The 1941 Christmas Tree: A Bright Light in Dark Times
After the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, there was some doubt that the White House Christmas Tree lighting ceremony would take place at all.
The Roosevelts had planned for a “more homey” lighting of the National Christmas tree on December 24 in 1941, and so FDR had directed that the tree be moved from the Ellipse to the White House grounds, just next to the South Lawn Fountain.
But with firm backing from the President, the tree-lighting went forward, and thousands came to the White House to share a bright moment of hope during dark and uncertain times.
President Roosevelt reminded the audience, “Our strongest weapon against this war is the conviction of the dignity and brotherhood of man which Christmas Day signifies—more than any other day or any other symbol.” He continued, “Against enemies who preach the principles of hate and practise them, we set our faith in human love and in God’s care for us and all men everywhere.”
Read the whole story at Prologue: The 1941 Christmas Tree: A Bright Light in Dark Times
Image: President Roosevelt, with Churchill to his right, addresses the crowd at the 1941 lighting of the White House Christmas tree. From the FDR Presidential Library.
Q:Did FDR accept the petition from the inmates and allow them to enlist?
I took a look back at the petition and there is no correspondence from the White House with it. After Pearl Harbor, the White House was flooded with mail, so I don’t know how much of that they actually were able to respond to.
Folsom Prison Pearl Harbor Petition
The attack by Japan on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 brought an immediate unity of purpose to the nation. Thousands of letters flooded into the White House after the attack, and especially after President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered his War Message to Congress (the “date which will live in infamy” speech) on December 8th.
Citizens of all political persuasions and from all parts of the country pledged their support, volunteered their service, and offered to enlist in the military. One of the most interesting examples among the President’s papers is a petition that FDR received signed by prisoners at Folsom State Penitentiary in California.
This is the first page of the bound petition that contains 39 pages and 1,746 signatures.
-from the FDR Library
In 1914, Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt watched the laying of keel No. 39 at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. This ship would later be commissioned as the USS Arizona, struck down during the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 when Roosevelt was President of the United States.
In 1914, Roosevelt had not yet been struck down by polio. National Archives staff took a closer look at the glass plate:
Striding confidently in the front of the group was a smiling figure wearing a stylish derby hat with his head cocked staring straight at the camera. Behind him was a gaggle of VIPs in great coats, hand warmers, and top hats. We weren’t sure if the person in the image was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but P.T. as a military history buff was quick to point out that everyone knew…that “Battleship No. 39” was the Battleship Arizona sunk during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II.
You can read the full story on our NARAtions blog.
Remembering Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941
Clarendon Hetrick, Pearl Harbor survivor, sits in his wheelchair as he views the memorial shrine at the USS ARIZONA Memorial immediately following the joint Navy/National Park Service ceremony commemorating the 65th Anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 2006, at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. More than 1,500 Pearl Harbor survivors, their families and their friends from around the nation joined the more than 2,000 distiguished guests and the general public for the annual observance. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication SPECIALIST 1ST Class James E. Foehl) (Released), 12/07/2006
Taken on February 10, 1944, this is one of a collection of photographs of salvage operations at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard taken by the shipyard during the period following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
NASPH #120337- 10 Feb 1944. USS Utah- Salvage; Aerial view from offshore showing ship in about 90 degree position during righting operations, 02/10/1944
More photos of salvage operations at Pearl Harbor »
Remembering Pearl Harbor and the Records from the Day of Infamy
Last week Today’s Document and the other National Archives Tumblrs & Blogs featured a number of records to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. In case you missed any, our colleagues at Prologue did an excellent recap: Prologue: Pieces of History » Records from the Day of Infamy.
The day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, before a Joint Session of Congress, President Roosevelt asked Congress for a declaration of war against Japan. President Roosevelt’s message conveyed the national outrage over the attack by pronouncing December 7, 1941 “a date which will live in infamy.”
Congress quickly adopted the war resolution. As you can see on the tally sheet below, the House had only one dissenting vote. The only no came from Representative Jeannette Rankin (R-MT), a well-known pacifist. The reading clerk taking the roll call later recalled that members were pleading with Rankin to vote present rather than no. Nevertheless, the resolution passed 388-1.
Day of Infamy Speech, 12/8/1941, Records of the U.S. Senate (NAID 595426)
Roll Call Tally Sheet, 12/8/1941, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives (NAID 2600932)
Day of Infamy
This photo shows Roosevelt delivering his “Day of Infamy” speech to Congress. To the right, in uniform, is Roosevelt’s son James, who escorted his father to the Capitol. Seated in the back are V.P. Henry Wallace and Speaker Sam Rayburn. December 8, 1941.
The National Archives holds typed copies of the final drafts of this seminal speech, with a few of FDR’s handwritten corrections. However, archivists at the FDR Library believe the original reading copy, like reading copies of other FDR speeches, was in a completely different form, very distinctive in size and format and different from the legislative copies in House and Senate files.
Apparently, neither FDR nor his son, James, who accompanied him, brought it back to the White House and its whereabouts, 70 years later, remains a mystery.
“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.”
-President Franklin D. Roosevelt
You know the words, now listen to President Roosevelt’s voice - FDR’s Day of Infamy speech delivered to a joint session of Congress on December 8, 1941.
On December 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt delivered this “Day of Infamy Speech,” shown here as the first draft. Immediately afterward, Congress declared war, and the United States entered World War II.
via Prologue: “FDR’s ‘Day of Infamy’ Speech: Crafting a Call to Arms”
What was President Franklin Roosevelt doing on December 7, 1941, before he learned of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor? Which advisers did he summon when he realized that America was on the brink of war?
Most Americans know where the President was on December 8th, but where was he on December 6th … or the 9th? Find the answers in a new feature from the Roosevelt Library, FDR Day by Day, an interactive timeline that traces FDR’s appointments, travel schedule, social events, guests, and more.
On the afternoon of December 7, 1941, President Roosevelt was in his Oval Study in the white House having lunch. The lunch was interrupted at 1:40 p.m. by a telephone call from Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox who told him Pearl Harbor was under attack and that the military command had emphasized that this was “no drill.” This Memorandum was one of the first written damage assessments presented to the President. In his own hand, Roosevelt indicated the date and time he received it.
Preserving Pearl Harbor Documents
Service jacket and salvaged service record, with Navy envelope, of William Wells. Wells enlisted at Kansas City, Mo. on Jan. 1, 1940, and died Dec. 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor after achieving the rank of Signalman 3rd class. Also lost that day was his brother, Raymond Virgil Wells. They were one of 23 sets of brothers on the Arizona who died that day.
One of the most important decisions a conservator can make is not how to complete a treatment, but when NOT to treat. An important example of this can be found in the records salvaged from the U.S.S. Arizona after it was bombed on Dec. 7, 1941. These service records, which were held one level below the main deck, were not submerged in water but were subjected to heat, fire, and high humidity. Salvaged by the Navy and sealed in envelopes which contained the damaged documents, the records came to NARA in the 1950s and are now housed at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis.
Note: This is the first in a series of posts on conservation of Pearl Harbor documents.