Freedom: A History of US.
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Webisode 12: Depression and War
Introduction Segment 1 Segment 2 Segment 3 Segment 4 Segment 5 Segment 6 Segment 7 Segment 8

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FDR Declares War
Segment 5
The Attack on Pearl Harbor Pearl Harbor

It is sunny on December 7, 1941, and, at the White House, thirty-one guests are expected for lunch. Then the phone rings . A message has just been received from Hawaii. It says, "Air raid on Pearl Harbor—this is not a drill Check The Source - Pearl Harbor News Reaches FDR."

At 7:55 a.m. that Sunday morning Japanese dive bombers let bombs loose on Pearl Harbor's Battleship Row, where U.S. warships are lined up, making a hard-to-miss target See It Now - Pearl Harbor. When the planes leave, much of the Pacific fleet is crippled or sunk, and more than two thousand people are dead Check The Source - Senator Daniel Inouye's Eyewitness Account of Pearl Harbor. The next day the president addresses the nation: "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 Check The Source - "A Day Which will Live in Infamy"."

Pearl Harbor is a naval disaster, but it unites the nation. Congress declares war on Japan. Three days later Japan's allies, Germany and Italy, declare war on the United States See It Now - FDR Declares War Check The Source - Delcaration of War on Japan.

The United States finds itself at war on two fronts—east and west, Atlantic and Pacific. And at first things don't go well in either direction. Within weeks of Pearl Harbor, the Japanese capture Thailand, the Philippines, the Malay peninsula, Java, Burma, Guam, Wake Island, the Gilbert Islands, Singapore, and Hong Kong. And the Nazis now control most of Europe and North Africa, as well as virtually the entire Mediterranean Sea. Franklin Roosevelt rallies the country to face something never seen beforeCheck The Source - Delcaration of War on Japan. He says: "This war is a new kind of war. It is different from all other wars of the past, not only in its methods and weapons but also in its geography. It is warfare in terms of every continent, every island, every sea, every air lane in the world."

The first battles are grim. We take a terrible pounding in the Pacific. But then we win three big victories—in the Coral Sea, at Midway Island, and at Guadalcanal—and the Japanese learn that Americans can fight and fight well. Meanwhile, at home, something else is going on.

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Did You Know?
On the morning of September 7th 1941, a radar operator in Hawaii saw some blips on his screen. The operator didn't pay attention to them because he thought they were American bombers flying in from the West Coast.

Did you know that Freedom is adapted from the award-winning Oxford University Press multi-volume book series, A History of US by Joy Hakim?

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