Pearl Harbor: The American Reaction During and After

“It is no joke, it is a real war.”

That is what a surprised reporter exclaimed during his rare live broadcast towards the end of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The world of 1941 was completely unlike the era of advanced technology we enjoy today; while we learn instantly of events around the world, this news could not be as instantaneous. However, by all means possible, the news of the 7:55am attack spread as quickly as it could. It mainly came through radio broadcasts as the day passed. Some newspapers, the primary source of information of that time, managed to get the news out on the same day. Others were quick to publish the story in the following days. Here are some examples of front-page news from that time:

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The one word connecting all of these newspapers is, of course, “war.” The large print of the headlines scream for attention- but they also reveal surprise. America, comfortable in the protection offered by the isolation provided by two oceans on either side, had never suffered from such a large, domestic attack. This event is credited with launching America into World War II; the hate caused by joining the war and stripping the country of its invulnerability would continue throughout the war and beyond for years to come.

This animosity would lead to America settling for one outcome of this blood bath. After being attacked at home and sending off millions of men to the slaughter that was World War II, Americans were looking for only one end to the war, a goal outlined In President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Pearl Harbor Address: victory. Victory could only be truly derived from another popular wartime phrase: unconditional surrender, a conclusion President Harry Truman would later demand of the Japanese with the use of the atomic bomb. Victory meant crushing the enemy that had dared to attack them without warning. Below you can watch President Roosevelt’s Pearl Harbor Address, which is very famous to this day as the speech for “the day of infamy.”

The media coverage during and directly after the attack on Pearl Harbor would set Americans into motion; it was time to join the war and to make it a global effort. Americans could no longer sit on the sidelines and play “neutral.” Glaring headlines and visuals of the devastating attack that created damaged unheard of before December 7, 1941, would create a determination in the American people to overcome the evil they were beginning to counter.





The Washington Post
Wikimedia Commons


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