Awakening the sleeping giant: Old-time radio listening, 8 December


Before a bank of radio microphones that carry his words to the nation and the world, FDR proclaims the day of infamy and calls for a declaration of war before a joint session of Congress. (Photo: National Archives.)

A nation and, indeed, a world begins rounding into shape enough to respond to the Pearl Harbour attacks, and the blaring reality—which many enough hoped to avoid—that the United States goes to international war once more. The Japanese official who says Pearl Harbour amounts to awakening the sleeping giant may make the understatement of the day, if not the war itself . . . 

Yesterday . . . December 7, 1941 . . .” (CBS)

The network soon to be known as the Tiffany Network offers one compelling piece of evidence as to why: it covers, completely, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s address to a joint session of Congress, including his call for a formal declaration of war.

Roosevelt’s address is preceded by reporting on the gathering from Albert Warner, reporting among other things the war resolutions expected to come forth after FDR is finished. And, from Park Simmons, on House Speaker Sam Rayburn preparing to present Roosevelt formally, with a brief synopsis of the Roosevelt Administration’s activity upon first news of the attack.

Those are followed by analysis from Warner, Simmons, and Eric Sevareid; and, remarks on the floor of the House, including from Reps. Joseph Martin (R-Massachussetts, and one of the trio of opponents Roosevelt has often mocked in the rollicking taunt of “Martin, Barton, and Fish”) and Hamilton Fish (R-New York, who sometimes signed his correspondence with the tailpiece, “of the law firm of Martin, Barton, and Fish”), former anti-interventionists who now proclaim war is inevitable and necessary, before the formal declaration.

“The Japanese,” Fish thunders, “have gone stark mad.”

Shirer and the Newspapers Speak (CBS)


Shirer. (CBS)

William L. Shirer delivers a commentary on the ramifications of Pearl Harbour (“the militaristic clique has gambled all”) and inevitable war against Japan and the entire Axis. Shirer also observes a striking reported charge from isolationist U.S. Sen. Gerald Nye (R-North Dakota)—a co-founder of the America First Committee, who once chaired a committee examining the causes of World War I—that the British were to blame for the Japanese attack . . . a charge promptly flattened by a fellow isolationist, Sen. Burton K. Wheeler (D-Montana). (Both senators, it should be noted, would vote in favour of the declaration of war.)

Preceding Shirer are readings from the day’s editorial commentaries from several major American newspapers, including the New York Herald-Tribune, the Chicago American, the ChicagoTribune, the ChicagoSun, the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Boston Globe, the Philadelphia Record, the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Dayton Daily News, the Des Moines Register, the Providence Journal-Bulletin (whose editorial suggests Hirohito was all but forced into war by the militaristic government), the Portland (ME) Press-Herald, the Raleigh News & Observer, the Charlotte Observer, the Palm Beach Post-Times, the Louisville Courier-Journal, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Portland (OR) Journal; the Albuquerque Journal; the Colorado Springs Morning Gazette; the San Francisco Examiner; the San Francisco Chronicle (“politics is gone”); the Los Angeles Daily News; the Los Angeles Times (“the act of a mad dog”); the Hollywood Citizen News.



Reports of Iminent Attacks . . .” (BBC)—Wilfred Pickles on likely further Japanese attacks in the Far East.


Close. (NBC)

It has been a nerve-wracking and hectic day . . .” (NBC)—Bert Silan from Manila giving an on-the-button, followup report on the Japanese attacks against Manila (he had reported the attacks earlier); Upton Close from San Francisco—who is already a controversial enough commentator for his contemporary isolationism after earlier years warning of growing Asian militarism, and will earn a subsequent dismissal from NBC over harsh criticism of the conduct of the war—summarises the Pearl Harbour and Manila damage, the concurrent Japanese attacks on Midway Island, Guam, and Wake Island; and, NBC New York reports a dispatch from Los Angeles fearing possible Japanese carriers off the California shores, and the news that Rep. Jeanette Rankin (R-Montana) cast the sole House vote against the declaration of war.

We’ll stay with the action” (NBC)—NBC News covers the Congressional resolution and discussions immediately following the Roosevelt address.

As soon as I heard . . . my first feeling was . . .” (BBC)—British Prime Minister Winston Churchill mulling the immediate cost of the Pearl Harbour attack, a fast-called session of Parliament in response, and his telephone conversation with Roosevelt the night before FDR addresses Congress.

Guam is in trouble . . .” (CBS)—From Manila, which the Japanese bombed contiguous to Pearl Harbour, Ford Wilkins reports Japanese attacks—actual or iminent—against Guam and Shanghai.

NBC News: “The Whole World Now Knows . . .” (NBC)—Following John Vandercook reporting British and other declarations of war against Japan, in the wake of Congress’s declaration following FDR’s speech, there comes a jarring bulletin from Washington: Rep. John D. Dingell, Sr. (D-Michigan) calls for court-martials of top officers at Pearl Harbour unless the House gets detailed Army and Navy reporting as to why there was undermanning and under-preparation for possibly thwarting the Japanese attackers before they reached the port. This report also includes a sponsor’s announcement that Alka-Seltzer and One-A-Day vitamins will suspend their commercial announcements on any of the day’s news programs they sponsor.




Lum & Abner: Lum’s Prune Bread (CBS)—An episode that seems to have avoided interruption for wartime updates: As the new (and presumably self-appointed) head chef of the new Pine Ridge Bakery, Lum (Chester Lauck) is busy inventing new confections, amusing Abner (Norris Goff) and Grandpappy (also Goff) until he reveals one of the new treats. Writers: Chester Lauck, Norris Goff, Jay Sommers.

Vic & Sade: The Bottom Buffet Drawer (NBC)—In another of the day’s possible few program airings uninterrupted by wartime news, Vic (Art Van Harvey), Rush (Bill Idelson), and Uncle Fletcher (Clarence Hartzell) arrive home all at once . . . just in time to handle a peculiar storage problem. Sade: Bernadine Flynn. Writer/director: Paul Rhymer.


The Story of Mary Marlin (NBC)—A news bulletin, one of the first known casualty reports to come from Pearl Harbour, arrives just before the day’s episode of this popular soap opera, on which Davey’s (possibly Bobby Dean Maxwell) intended destination is exposed further. Mary: Possibly Betty Lou Gerson. David Post: Possibly Carlton Bricker. Writer: Jane Cruisinberry.



McNeil. (NBC)

The Breakfast Club (NBC)—Following a news bulletin, Don McNeil’s popular morning program, does its best to keep audience spirits up as the crisis takes more complete hold, pending FDR’s address and formal war declarations later in the day.

Familiar Melodies (NBC)—This mild music program opens with a cut to London for news from Parliament, where crowds mill for news that Britain has declared war on Japan in the wake of the Pearl Harbour attack—without waiting for the U.S. Congress’s formal declaration, considering the Japanese declared war on Britain practically as soon as the planes were sent to hit Pearl. Reporter: Fred Bates.

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