- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 20, 2001

America's Pacific Fleet was a wreck, devastated by Japanese bombers, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed a joint session of Congress the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
His first sentence went straight into the history books.
"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," the president told Congress.
Since Sept. 11, commentators comparing the terrorist attacks to the Japanese sneak attack have often mangled FDR's famous phrase "day of infamy" being the most common misquote, used by broadcasters like CBS' Dan Rather.
Now some are suggesting that President Bush's address to a joint session of Congress tonight should rival Roosevelt's historic 1941 speech a comparison White House officials sought to avoid.
"This isn't Pearl Harbor," National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said at a news conference. "I know that there are a lot of comparisons to Pearl Harbor, but this is different. This is the first war of the 21st century."
While presidential advisers sought to lower expectations that Mr. Bush's expected call for a war on terrorism would be as eloquent, most of Roosevelt's 1941 address except for the opening sentence was more factual than poetic.
Less than 600 words long, Roosevelt's speech was composed of "simple declarative sentences," historian Robert S. Kyff observed on the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. It succeeded "not by bombast or rhetorical hyperbole, but by a straightforward account of the damage the Japanese had inflicted and an unflinching assurance that America would prevail."
Rather than rely on speechwriters, Roosevelt wrote the speech himself, dictating it to his secretary, Grace Tully.
Years later, Miss Tully recalled FDR lighting a cigarette as she entered the Oval Office on Dec. 7, and saying: "Sit down, Grace. I'm going before Congress tomorrow. I'd like to dictate my message. It will be short."
He specified the exact punctuation of the message, Miss Tully remembered: "Yesterday comma December 7 comma 1941 dash a date which will live in infamy. "
In his first draft, that famous phrase was actually "a date which will live in world history." He improved that on the second draft.
FDR recounted diplomatic efforts with Japan and said the attack on Pearl Harbor obviously had been planned and ordered even while negotiations were continuing. He then told Congress that other American outposts had been simultaneously attacked by Japan in "a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area."
In the speech broadcast by radio across the country, Roosevelt vowed: "With confidence in our armed forces with the unbounded determination of our people we will gain the inevitable triumph so help us God."
And he formally requested a declaration of war: "I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December seventh, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire."

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