unity which suddenly welled up in the chamber on December 8, the
common purpose behind the leadership of the President, the joint
determination to see things through, were typical of what was taking
place throughout the country.
The White House was inundated with telegrams praising the president's
stance ("On that Sunday we were dismayed and frightened, but your
unbounded courage pulled us together."). Recruiting stations were
jammed with a surge of volunteers and had to go on 24-hour duty to
deal with the crowds seeking to sign up, in numbers reported to be
twice as high as after Woodrow Wilson's declaration of war in 1917.
The anti-war and isolationist movement collapsed in the wake of the
speech, with even the president's fiercest critics falling into line.
Charles Lindbergh, who had been a leading isolationist, declared:
Now [war] has come and we must meet it as united Americans regardless
of our attitude in the past toward the policy our Government has
followed. ... Our country has been attacked by force of arms, and by
force of arms we must retaliate. We must now turn every effort to
building the greatest and most efficient Army, Navy and Air Force in
Roosevelt's framing of the
Pearl Harbor attack became, in effect, the
standard American narrative of the events of December 7, 1941.
Hollywood enthusiastically adopted the narrative in a number of war
films. Wake Island, the Academy Award-winning Air Force and the films
Man from Frisco (1944), and
Betrayal from the East
Betrayal from the East (1945), all
included actual radio reports of the pre-December 7 negotiations with
the Japanese, reinforcing the message of enemy duplicity. Across the
Salute to the Marines
Salute to the Marines (1943), and Spy Ship (1942),
used a similar device, relating the progress of US–Japanese
relations through newspaper headlines. The theme of American innocence
betrayed was also frequently depicted on screen, the melodramatic
aspects of the narrative lending themselves naturally to the
The President's description of December 7 as "a date which will live
in infamy" was borne out; the date very quickly became shorthand for
Pearl Harbor attack in much the same way that September 11 became
inextricably associated with the 2001 terrorist attacks. The slogans
"Remember December 7th" and "Avenge December 7" were adopted as a
rallying cry and were widely displayed on posters and lapel pins.
Prelude to War
Prelude to War (1942), the first of Frank Capra's
Why We Fight
Why We Fight film
series (1942–45), urged Americans to remember the date of the
Japanese invasion of Manchuria, September 18, 1931, "as well as we
December 7th 1941, for on that date in 1931 the war we are
now fighting began." The symbolism of the date was highlighted in
a scene in the 1943 film Bombardier, in which the leader of a group of
airmen walks up to a calendar on the wall, points to the date
("December 7, 1941") and tells his men: "Gentlemen, there's a date we
will always remember—and they'll never forget!"
Sixty years later, the continuing resonance of the
Infamy Speech was
demonstrated following the
September 11, 2001
September 11, 2001 attacks, which many
commentators compared with
Pearl Harbor in terms of its impact and
deadliness. In the days following the attacks, author Richard
Jackson notes in his book Writing the War on Terrorism: Language,
Politics and Counter-terrorism that "there [was] a deliberate and
sustained effort" on the part of the
George W. Bush
George W. Bush administration to
September 11, 2001
September 11, 2001 to the attack on Pearl Harbor
itself", both by directly invoking Roosevelt's Infamy Speech
and by re-using the themes employed by Roosevelt in his speech. In
Bush's speech to the nation on September 11, 2001, he contrasted the
"evil, despicable acts of terror" with the "brightest beacon for
freedom and opportunity" that America represented in his view.
University of Washington
University of Washington Professor and author Sandra Silberstein draws
direct parallels between the language used by Roosevelt and Bush,
highlighting a number of similarities between the
Infamy Speech and
Bush's presidential address of September 11. Similarly, Emily S.
Rosenberg notes rhetorical efforts to link the conflicts of 1941 and
2001 by re-utilizing Second World War terminology of the sort used by
Roosevelt, such as using the term "axis" to refer to America's enemies
(as in "Axis of Evil"). It was used by Spanish PM, José Maria
Aznar, hours after the 2004 Madrid train bombings:
On March 11, 2004, it already occupies its place in the history of
"A date which will live in infamy"
Section of the infamy speech with famous phrase. (168 KB, ogg/Vorbis
Problems playing this file? See media help.
An annotated version of the speech, showing the original wording "a
date which will live in world history"
Anti-war protest sign prior to U.S. entry into World War II.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt signing the declaration of war against Japan.
