The Thing About Today – December 7

December 7, 2020
Day 342 of 366

December 7th is the 342nd day of the year. It is International Civil Aviation Day, a United Nations day to recognize the importance of aviation, especially international air travel, to the social and economic development of the world.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Illinois Day and National Cotton Candy Day.

Historical items of note:

  • In 1732, the Royal Opera House opened at Covent Garden, London, England.
  • In 1787, Delaware became the first state to ratify the United States Constitution.
  • In 1842, the first concert of the New York Philharmonic was performed. It was founded by Ureli Corelli Hill.
  • In 1915, author and screenwriter Leigh Brackett was born. Known for her work on such films as The Big Sleep (1946), Rio Bravo (1959) and The Long Goodbye (1973), she also worked on an early draft of The Empire Strikes Back (1980). Elements of her work remained in the film, but she died before the film went into production. She was the first woman shortlisted for the Hugo Award, and in 2020, she won a Retro Hugo for her novel The Nemesis From Terra, originally published as “Shadow Over Mars” in Startling Stories (Fall 1944).
  • In 1930, W1XAV in Boston, Massachusetts telecasted video from the CBS radio orchestra program, The Fox Trappers. The telecast also included the first television commercial in the United States, an advertisement for I.J. Fox Furriers, who sponsored the radio show.
  • In 1932, German-born Swiss physicist Albert Einstein was granted an American visa.
  • Also in 1932, actress Ellen Burstyn was born.
  • In 1965, actor Jeffrey Wright was born.
  • In 1966, actor, director, producer, and screenwriter C. Thomas Howell was born.
  • In 1972, Apollo 17, the last Apollo moon mission, was launched. The crew took the photograph known as The Blue Marble as they left the Earth.
  • In 1978, actress, director, and producer Shiri Appleby was born.
  • In 1979, Star Trek: The Motion Picture premiered. It marked the transition of the landmark American science fiction television series to the silver screen.
  • In 1989, actor Nicholas Hoult was born.
  • In 1995, the Galileo spacecraft arrived at Jupiter, a little more than six years after it was launched by Space Shuttle Atlantis during Mission STS-34.
  • In 2017, the Marriage Amendment Bill to legally recognize same-sex marriages was passed in Australia’s parliament.

On December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service launched a surprise attack on the naval base at Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Hawaii.

In total, 353 Imperial Japanese aircraft, including fighters, level and dive bombers, and torpedo bombers were launched in two waves from six aircraft carriers. Eight United States Navy battleships were present and all were damaged. Four of them were sunk, and all but USS Arizona were later raised. Six of the battleships were returned to service and went on to fight in World War II.

The Japanese also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship, and one minelayer. A total of 188 United States aircraft were destroyed, and 2,403 Americans were killed and 1,178 others were wounded. Important base installations were not attacked.

Japanese losses were light in comparison: 29 aircraft and five midget submarines lost, and 64 servicemen killed. Kazuo Sakamaki, the commanding officer of one of the submarines, was captured.

Japan declared war on the United States later in the day, though the declaration was not formally delivered until the following day. On December 8th, the United States declared war on Japan. There were numerous historical precedents for the unannounced military action by Japan, but the lack of any formal warning, particularly while peace negotiations were still apparently ongoing, led President Franklin D. Roosevelt to proclaim the day “a date which will live in infamy”.

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives: Yesterday, December 7th, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its Government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night the Japanese attacked Wake Island.

And this morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.

But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us. No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces—with the unbounding determination of our people—we will gain the inevitable triumph—so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.


—President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressing a joint session of Congress on December 8, 1941

Because the attack happened without a declaration of war and without explicit warning, the attack on Pearl Harbor was later judged in the Tokyo Trials to be a war crime.

On December 11th, Germany and Italy each declared war on the United States, which responded with a declaration of war against Germany and Italy. Just over two years after World War II began, the United States was forced to engage.

In 1994, the United States Congress designated December 7th of each year as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. The joint resolution was signed by President Bill Clinton on August 23, 1994.

The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

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