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Pearl Harbor: U.S. remembers a 'date which will live in infamy'

December 06, 2012|By Michael Muskal
  • At the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, a single gravestone marks the resting place of seven unidentified victims of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.
At the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, a single gravestone… (Audrey McAvoy / Associated…)

In just over seven minutes, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave voice to a nation’s outrage, branding Dec. 7 as a “date which will live in infamy” for Japan’s attack on the Pearl Harbor Naval Base. Within an hour, Congress had voted a declaration of war.

As he and other presidents before have done in accordance with federal law, President Obama on Thursday proclaimed Dec. 7 as "National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day."

"I encourage all Americans to observe this solemn day of remembrance and to honor our military, past and present, with appropriate ceremonies and activities. I urge all federal agencies and interested organizations, groups, and individuals to fly the flag of the United States at half-staff this Dec. 7 in honor of those American patriots who died as a result of their service at Pearl Harbor," the proclamation notes.

Roosevelt’s speech is considered one of the masterpieces of political action of the 20th century and its luster has grown brighter. The actual memory of World War II may have dimmed, but the Americans of that era have lately been hailed as "the greatest generation" in books, film and television for their public service during an event that redrew the nation’s social mores.

"In his address to the Congress, President Franklin D. Roosevelt affirmed that 'with confidence in our Armed Forces -- with the unbounding determination of our people -- we will gain the inevitable triumph'," says the proclamation signed by Obama, a son of Hawaii who usually returns there each year for the holidays.

 “Millions stood up and shipped out to meet that call to service, fighting heroically on Europe's distant shores and pressing island by island across the Pacific. Millions more carried out the fight in factories and shipyards here at home, building the arsenal of democracy that propelled America to the victory President Roosevelt foresaw," Obama stated. "On every front, we faced down impossible odds -- and out of the ashes of conflict, America rose more prepared than ever to meet the challenges of the day, sure that there was no trial we could not overcome."

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