"Avenge December 7!" US Government propaganda poster of 1942
Events leading to the attack on Pearl Harbor
Japanese declaration of war on the United States and the British
Walter Lord#Publications, Lord wrote Day of Infamy (1957)
^ Presidential Materials, September 11: Bearing Witness to History,
Smithsonian Institution (2002) ("Printed copy of the Presidential
address to Congress Reminiscent of Franklin D. Roosevelt's address to
Congress after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor")
^ Address by the President of the United States, December 8, 1941, in
Declarations of a State of War with Japan and Germany, Senate Document
No. 148 (77th Congress, 1st Session), at p. 7, reprinted at the
University of Virginia School of Law project page, Peter DeHaven
^ See Senate Document No. 148 (77th Congress, 1st Session), in
Congressional Serial Set (1942)
^ William S. Dietrich, In the shadow of the rising sun: the political
roots of American economic decline (1991), p. xii.
^ Franklin Odo, ed., The Columbia documentary history of the Asian
American experience, p. 77.
^ "FDR's "Day of Infamy" Speech: Crafting a Call to Arms", Prologue
magazine, US National Archives, Winter 2001, Vol. 33, No. 4.
^ a b Brown 1998, pp. 117–120
^ Neil J. Smelser, in Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity, p. 69.
University of California Press, 2004. ISBN 0-520-23595-9.
^ James Jasinski, Sourcebook on Rhetoric: key concepts in contemporary
rhetorical studies. Sage Publications Inc, 2001.
^ Hermann G. Steltner, "War Message: December 8, 1941 — An Approach
to Language", in Landmark Essays on Rhetorical Criticism ed. Thomas W.
Benson. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1993. ISBN 1-880393-08-5.
^ Onion, Rebecca (2014-12-08). "FDR's First Draft of His "Day of
Infamy" Speech, With His Notes". Slate. Retrieved 2015-11-16.
^ a b Emily S Rosenberg, A Date Which Will Live:
Pearl Harbor in
American Memory. Duke University Press, 2003. ISBN 0-8223-3206-X.
^ a b Sandra Silberstein, War of Words: Language, Politics, and 9/11,
p. 15. Routledge, 2002. ISBN 0-415-29047-3.
^ Poulakos, John (1983). "Toward a Sophistic Definition of Rhetoric".
Philosophy & Rhetoric. 16 (1): 35–48. JSTOR 40237348.
^ Campbell, Karlyn (1990). Deeds Done in Words: Presidential Rhetoric
and the Genres of Governance. Chicago: University of Chicago.
^ "Day of infamy", Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Allusions, ed.
Elizabeth Webber, Mike Feinsilber. Merriam-Webster, 1999.
^ Samuel Irving Rosenman, quoted in Brown 1998, p. 119
^ Quoted in Brown 1998, p. 119
^ Quoted in Brown 1998, p. 120
^ Barta 1998, pp. 85–87
^ Robert J. Sickels, The 1940s, p. 6. Greenwood Press, 2004.
^ Quoted by Benjamin L. Alpers, "This Is The Army", in The World War
II Reader, ed. Gordon Martel, p. 167. Routledge, 2004.
^ Quoted in Barta, 1998, p. 87.
^ See for instance CNN, "Day of Terror — a 21st century 'day of
infamy'", September 2001.
^ Richard Jackson, Writing the War on Terrorism: language, politics
and counter-terrorism, p. 33. Manchester University Press, 2005.
^ See e.g. Paul Wolfowitz, "Standup of US Northern Command", speech of
October 1, 2002: "Although September 11th has taken its place
December 7th as a date that will live in infamy ..."
^ George W. Bush, Address to the Nation of September 11, 2001.
Barta, Tony, ed. (1998). Screening the past: film and the
representation of history. Westport, CT [u.a.]: Praeger.
Brown, Robert J. (1998). Manipulating the ether : the power of
broadcast radio in thirties America. Jefferson, NC [u.a.]: McFarland.
Freidel, Frank (1990). Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Rendezvous with
Destiny. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.
Which U.S. President described December 7, 1941 as “a date which
will live in infamy”?
