Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

December 7, 2012

Our initial reaction to Pearl Harbor


Knoxville —  

Editor’s note: Today, Friday, Dec. 7, 2012, marks the 71st anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The following is an excerpt from the Knoxville Journal editorial of Dec. 11, 1941. 

We are at war! A treacherous and powerful enemy has attacked us, fired upon our flag, invaded our distant territories, crippled our ships and fortifications, injured and killed thousands of our sailors and soldiers, and brought the threats of bombs to the very gateways of our Pacific coast.

We are indeed at war - a war that is certain to bring fierce struggle, not from one foe alone, but several. It is time that we acted the part of a people thus endangered.

That “we doesn’t mean the government, which has for months been moving at high speed to prepare for just such situation as the nation now faces. It means “we, the people,” the men and women in this community, in other communities everywhere. 

We have, it is true, thought about war, talked about war, but chiefly as a subject of conversation about a thing far away across oceans, and not as a fact of close concern to us. The time for that sort of thing has gone by and the time for whole-hearted patriotic action has come. We need to fly our flags, join in every task that is set us for aiding defense, and dig into our pockets for every dime or dollar that we can give to support the needs of our country’s defense. 

The job ahead is not one only for the men who enlist and go away to fight, but for every man and woman of us who stays at home. And it’s not an incidental job for any of us; it’s a job that ranks first. 


Japan’s sudden and smashing attack upon Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, Manila in the Philippines and several vital smaller islands between these outposts was treacherous, dastardly. Of that there is little doubt. The plan must have been set up and all movements of battleships, airplanes and their carriers must have been made while Japanese envoys were on their way to Washington, bearing the white flag of peace. It could not have been otherwise.

Although the United States had plenty of reason to believe that the Japanese were capable of treachery, their request for friendly negotiations for a peaceful settlement of differences was accepted at face value, and at terrible cost to this country. The happenings that surprised the United States and shocked it bring these points to the fore:

Japan, like Germany, is not bound by any rules of decent international conduct, nor to be trusted in the least matter. Neither its word nor seemingly friendly conduct are to be trusted. They are worthless. 

Japan is a strong foe - stronger than we of the United States have been accustomed to believe. It has the ships and the planes and the men to fight desperately. 

Japan has learned much about war through actual experience, and undoubtedly it also has the benefit of Nazi experience as it planned its startling attack. 

But with all that, Japan cannot in the long run defeat the United States, neither alone nor with the help of the Nazis, important as that may be. 

President Roosevelt in his Tuesday night talk, faced all of these facts, but declared that there can be no doubt that the United States and its allies will move on to ultimate victory. 

“We are going to win this war,” he said, “and we are going to win the peace that follows.” 

We believe that.