Pearl Harbor Radio Announcement

By: J. Owen

Many people were listening to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s speech to congress on December 8th, 1941, known as the “Day of Infamy Speech”. However, it is not as well known that his wife, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, made a Pearl Harbor Radio Announcement before him on the evening of December 7th, 1941.

Eleanor Roosevelt was not new to radio. Her radio career began in the 1920s.  While her career was lucrative due to advertisers, she donated the revenue to charity. In 1941 she was giving weekly Sunday broadcasts sponsored by the Pan-American Coffee Bureau.

Eleanor Roosevelt Pearl Harbor Radio Announcement

This image is of Eleanor Roosevelt at the UN in 1947. She was very accustomed to making radio announcements.

She was scheduled to give her broadcast on the evening of December 7th, 1941 as usual. After the attack happened, instead of cancelling the broadcast, Mrs. Roosevelt chose to use her broadcast to motivate her listeners to support their country and the administration.

The speech was well regarded as a positive rally for the American people. It was directed particularly towards women. She asked them to rise above their fears.

Perhaps the most memorable quote from Eleanor Roosevelt’s Pearl Harbor Radio Announcement was her statement:

Whatever is asked of us I am sure we can accomplish it. We are the free and unconquerable people of the United States of America.

FDR’s Initial Reaction

On the day of the attack, Eleanor describes in her autobiography the first moment she was able to speak with her husband.

Later, when my husband and I did have a chance to talk, I thought that in spite of his anxiety Franklin was in a way more serene than he had appeared for a long time. It was steadying to know that the die was cast. One could no longer do anything but face the fact that this country was in a war; from here on, difficult and dangerous as the future looked, it presented a clearer challenge than had the long uncertainty of the past.



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