Audience reactions in the unedited “Day of Infamy” speech

Today is the 75th anniversary of FDR’s “Day of Infamy” speech in which he asked Congress to declare war on Japan. We’ve all heard the most famous parts of the speech, but have you ever listened to the whole thing? There is film footage, of course, but I found that they edit parts of the speech and/or the applause at certain points. That is why I like the audio clip below. It is a radio broadcast, which is how most Americans would have first heard it, and all the applause is left in. There is a resolve in FDR’s words, but the American spirit really comes through when you hear the reactions to his words by those in attendance. Listen to the speech and imagine what it must have been like for millions of Americans that were still in shock, mad, frightened, and desperate for more information, as they gathered around radios to listen to their beloved president in the wake of a national tragedy. It makes the whole speech, and the reaction from those packing the Capitol building, extremely moving.

A local TV station out of Texas talked to some vets about their reaction to the speech, and they agree that it was what he said after the “infamy” line that really struck home. “His speech, it made everybody gung-ho,” one of them recalled. “Yeah, we’re going to go get them.”

Good piece here about FDR’s drafting of the speech, including the fact that he didn’t originally have the word “infamy” in it. Ironic, since that is the most memorable word in the whole thing. (Which just goes to show something that all writers know . . . your best stuff can come during the editing process. Keep that in mind, students).

So where is the copy of the speech that FDR was reading from? Interestingly, that is actually a big mystery.


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