The War Speech That Almost Wasn’t

December 7, 1941 – A date which will live in infamy.

Words that are burned into our memory. But they were almost never spoken.

It was said that Roosevelt collected speechwriters like he collected stamps. But on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, everyone was out of town. It was the first big weekend of the Christmas season. And Roosevelt knew if he was going to come up with something to say to Congress about this monumental event, he was going to have to do it himself.

He called in his secretary Grace Tully and began dictating his thoughts.

12-07-41_fdr_speech_text

“December 7, 1941, a date which will live in world history – the United States was simultaneously and deliberately attacked by the naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”

Well, first drafts are made to be changed.

Roosevelt made two crucial changes to this opening line –

“December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy – the United States was suddenly and deliberately attacked by the naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”

– And it made all the difference.

Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS