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Remembering Pearl Harbor and those days that live in infamy

Created on Friday, 01 December 2017 Last Updated on Friday, 01 December 2017 Published Date

The photograph was taken from a Japanese plane during the torpedo attack on ships moored on both sides of Ford Island shortly after the beginning of the Pearl Harbor attack. The view looks about east, with the supply depot, submarine base and fuel tank farm in the right center distance. A torpedo has just hit USS West Virginia on the far side of Ford Island (center). Other battleships moored nearby are (from left): Nevada, Arizona, Tennessee (inboard of West Virginia), Oklahoma (torpedoed and listing) alongside Maryland, and California. On the near side of Ford Island, to the left, are light cruisers Detroit and Raleigh, target and training ship Utah and seaplane tender Tangier. Raleigh and Utah have been torpedoed, and Utah is listing sharply to port. Japanese planes are visible in the right center (over Ford Island) and over the Navy Yard at right. U.S. Navy planes on the seaplane ramp are on fire. Japanese writing in the lower right states that the photograph was reproduced by authorization of the Navy Ministry. – Official U.S. Navy photograph NH 50930. Public Domain
By Diane Larson

December 6, 1941, The Butte Daily Post’s headline read FAR EAST AT EXPLOSION POINT. Stories on the front page revealed “British cruiser Dorsetshire had caught and sunk a German commerce raider in the South Atlantic,” “Adolf Hitler was declared by the Italian radio today to have hurled 1,500,000 troops, 8,000 tanks and 1,000 guns into ‘the most terrific offensive of all times’ against Moscow,” “British forces are smashing steadily at enemy positions in Libya,” and “Great Britain suddenly recalled all fighting men to their posts at Singapore.”


Not everything was about the war; also on that page were stories about the temperatures dropping to 8 degrees for the night. The Kiwanis was sponsoring a series of ‘Canned Food’ Benefit Matinee’s for the children of Butte. Those who brought in a canned item for that week got to see the film ‘Little Pal’ starring Mickey Rooney.


With over 20 stories on that front page, more than half of them were, in some fashion, about what was happening in Europe. World War II had been raging since September 1, 1939, and would continue until September 2, 1945.  On the 6th of December in 1941 America had not yet entered the war. In 1940 President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in a campaign address at Boston, Massachusetts, promised, “I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again and again: Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars,” from The American Presidency Project.


Discussions between America and Japan had been going on for several months. An article on the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training, ADST, a website about The Failed Attempt to Avert War with Japan, 1941, said, “Tensions were running high between Japan and the United States long [before] December 7th.” Japan had been at war with Chinese in Manchuria, in the conflict the USS Panay, while on the Yangtze River in 1937 was bombed by Japan. After that “U.S. and their allies began sending assistance to China,” according to ADST.


An AP story on that same front page of The Butte Daily Post said the Japanese were providing no hint for America into whether they would choose “conciliation or further attempts at conquest in the Far East.” The story went on to say, “The Japanese-American discussions, which were started more than seven months ago in an effort to find a peaceful solution of problems in the Pacific, were in abeyance pending the delivery of Tokyo’s decision to Secretary Hull.”


December 7, 1941, actions by the Imperial Japanese Navy would expose the answer to the “conciliation” question. According to Wikipedia, at 7:48 am Hawaiian Time, the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service began its assault on the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii Territory. December 7, 1941, would forever be known as “A date which will live in infamy,” President Roosevelt


The losses were horrendous, according to, 2,400 Americans killed and another 1,200 wounded.

 “Much of the Pacific fleet was rendered useless.” Five of the eight battleships, three destroyers, and seven other ships were all sunk or severely damaged and more than 200 aircraft were destroyed. The attack on Pearl Harbor would catapult America into war and President Roosevelt would have to break that promise he made in Boston, Massachusetts.



Americans reacting to the attack on Pearl Harbor from the CNN American Folklife Center/Library of Congress tell of the sense in the United States at the time:


“Well, yesterday afternoon about 20 minutes to two, right here over this, in front of the Gayety Theater, we got the word over the radio that Japan took a shot at Hawaii. Well, myself, I was fit to be tied and it if was young I’d be on an airplane tonight making for that destination.”


“I’ll be called into the draft pretty soon. I’m eligible. I’m in 1A classification and it hit me pretty bad.”


William Patterson, Buffalo New York, “Well, I’ve been considering very seriously enlisting in one or another of the armed forces.” Patterson served in the U.S. Army in Europe and earned a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. Patterson became a famous actor after the war and died in 2003


December 8, 1941, President Roosevelt stood before a joint session of Congress to request a Declaration of War. He began, “Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date that will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”

Later in the article, it said that “The Senate vote of 82 to 0 and the House vote of 388 to one told their own story of unity in the face of common danger.” The one and sole vote against was Montana’s own Republican and lifelong Pacifist Jeanette Rankin. Rankin had also voted against involvement in World War I along with some of her male colleagues.


According to, Rankin felt that President Roosevelt “deliberately provoked the Japanese to attack.” She believed that the president wanted to bring America into the European war against Germany. After a long debate on the floor of the House, they began the roll call when her time came to speak Rankin stood and said, “As a woman, I can’t go to war and I refuse to send anyone else.” To note: three days after Roosevelt signed the declaration of war against Japan for the attacks on Pearl Harbor, he signed the declaration of war against Germany, December 11, 1941.


The Butte Daily Post headlines on December 8, 1941, read, “U.S. DECLARES WAR ON JAPAN.” The AP story under the headline went on to say that approval for President Roosevelt’s request was provided and Roosevelt signed the declaration at “4:10 p.m. E.S.T. (2:10 p.m., M.S.T.) today, formally setting the nation to its task of achieving what he called an inevitable triumph.”


By the end of WWII more than 400,000 Americans lost their lives and another 671,278 were wounded.


Thursday, December 7, 2017, is National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day in the United States. On this day we remember and honor those more than 2,000 citizens who were killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor.


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