Cautious Crusade: Franklin D. Roosevelt, American Public Opinion, and the War against Nazi Germany

By Steven Casey | Go to book overview

2
AMERICA'S
PHONY WAR
DECEMBER I941 TO NOVEMBER 1942

Reports from many points indicate a growing
parallel between the attitude of the American
public today toward the war and the attitude
of the French public in 1939. The French
knew they were at war and theoretically real-
ized that an all out effort was necessary, but
the war was something on the other side of
the Maginot Line. The American public is
losing its first up-surge of feeling after Pearl
Harbor, and increasingly thinks of the war as
something on the other side of the Atlantic
and Pacific Oceans. Long-term educational
programs should correct this, but in the
meantime specific steps should be taken from
time to time to overcome the apathy in plants
and elsewhere.

ā€” Committee of War Information
Meeting, January 19, 1942

The first Japanese planes swooped in low over Pearl Harbor shortly after 7:30 A.M., local time. Within minutes bombs and torpedoes were raining down on American battleships, cruisers, and destroyers, as they sat inert and largely defenseless, moored so closely together that they offered the most inviting of targets. By the time the attack was over, the carnage left by the Japanese was appalling: eighteen U.S. naval vessels had been sunk or severely damaged, 180 aircraft had been destroyed, and 2,403 men lay dead with another 1,178 wounded. By any standards it was a disaster of the first magnitude.

Franklin Roosevelt was eating a quiet lunch at his desk with Harry Hopkins when he first heard the news. For the past few days the atmo-

-46-

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