On December 8, 1941 the United States Congress declared war upon the Empire of Japan in response to that country's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor the prior day. It was formulated an hour after the Infamy Speech presidential address of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Following the declaration, Japan's allies, Germany and Italy, declared war on the United States, definitively bringing the United States into World War II.
The attack on the harbor took place before any formal declaration of war was made by Japan, but this was not the intent of the Japanese high command. It was originally stipulated that the attack should not commence until thirty minutes after Japan had informed the United States that it was withdrawing from further peace negotiations. It was the intent of the Japanese to uphold the conventions of war while still achieving surprise, but the attack began before the notice could be delivered. Tokyo transmitted the 5,000-word notification (commonly called the "14-Part Message") in two blocks to the Japanese Embassy in Washington. However, transcription took too long for the ambassador to deliver it in time. Even so, the notification was worded so that it actually neither declared war nor severed diplomatic relations.
The UK declared war on Japan nine hours before the US did, partially due to Japanese attacks on Malaya, Singapore and Hong Kong, and partially due to Winston Churchill's promise to declare war "within the hour" of a Japanese attack on the United States.
Vote and Presidential Signature
President Roosevelt formally requested the declaration in his Infamy Speech, addressed to a joint session of Congress and the nation at 12:30 pm on December 8.
The declaration was quickly brought to a vote; it passed the Senate, and then passed the House at 1:10 pm. The vote was 82 to 0 in the Senate and 388 to 1 in the House of Representatives. Jeannette Rankin, a committed Pacifist and the first woman elected to Congress (first elected in 1916), was the only vote against the Declaration in either house.
President Roosevelt signed the declaration at 4:10 pm the same day. The power to declare war is assigned exclusively to Congress in the United States Constitution, and it was therefore an open question at the time whether his signature was technically necessary. However, his signature was symbolically powerful and resolved any doubts.
Text of the declaration
- Japanese declaration of war on the United States and the British Empire
- United States declaration of war upon Germany (1941)
- Declaration of war by the United States
- Hixson, Walter L. (2003). "The American Experience in World War II: The United States and the road to war in Europe". Taylor & Francis. p. 73. ISBN 978-0-415-94029-0. http://books.google.com/books?id=CAEyh6EY9kYC.
- Calvocoressi et al., The Penguin History of the Second World War, p.952
- Prange, Gordon W. At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor. Dillon, 1982. pp. 424 & 475
- Prange, Gordon W. At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor. Dillon, 1982. pp. 493-494
- "The U.S. At War, The Last Stage" TIME. December 15, 1941.
- Kluckhorn, Frank L. "U.S. Declares War, Pacific Battle Widens" New York Times. A1, December 9, 1941. Retrieved January 16, 2012.
- http://www.hbci.com/~tgort/japan.htm Retrieved 2010-15-7
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