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Crafting the “Day of Infamy” Speech

Early on a quiet Sunday afternoon in December 1941, the President of the United States was in his study at the White House working on his stamp album. It was a favorite activity and one that allowed him to shut out the troubles of the world, if only for a little while.

The telephone rang, and the White House operator put through the call. Franklin D. Roosevelt learned that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, just before 8 a.m. Hawaii time (1 p.m. in Washington).

It was still unclear what the loss was in lives and ships and planes, but it would be high. Hawaii was the home of the Pacific fleet, along with thousands of soldiers and sailors to man them.

Two of Roosevelt’s speechwriters were out of town, so the President summoned his secretary, Grace Tully, to take down dictation as he “drafted” one of the most famous speeches of the 20th century to deliver to Congress the next day.

“Yesterday, December seventh, 1941, a date which will live in world history,” he began, “the United States was simultaneously and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the empire of Japan.”

Franklin Roosevelt's changes to the first draft of his speech are clearly visible on "Draft No. 1." In the opening sentence, he changed "world history" to "infamy" and "simultaneously" to "suddenly." At one point, he considered putting the words "without warning" at the end of the sentence but later crossed them out. (Franklin D. Roosevelt Library)

Franklin Roosevelt’s changes to the first draft of his speech are clearly visible on “Draft No. 1.” In the opening sentence, he changed “world history” to “infamy” and “simultaneously” to “suddenly.” At one point, he considered putting the words “without warning” at the end of the sentence but later crossed them out. (Franklin D. Roosevelt Library)

day-of-infamy-draft1-page2 day-of-infamy-draft1-page3

Slowly and carefully, he dictated the rest of the speech, and Tully typed up the first draft for his review.

We know, of course, that when FDR finished his wordsmithing of the speech that the first line, the one best remembered, turned out a little different: “Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by the naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”

Prologue, the Quarterly of the National Archives, takes you through the various drafts of FDR’s so-called “Day of Infamy” speech, with images of pages with his hand-written changes in wording and updates on Japanese attacks on other U.S. installations in the Pacific. And there’s even a “deity” paragraph inserted by top Presidential assistant Harry Hopkins.

The six-minute speech ended with a request for a declaration of war, which Congress approved within hours.

In “FDR’s ‘Day of Infamy’ Speech: Crafting a Call to Arms,” Prologue shows you pages from all the drafts, as well as the transcribed version of his actual delivery to Congress on December 8, 1941.

And for the record, Roosevelt never used the term “Day of Infamy;” he said “a date which will live in infamy.”


A Very Special “Make It Work” Christmas Story

Tim Gunn will be at the National Archives on December 11, hosting “Deck the Halls: Holidays at the White House.” Join us in person or watch live on our YouTube channel. Details at the bottom of this blog post!

It was 40 years before his famous catchphrase, but Tim Gunn knew he needed to “make it work” if he wanted to get the Christmas tree decorated in time at the White House.

First Lady Rosalynn Carter holds an ornament designed by Tim Gunn. (Carter Presidential Library and Museum)

First Lady Rosalynn Carter holds an ornament designed by Tim Gunn. (Carter Presidential Library and Museum)

The future Project Runway star had recently begun teaching three-dimensional design at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, DC, when the call came in. The White House was asking for students to make original ornaments for the tree in the Blue Room.

But just like a challenge on Project Runway, there was a catch: they had one week.

In Gunn’s Golden Rules: Life’s Little Lessons for Making It Work, Gunn recalled that they were excited to have the opportunity—and intensely curious about how the White House had come to be in this situation. “We heard a rumor,” he wrote, “that the Jimmy Carter White House perceived the work of this original ornament maker to be “inappropriate,” and we had a wonderful time trying to imagine what in the world those ornaments had looked like.”

His second-year students were assigned to make ornaments, and they soon had created “elaborately beautiful shapes and forms” on a folk art theme.

But this was not the “make-it-work moment.”

No, that happened when they entered the Blue Room and realized that the tree was enormous.

Gunn recalled that the tree “was at least as big to my eyes as the one at Rockefeller Center.  As I continued to stare at it, it became bigger still, like the magical tree in the Nutcracker.”

They hung the ornaments and soon realized they needed more ornaments. Many, many more ornaments. More than they could possibly make in time.

The Christmas tree decorated by Tim Gunn's students (Carter Presidential Library and Museum)

The Christmas tree decorated by Tim Gunn’s students (Carter Presidential Library and Museum)

Determined to make it work, Gunn drove to Sears, Roebuck and cleared the store of every last red-lacquered Styrofoam apple ornament that they had in stock and hung those ornaments on the tree.

He made it work.

