The White House Prepares for War
When Roosevelt called Cordell Hull and told him that Frank Knox had just called with news of "an air raid over Pearl Harbor," Hull swore but said nothing to anyone on his staff. Instead, he began rehearsing a brief speech for the Japanese envoys when they were permitted to see him. When Roosevelt's call came, Hull had two of his aides with him, Green Hackworth and Joseph W. Ballantine; they had been discussing what Hull should tell the Japanese. Then Roosevelt's call came, and Hull had to abandon his prepared statement.
Hull's first reaction was to send the envoys away without seeing them, but he decided against that. He had a few things to say to them. He called them into his office that a writer characterized as "impersonal as a railway-station waiting room." Hull had grown fond of Nomura, who had been a guest in his apartment several times. Not given to endearments, he showed his affection for Nomura by referring to him as "the old codger," a Tennessee way of saying "nice guy." On the other hand, he had never liked Kurusu and had referred to him as "that other citizen." And probably worse. He was well known among cabinet members for his outspokenness; for the past five or six years he had referred to the Rome-Berlin- Tokyo group as "gangster nations."
When the two Japanese were seated, Nomura apologized for their tardiness and said that while their instructions were to present the note from the government at one o'clock, the decoding had taken longer than they expected. Hull asked them why one o'clock was chosen, and Nomura said he did not know. Kurusu remained silent.