1941 Newspaper Editorial Condemns Japan for Pearl Harbor Attack

Americans were shocked when the Empire of Japan attacked the U.S. military facility at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on 7 December 1941.

Photo: U.S. Navy battleships at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 (l-r): USS West Virginia (sunk), USS Tennessee (damaged), and USS Arizona (sunk)
Photo: U.S. Navy battleships at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 (l-r): USS West Virginia (sunk), USS Tennessee (damaged), and USS Arizona (sunk). Credit: National Archives and Records Administration; Wikimedia Commons.

Our two nations were not at war, and the Japanese attack was unprovoked and came without warning. The crisis was a severe test of American resolve and the nation steeled itself for the struggle ahead, as urged by the following editorial – which was given unusual prominence for an editorial: right on the front page

An editorial about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dallas Morning News newspaper article 8 December 1941
Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 8 December 1941, page 1

Here is a transcription of this editorial:

War (An Editorial)

If the worst was to come to the worst, the United States was aware that it would be attacked without warning. That this cowardly method of initiating war has become common practice on the part of those conscienceless Governments that define themselves as the Axis gives it no better standing in the courts of international law. The democracies have adhered scrupulously to declaration before fighting. It is Japan, Nazi Germany, Italy that have initiated war with the bomb and the cannon shot. For that among other crimes all of them must answer eventually before the bar of inexorable justice.

The attack on Pearl Harbor and the defenses of Manila serve at least to clarify the atmosphere. The United States is at war, nor on a single front alone. The vicious and unprovoked Japanese attack has placed us at war with Japan. Germany will logically invoke its Axis pact as soon as we make it clear that we are in the field and on the sea. For good or ill, the United States stands ranged today against the whole unholy group of the so-called Axis.

For the country at large, the clearing of the situation must result in a final full wakening to its serious character. From this moment on, we can tolerate no bar to our unity of action, no stoppage in our preparation for defense. The war we face is different from any war that we have ever known. Our peril is far greater than ever before. Britain’s mobilization of its whole population is a model that we will find it necessary to follow if we are to win.

That we will win with the full strength of America in the effort, we can believe with faith and confidence. That we will not win if we do not exert that full strength is a contingency so much to be feared that we dare not risk it.

The war is not of our choosing. We have been drawn in because we have refused to furnish the materials and munitions for a bandit Government to attack the innocent and helpless. We have offered an honorable peace to a nation devoid of honor. The answer has come in the rain of shrapnel and cordite on Pearl Harbor and Manila, on American territory, on American nationals, a heathen challenge of death against the calm of a Christian Sunday.

The United States takes up the sword in sorrow but confident in the justice of its cause. In that spirit, God willing, we shall win.

Note: An online collection of newspapers, such as GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives, is not only a great way to learn about the lives of your ancestors – the old newspaper articles also help you understand American history and the times your ancestors lived in, and the news they talked about and read in their local papers – as well as events that occurred during living memory. Was anyone from your family involved in the attack on Pearl Harbor? Please share your stories with us in the comments section.

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