(Gunn ends the episode in the book with an anecdote about not making it work. Although the First Lady  posed with each student and with the group for an official portrait, the photos never arrived. It turned out that the photographer did not have any film in the camera!)

Hear more stories of White Holiday traditions on December 11!

In partnership with the White House Historical Association, Tim Gunn of Project Runway leads a panel discussion on White House holiday decorations through history. Panelists—including Lynda Johnson Robb, daughter of President Johnson; Genevieve Gorder, host of HGTV’s White House Christmas; former White House Chief Usher Gary Walters; and Coleen Christian Burke, author of Christmas with the First Ladies—will present a visual feast of the themes, designs, and processes that go into decking the halls, rooms, and exterior of the White House.

The official 2014 White House Christmas Ornament, featuring President Warren G. Harding, will be available for purchase. A book signing will follow the program.

Presented in conjunction with our “Making Their Mark Through Signatures” exhibit, which is made possible in part by the Foundation for the National Archives with the generous support of Lead Sponsor AT&T. Major additional support provided by the Lawrence F. O’Brien Family and members of the Board of the Foundation for the National Archives.


No Thanks…

With Thanksgiving just two days away, this cartoon reminded residents of the nation’s capital of one reason not to be thankful in 1921—the high cost of living in the United States. Prices had spiraled upward in the years following World War I as the country converted from war production to a peacetime economy.

No Thanks for the High Cost of Living on Thanksgiving, 11/22/1921. (National Archives Identifier 6011699)

No Thanks for the High Cost of Living on Thanksgiving, 11/22/1921. (National Archives Identifier 6011699)

In this cartoon an elongated turkey holds a price sticker in its beak as John Q. Public grumbles: “There’s one item I won’t have to be thankful for.” The recession, however, was short lived—the U.S. economy quickly rebounded ushering in the prosperous roaring twenties.

This cartoon was drawn by Clifford K. Berryman, who was a prominent Washington, DC, cartoonist in the first half of the 20th century. Berryman used John Q. Public in many of his cartoons to denote a symbolic member of society deemed a “common man” or “man on the street.”

The Center for Legislative Archives has approximately 2,400 of Berryman’s original pen-and-ink drawings. They are all available for viewing in the National Archives Online Public Access catalog.

 


Laying the cornerstone for the FDR Library

On November 19, 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt laid the cornerstone of the Roosevelt Library and Museum in Hyde Park, NY—the first Presidential library within the National Archives.

FDR Library Cornerstone Ceremony, November 19, 1939. (Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum)

FDR Library cornerstone ceremony, November 19, 1939. (Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum)

In front of an estimated 1,000 onlookers, Roosevelt placed inside the cornerstone a metal box containing several items including the Articles of Incorporation of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Inc.; several congressional resolutions, reports, and hearings related to the library; copies of deeds related to the property; Archivist of the United States R.D.W. Connor’s 1939 Society of American Archivist address on the Roosevelt Library; and copies of New York daily newspapers from November 19, 1939.

During his Presidency, Roosevelt contemplated what to do with his papers. After careful consideration, he devised a plan to preserve, intact, all his correspondence, public papers, pamphlets, books, private papers, and other valuable source material into an archive to be housed on his family estate at Hyde Park. However, he did not intend for the collection to be privately owned—Roosevelt wanted the Federal Government to own the material and for it to be open to the public.

In July 1939, Congress approved the establishment and maintenance of the library, authorizing the Archivist of the United States to accept land in Hyde Park, NY, and permit a nonprofit to construct the library. Once complete, FDR would donate material for the library’s collection, and the National Archives would manage it.

During the cornerstone laying ceremony, with R.D.W. Connor in attendance, FDR remarked, “This wholly adequate building will be turned over, as you know, to the Government of the United States next summer without any cost whatsoever to the taxpayers of the country. During the following year the manuscripts, the letters, the books, the pictures and the models will be placed in their appropriate settings, and the collections will be ready for public inspection and use, we hope, by the spring of 1941.”

Roosevelt’s comment about the library opening in 1941 caused immediate speculation that he would not run for a third term (as we know he ran for a third . . . and fourth term). The museum opened to the public on June 30, 1941, but the research room did not open until a year after Roosevelt’s death.

FDR Library Cornerstone Ceremony, November 19, 1939. (Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum)

FDR Library cornerstone ceremony, November 19, 1939. (Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum)


Was Harding’s mistress a spy? The National Archives knows and tells.

Today’s post comes from Miriam Kleiman of the National Archives Public Affairs Staff.

I’ve worked at the National Archives for many years and have always been content with our 13 Presidential libraries (Hoover through Bush 43). Sure, I’ve thought wistfully about a Washington, Adams, or Lincoln Library. But only recently did I long for a Warren G. Harding Library to be part of NARA!

