The sounds of Pearl Harbor

The sounds of Pearl Harbor

How Americans first learned of the infamous attack on December 7, 1941

When the Japanese began their attack on Pearl Harbor, between 7 and 8 a.m. local time, on December 7, 1941, its representatives were meeting with Secretary of State Cordell Hull in his office in Washington. The surprise attack had already begun when, at approximately 2:20 p.m. in Washington, DC, they handed Hull a note stating that their "genuine desire to come to an amicable understanding with the Government of the United States in order that the two countries by their joint efforts may secure the peace of the Pacific Area and thereby contribute toward the realization of world peace" had failed. "The American government," it said, "obsessed with its own views and opinions, may be said to be scheming for the extension of the war. While it seeks, on the one hand, to secure its rear by stabilizing the Pacific Area, it is engaged, on the other hand, in aiding Great Britain and preparing to attack, in the name of self-defense, Germany and Italy, two Powers that are striving to establish a new order in Europe."

The note concluded, "The Japanese Government regrets to have to notify hereby the American Government that in view of the attitude of the American Government it cannot but consider that it is impossible to reach an agreement through further negotiations."

It was at almost that exact moment—roughly 2:30 Eastern time—that Americans first learned that war was already underway. Initial reports were via government bulletins, with almost no first hand accounts. Shortly thereafter, Americans learned that the Japanese had also attack American forces in Manilla, and that Japanese submarines were off the coast of San Francisco.

Below are excerpts from radio broadcasts about Pearl Harbor, beginning with Texas Senator Tom Connally's foreboding statement on December 5.