Wikisource has original text related to this article:
Pearl Harbor speech
Transcript (contains some errors and truncations)
Recording of the speech
"FDR's "Day of Infamy" Speech: Crafting a Call to Arms" – article
National Archives and Records Administration
National Archives and Records Administration on the speech
with images of Roosevelt's original draft of the text
„The Pearl Harbour Speech“ on Dailymotion, the speech animated
with kinetic typography
Franklin D. Roosevelt
President of the United States
President of the United States (1933–1945)
Governor of New York
Governor of New York (1929–1932)
Assistant Secretary of the Navy
Assistant Secretary of the Navy (1913–1920)
New York State Senator (1911–1913)
New Deal coalition
First 100 days
Second New Deal
Federal Emergency Relief Administration
Civilian Conservation Corps
Agricultural Adjustment Administration
Emergency Banking Act
Tennessee Valley Authority
National Labor Relations Act
National Industry Recovery Act
Public Works Administration
National Recovery Administration
Works Progress Administration
National Youth Administration
Social Security Act
Aid to Families with Dependent Children
Communications Act of 1934
Federal Communications Commission
Securities and Exchange Commission
Monetary gold ownership
Gold Reserve Act
Record on civil rights
Defense industry non-discrimination
Fair Employment Practices Commission
Indian Reorganization Act
Executive Orders 9066, 9102
War Relocation Authority
Japanese American internment
Executive Office of the President
G.I. Bill of Rights
Four Freedoms Monument
Jefferson's Birthday holiday
Judicial Court-Packing Bill
Federal Judicial appointments
Modern Oval Office
U.S. occupation of Nicaragua, 1912–1933
U.S. occupation of Haiti, 1915–1934
Good Neighbor Policy (1933–1945)
Montevideo Convention (1933)
Second London Naval Treaty (1936)
ABCD line (1940)
Export Control Act
1940 Selective Service Act
Atlantic Charter (1941)
Military history of the United States during World War II
Home front during World War II
Combined Munitions Assignments Board
War Production Board
Declaration by United Nations
Declaration by United Nations (1942)
Dumbarton Oaks Conference
World War II
World War II conferences
Morgentau Plan support
Commonwealth Club Address
Madison Square Garden speech
Arsenal of Democracy
"...is fear itself"
"Look to Norway"
"The More Abundant Life"
Second Bill of Rights
State of the Union Address (1934
Early life, education, career
Warm Springs Institute
Governorship of New York
New York state election, 1928
Democratic National Convention, 1920
United States presidential election, 1920
Life and homes
Early life and education
"Springwood" birthplace, home, and gravesite
Little White House, Warm Springs, Georgia
Presidential Library and Museum
Roosevelt Institute Campus Network
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
Four Freedoms Park
White House Roosevelt Room
Roosevelt Study Center
Four Freedoms Award
Four Freedoms paintings
U.S. Postage stamps
The Roosevelt Story
The Roosevelt Story 1947
Sunrise at Campobello
Sunrise at Campobello 1960
Eleanor and Franklin 1976, The White House Years 1977
World War II: When Lions Roared
Warm Springs 2005
Hyde Park on Hudson
Hyde Park on Hudson 2012
The Roosevelts 2014 documentary
Eleanor Roosevelt (wife)
Eleanor Roosevelt (daughter)
James Roosevelt II (son)
Elliott Roosevelt (son)
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Jr.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Jr. (son)
John Aspinwall Roosevelt II (son)
Eleanor Roosevelt Seagraves (granddaughter)
Curtis Roosevelt (grandson)
Sara Delano Roosevelt (granddaughter)
Franklin Delano Roosevelt III
Franklin Delano Roosevelt III (grandson)
John Roosevelt Boettiger
John Roosevelt Boettiger (grandson)
James Roosevelt III (grandson)
James Roosevelt I (father)
Sara Ann Delano (mother)
James Roosevelt Roosevelt (half-brother)
Isaac Roosevelt (grandfather)
Jacobus Roosevelt (great-grandfather)
Fala (family dog)
← Herbert Hoover
Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman →
Pearl Harbor attack
Events leading to the attack
Order of battle
Present US ships
Japanese carriers involved
United States ships sunk
Sleeping giant quote
U.S. declaration of war
USS Arizona Memorial
Crisis: The Japanese
Attack on Pearl Harbor
Attack on Pearl Harbor and Southeast Asia (1992)
Day of Deceit (2001)
Days of Infamy series
Days of Infamy series (2004–05)
Pacific War series
Pacific War series (2007–08)
Secret Agent of Japan
Secret Agent of Japan (1942)
This Is the Army
This Is the Army (1943)
December 7th: The Movie (1943)
Task Force (1949)
From Here to Eternity
From Here to Eternity (1953)
The Revolt of Mamie Stover (1956)
In Harm's Way
In Harm's Way (1965)
Tora! Tora! Tora!
Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)
The Final Countdown (1980)
Pearl Harbor (2001)
Advance-knowledge conspiracy theory