It is sunny on December 7, 1941, and, at the White House, thirty-one guests are expected for lunch. Then the phone rings . A message has just been received from Hawaii. It says, "Air raid on Pearl Harborthis is not a drill ."
At 7:55 a.m. that Sunday morning Japanese dive bombers let bombs loose on Pearl Harbor's Battleship Row, where U.S. warships are lined up, making a hard-to-miss target . When the planes leave, much of the Pacific fleet is crippled or sunk, and more than two thousand people are dead . The next day the president addresses the nation: "Yesterday, December 7, 1941a date which will live in infamythe United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the empire of Japan ."
Pearl Harbor is a naval disaster, but it unites the nation. Congress declares war on Japan. Three days later Japan's allies, Germany and Italy, declare war on the United States .
The United States finds itself at war on two frontseast and west, Atlantic and Pacific. And at first things don't go well in either direction. Within weeks of Pearl Harbor, the Japanese capture Thailand, the Philippines, the Malay peninsula, Java, Burma, Guam, Wake Island, the Gilbert Islands, Singapore, and Hong Kong. And the Nazis now control most of Europe and North Africa, as well as virtually the entire Mediterranean Sea. Franklin Roosevelt rallies the country to face something never seen before. He says: "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."
The first battles are grim. We take a terrible pounding in the Pacific. But then we win three big victoriesin the Coral Sea, at Midway Island, and at Guadalcanaland the Japanese learn that Americans can fight and fight well. Meanwhile, at home, something else is going on.