The terrible day at Pearl Harbor 73 years ago this Sunday – Dec. 7, 1941 (a Sunday also!) — is seared into our collective memory. The Japanese surprise attack killed 2,403 Americans by official Navy count, crippled the US fleet and air force and hurled us into World War II, already raging for more than two years in Europe and longer in Asia.
Here’s a draft of FDR’s unforgettable speech to Congress:
On that Sunday, Luther Gulick — then working on the National Resources Defense Council as a member of the Committee on Post-War Planning (typical – he was already thinking ahead!) — had traveled to Boston to deliver a speech on military preparedness and budgeting to the Harvard Business School.
Gulick’s text seems at first glance to record the exact moment when he hears of the Japanese attack. He changes his opening from “We have been threatened” to “We have been attacked…”
But wait! He goes on to cite, not the Japanese but “an insane group of Nazi political racketeers and military adventurers…”
Moreover, he could not yet have known of the Pearl Harbor attack. His speech was scheduled for noon. The attack began at 7:53 am Hawaii time — with the five hour-time difference, 12:53 pm on the East Coast — and was over in two hours. The Associated Press sent out the first bulletin while the bombing was still underway, at 2:22 pm eastern time.
Meanwhile, Gulick, unaware, along with his audience, of the world-shaking events across the Pacific, went on with his talk, citing estimates and projections as far off as 1950.
The title of his talk on Dec. 7, 1941 — ill-chosen or amazingly far-sighted?: “When Peace Comes.”