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Pearl Harbor Prisoner Petition, December 8, 1941

The “unprovoked and dastardly attack” by Japan on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, brought an immediate unity of purpose to the nation. Thousands of letters flooded into the White House after the attack, and especially after FDR delivered his War Message to Congress (the “date which will live in infamy” speech) on December 8th. Citizens of all political persuasions and from all parts of the country pledged their support, volunteered their service, and offered to enlist in the military. One of the most interesting examples among the President’s papers is a petition that FDR received signed by prisoners at Folsom State Penitentiary in California. This is the first page of the bound petition that contains 39 pages and 1,746 signatures.

PH Prisoner_Page1

The Roosevelt Library will present several free holiday-related programs in the first few weeks of December. In commemoration of National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum will host an author talk and book signing with Stanley Weintraub, author of PEARL HARBOR CHRISTMAS: A WORLD AT WAR, DECEMBER 1941. The program will be held at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, December 7, 2012 in the Henry A. Wallace Center at the FDR Presidential Library and Home. Following the presentation, Professor Weintraub will sign copies of his book — now available in paperback.

The Roosevelt Library and the Home of FDR (Springwood) will be open to visitors free of charge on December 15, 2012, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., as part of the annual Holiday Open House activities. There will be holiday decorations, refreshments and special activities beginning at Noon in the Henry A. Wallace Visitor and Education Center. The seventh annual Children’s Reading Festival — presented by the Roosevelt Library and the Friends of the Poughkeepsie Public Library District — will be held in the Henry A. Wallace Center, from 1:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on December 15.

Children’s book authors will read from and sign copies of their books. Featured books will be available for purchase in the New Deal Store in the Wallace Center. Authors will include:

1:30 p.m.
Iza Trapani
Jingle Bells and The Bear Went Over the Mountain

2:15 p.m.
Michael Garland
Oh! What a Christmas! and The Night Santa Got Lost: How NORAD Saved Christmas

3:00 p.m.
Peter McCarty
Chloe and The Monster Returns

In addition, on December 15, there will be free photos with Santa from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., and children can make holiday cards for sailors on the USS FRANKLIN AND ELEANOR ROOSEVELT beginning at Noon. Refreshments will be served throughout the afternoon.

The Library Programs staff wishes you a wonderful holiday season and hopes you’ll consider joining us for these December programs.


What was President Franklin Roosevelt doing on December 7, 1941, before he learned of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor? Which advisers did he summon when he realized that America was on the brink of war?

Most Americans know where the President was on December 8th, but where was he on December 6th . . . or the 9th? Find the answers in a new feature of the Roosevelt Library’s website at

See the events of December 1941.

On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Pare Lorentz Center at the Franklin Roosevelt Library officially unveils a new online database of President Roosevelt’s daily schedule: “Franklin D. Roosevelt Day by Day.” This interactive chronology documents Roosevelt’s daily activities as President, from March 1933 to April 1945. The project was inspired by the work of Pare Lorentz, a Depression-era documentary filmmaker, who dedicated much of his life to documenting FDR’s daily activities as President.

“Day by Day” which is supported by a grant from the New York Community Trust to the Pare Lorentz Center, features digitized original calendars and schedules maintained by the White House Usher and the official White House stenographer, as well as additional historical resources scanned from the Roosevelt Library archives. These records trace FDR’s appointments, travel schedule, social events, guests, and more. A searchable database based primarily on these calendar sources is available so that researchers can search the chronology by keyword and date.

As a fulfillment of Pare Lorentz’s original vision, “Day by Day” also includes an interactive timeline of additional materials from the archives of the FDR Library to place each day’s calendar into larger historical context. These materials include scanned photographs, letters and speeches as well as descriptions of events in United States and world history.

To explore President Roosevelt’s daily schedule or for more information on the project, please visit “Day by Day.”

“Remember Pearl Harbor” Weathervane (MO 2005.377)

Tomorrow, December 7, marks the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

In the early morning hours of that December Sunday in 1941, Japan unleashed a devastating surprise attack on American military installations in the Pacific. The worst blow came at Hawaii, site of the giant Pearl Harbor naval base and other American military installations. In just two hours, Japanese bombers destroyed or damaged 21 American naval vessels and over 300 aircraft. The attacks resulted in the deaths of over 2400 military personnel and civilians, and shattered the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

“Remember Pearl Harbor” quickly became a rallying cry for Americans as the nation entered World War II.  The expression appeared frequently in the press, on posters, and in other media throughout the war. These words were also incorporated into hand-made items produced by everyday Americans. Some sent their handiworks to the President as gifts. This painted cast iron weathervane was made by Claude C. Ferdinand of Hawthorne, New Jersey shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack. Mr. Ferdinand sent his weathervane to FDR on January 27, 1942. It links the American cause in World War II to an earlier conflict—the American Revolution—by depicting two iconic figures from the American Revolution flanking an American eagle and a “V” for victory symbol. On the right is the figure of the Minuteman, immortalized in a famous statue that stands at the site of the Battle of Concord in Massachusetts. The figure on the left is Molly Pitcher, who is shown stoking a cannon at the Battle of Monmouth, which was fought in New Jersey in 1778.


December 8, 1941

“WASHINGTON, Sunday—I was going out in the hall to say goodbye to our cousins, Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Adams, and their children, after luncheon, and, as I stepped out of my room, I knew something had happened. All the secretaries were there, two telephones were in use, the senior military aides were on their way with messages. I said nothing because the words I heard over the telephone were quite sufficient to tell me that, finally, the blow had fallen, and we had been attacked.

Attacked in the Philippines, in Hawaii, and on the ocean between San Francisco and Hawaii. Our people had been killed not suspecting there was an enemy, who attacked in the usual ruthless way which Hitler has prepared us to suspect.

Because our nation has lived up to the rules of civilization, it will probably take us a few days to catch up with our enemy, but no one in this country will doubt the ultimate outcome. None of us can help but regret the choice which Japan has made, but having made it, she has taken on a coalition of enemies she must underestimate; unless she believes we have sadly deteriorated since our first ships sailed into her harbor.

The clouds of uncertainty and anxiety have been hanging over us for a long time. Now we know where we are. The work for those who are at home seems to be obvious. First, to do our own job, whatever it is, as well as we can possibly do it. Second, to add to it everything we can do in the way of civilian defense. Now, at last, every community must go to work to build up protections from attack.

We must build up the best possible community services, so that all of our people may feel secure because they know we are standing together and that whatever problems have to be met, will be met by the community and not one lone individual. There is no weakness and insecurity when once this is understood.”

Click here for the complete My Day article.

December 8, 1941: FDR addresses Congress asking for an acknowledgement of a state of war against Japan. He declares December 7th “a date which will live in infamy.”

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