Saturday, January 14, 2012

FDR's Fireside Chat after Pearl Harbor

My son is home on winter break, and because he's a poor graduate student, I've hired him to organize the trunks and boxes full of photos and momentos from three generations that are stacked in my office. I've found several things that I'd like to share.

The first is this map from The Daily Oklahoman, printed on Sunday, February 22, 1942. I was about three and a half months old, and it had been two and a half months since the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

If you'll look at the picture, across the top it says: When the President Speaks Monday Night, 9 o'clock, Oklahoma Time, All stations, Use This Map.

This was before television, but the President spoke to the nation via radio. In this instance, he wanted to be able to have the populace realize the distances he was talking about, so these maps were provided in newspapers.

You can read the content of President Roosevelt's address by clicking here.

I'm impressed with how he laid it on the line to a country that must still have been reeling from Pearl Harbor. One of the things he said was:

This war is a new kind of war. It is different from all other wars of the past, not only in its methods and weapons but also in its geography. It is warfare in terms of every continent, every island, every sea, every air-lane in the world.

He also was blunt about the losses on December 7, 1941:

To pass from the realm of rumor and poison to the field of facts: the number of our officers and men killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor on December seventh was 2,340, and the number wounded was 940. Of all of the combatant ships based on Pearl Harbor -- battleships, heavy cruisers, light cruisers, aircraft carriers, destroyers and submarines -- only three (were) are permanently put out of commission.

Very many of the ships of the Pacific Fleet were not even in Pearl Harbor. Some of those that were there were hit very slightly, and others that were damaged have either rejoined the Fleet by now or are still undergoing repairs. And when those repairs are completed, the ships will be more efficient fighting machines than they were before.

The report that we lost more than a thousand (air)planes at Pearl Harbor is as baseless as the other weird rumors. The Japanese do not know just how many planes they destroyed that day, and I am not going to tell them. But I can say that to date -- and including Pearl Harbor -- we have destroyed considerably more Japanese planes than they have destroyed of ours.

Then he called on Americans to join the war effort:

We are calling for new plants and additions -- additions to old plants. (and) We are calling for plant conversion to war needs. We are seeking more men and more women to run them.

At the time FDR gave this speech, my dad was running a dragline for the Bureau of Reclamation in Altus, Oklahoma. They must have listened to what he said, because before the year was out, my parents had moved to Vancouver, Washington. My dad was doing something on submarines and my mother worked building aircraft carriers. He worked days and she worked swing. By 1944, Dad was in Puerto Rico repairing subs that put in for repairs.

I'm grateful my mom saved that newspaper. It must have meant something to her. Surely, the next five years were turned upside down by the war, but I know she felt like she and dad had been in harness with the rest of America, pulling their weight.

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Zany G {Joyce} said...

Thank you Liz for the interesting info about a time many of us totally forget about.

A time my parents also lived through with three children and me on the way. I was born 1-24-44.

Your comments and info have been very informative to me... Thanks ~ Joyce S. of Tumbleweed Lane

Liz Adair said...

Thanks for your comment, Joyce. I grew up knowing about these Fireside Chats, but this is the first physical evidence I had about my connection to them. I can picture my parents listening at the kitchen table with the map spread out in front of them.