Warren G. Harding. (111-P-1627, National Archives Identifier 530676)

Warren G. Harding. (111-P-1627, National Archives Identifier 530676)

Our neighbors down the road at the Library of Congress recently shared online more than 1,000 pages of love letters from Warren Gamaliel Harding to his longtime paramour, Mrs. Carrie Fulton Phillips.

I’ve read letters between John and Abigail Adams, and between Harry and Bess Truman. And while interesting, those seem G-rated in comparison to the wild, impassioned, heated, salacious letters (the early 20th-century version of sexting) from Warren to Carrie.

Is this news?

Historic Presidential affairs are not news; we’ve long heard of Harding’s carnal appetite. He boasted to a group of reporters: “It’s a good thing I’m not a woman. I would always be pregnant. I can’t say no.” Even during his Presidency, there were reports of mistresses, dalliances with young aides, and even illegitimate children.

But many of the affairs of other past Presidents didn’t leave a paper trail.

What is unique about this affair is the newly available extensive documentation. And the mix of personal and political: Harding vacillates between pillow talk and debate, and his letters reflect passion as well as growing uncertainty and fear of exposure to both the American public and to the German government.

Was the mistress a spy?

The question is not “Did she or didn’t she?” The Library of Congress has that covered. It’s clear that Mrs. Phillips and Mr. Harding had a long and torrid affair. The question is not “Was she pro-German?” It’s clear she supported Germany and opposed U.S. entry into World War I. The question to pursue in National Archives records is “Was she, or wasn’t she, a German spy?”

Harding praised Phillips’s “perfect thighs” and “beautiful form” but found her pro-German sympathies less attractive. National Archives records show that a few U.S. Government agencies found such sympathies of even greater concern, and monitored Phillips at home in Marion, OH, and during her visits to Harding in Washington.

In March 1915, a few months after the start of World War I, Harding wrote “I have never approved of your war attitude, but I have loved you no less.”

In February 1917, Harding recognized her “intense partnership and sympathy for and devotion to Germany” but stated, “I can and will do my duty accordingly to my best conscience and understanding and then take the consequences” if asked to support the war.

Department of Justice memorandum concerning Mrs. Phillips's pro-German sentiments. (Records of the ..., Record Group ..)

Department of Justice memorandum concerning Mrs. Phillips’s pro-German sentiments. (Records of the Military Intelligence Division, Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs, RG 165)

In April 1917, the month the United States entered World War I, Harding criticized Phillips for switching from lovemaking to politics during their last liaison, expressing the “shock” “when out of the very halo of blissful existence . . . you suddenly threatened me with exposure to the Germans.”

This is where the Archives trail gets hot. The War Department’s Military Intelligence Chief wrote then-Senator Harding (referencing Phillips and her daughter), asking “whether you do know them and anything you may know concerning them which would throw light on their loyalty to this country.”

Letter from the Chief of the War Department's Military Intelligence Section to Senator Harding, November 12, 1917. (Records of the ..., Record Group ...)

Letter from the Chief of the War Department’s Military Intelligence Section to Senator Harding, November 12, 1917. (Records of the Military Intelligence Division, Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs, RG 165)

Excerpt from Senator Harding's reply to the Chief of the Military Section, November 23, 1917. (Records of the ... , Record Group ...)

Excerpt from Senator Harding’s reply to the Chief of the Military Intelligence Section, November 23, 1917. (Records of the Military Intelligence Division, Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs, RG 165)

In February 1918, Harding begs Phillips to “be prudent in talking to others” about her pro-German sympathies. In June, he says people are discussing her pro-German sympathies “at home and echoed in 40 directions” and that she has been “reported to the departments here.” Furthermore, the senator writes: “People said you influenced my votes.” He urges her to be cautious.

An intelligence report that month cites accusations that Mrs. Phillips “has made many unpatriotic statements,” “is a traitor to her country,” and is “receiving money from German Government.” Department of Justice records show that officials there were tracking her visits to Senator Harding.

Extract from a Justice Department intelligence report, February 16-18, 1918. (Records of the ..., Record Group ...)

Extract from a Justice Department intelligence report, February 16-18, 1918. (Records of the Military Intelligence Division, Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs, RG 165)

Stay tuned as we explore the National Archives’ paper trial. While not as salacious as the Library of Congress’s trove, these records may yield definitive information about whether Philips’s pro-German activity veered beyond sympathy into active support.

And a shout-out to Florence, Harding’s long-suffering wife (about whom he wrote “there isn’t one iota of affection in my home relationship . . . It is merely existence, necessary for appearance’s sake.”)

Florence supported his political career and once remarked, “I have only one real hobby—my husband.” Tammy Wynette would be proud.