I apologize if this piece seems a bit incoherent, but I just woke up from a dreadful nightmare and had to write it out as fast as I could before the details faded.
President John Kerry was addressing a joint session of Congress. The date was December 8, 1941. I’ve done my best to recreate his speech below.
Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives;
Yesterday, December 7, 1941 – a date that will be seared – seared – into our nation’s memory – the United States was brutally attacked at Pearl Harbor on the island of Hawaii.
The proud members of our Army and Navy were struck by complete surprise. We do not yet have final numbers, but currently it is believed that over two thousand soldiers and sailors lost their lives. Further, several hundred aircraft and many ships – including at least five of our mightiest battleships – were sunk.
We are still gathering information about this cowardly attack, but we believe it was carried out by at least four and possibly as many as six aircraft carriers. We have tentatively identified two of the attackers as the Imperial Japanese Navy vessels Akagi and Soryu.
The American people may rest assured that this cowardly attack shall not go unpunished.
When the first word of the attack came in, I immediately began speaking with other world leaders. Telegrams were immediately sent out to Chancellor Hitler of Germany, Premier Stalin of the Soviet Union, Prime Minister Churchill of the United Kingdom, Marshal Petain of France, Leader Mussolini of Italy, and Prime Minister Tojo of Japan. I have asked them for their assistance in pursuing and bringing to justice these savage criminals.
And we have also taken action on the home front, as well. All military bases are now at full alert for further attacks. The officers in charge of our Hawaiian facilities have all been relieved of command pending a full and complete investigation. Some may even face courts martial for their conduct. And the Justice Department is issued warrants for the officers and crew of the Akagi and Soryu, as well as for “Aircraft Carriers John Does One through Four.” And the valiant men of the United States Coast Guard – whose duty is to enforce the law on the high seas – has been ordered to detain those vessels and their crews for trial. Their deeds will not go unpunished.
The investigative arms of your government are not resting, either. Only four nations currently possess aircraft carriers. I have asked the United States Navy to account for the locations of our vessels. While the Navy assures me that it is inconceivable that warships of the United States could have taken part in this great tragedy, they do acknowledge that one or possibly two of our own aircraft carriers may have been in the vicinity at the time of the attack, and were equipped to carry it out. I have also asked the same of Marshal Petain, Prime Minister Tojo, and Prime Minister Churchill, and await their responses.
There are some who would urge us to rush to judgment on this tragic day. They would have us declare war and strike out. Who among us cannot feel that rage? But the decision to go to war is never an easy one, and never one that should be made in haste. Yes, we have been hurt, and hurt badly. But America is strong. We are working tirelessly to recover and bury the dead, aid the injured, and repair the damage done to our proud forces. We are alert for any further attacks, and they will be met with the greatest resolve. But we shall not succumb to the siren’s call of vengeance. When – and only when – we have a full understanding of how this terribly tragedy befell us, and have indisputable evidence of who the perpetrators are, will we join together with other nations and bring an end to this scourge that has so gravely wounded us.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.