Just a day after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States' decision to not get involved in World War 2 was reversed and the now awoken "Sleeping Giant" declared War on Japan.
The Year was 1941
While the attack on Pearl Harbor was completely unexpected and for the most part we in the states are told that it was a cowardly sneak attack, There is information that exists that I never knew before researching this project.
Japan had actually broadcast a document to the Japanese Embassy in Washington D.C. While it wasn't an official declaration of war on the USA, it was sort of a "we are no longer allies" declaration. It was meant to be delivered 30 minutes before the attack on Pearl Harbor but due to the very complicated nature of the coding and the fact that only high-level Embassy staff were allowed access to it, it couldn't be decoded, translated, and delivered to the Secretary of State in time.
This doesn't justify the sneak attack or anything, it is just a bit disappointing to me that this is totally left out of the history that I was taught growing up.
Japan's allies, Italy and Germany immediately also declared war on the United States and Britain actually declared war on Japan before the United States did but this was largely because Japan had already been attacking Hong Kong and Singapore: Both of which were British colonies at the time.
Prior to 8-Dec, 1941; the United States had been involved by providing significant military aid to nations already engaged in war in both Asia and Europe, but since selling these things or giving them away would be against international rules of engagement (in some capacity, I'm not going to dig into it.) Therefore the USA lent or leased all of these things to other nations. The "Lend-Lease" policy received a great deal of opposition for isolationist members of Congress and Roosevelt himself had been elected based on a promise to keep the USA out of war.
Pearl Harbor changed all of that.
The actual document from the National Archives
Many people ask "Why did Japan attack the United States?" It was already known that the USA had vast economic and military resources and would certainly counter-attack but the main reasons behind that was that while the USA was not involved in attacking Japan in any capacity, they were heavily involved in trade embargoes, most notably eliminating a great deal of Japan's ability to acquire oil.
Japan needed to strike quickly and without much warning to cripple the US navy, so they could obtain resources from the south Pacific unimpeded. This plan is evidenced in the Japanese attacks on Malaya, Burma, modern-day Indonesia, and The Philippines which occurred at the same time as the attack on Pearl Harbor in a military action that became known as the "Pacific Blitz." This would end up providing the Japanese the much needed oil for their plan to dominate the Pacific Rim.
While it does seem like a bad idea to attack the most powerful nation in the world and provoke them, it appears as though they didn't have a choice since the embargoes were working.
It all happened today, 78 years ago
Here's an interesting side-piece of history: When Roosevelt brought the declaration before congress asking for their approval which is a requirement for USA to officially declare war. The vote passed the House and Senate quite easily. However, it was not unanimous.
There was one congresswoman who voted against the war, invoking the ire of her colleagues. Her name was Jeannette Rankin and she was representing Montana. She was the first woman in history to hold federal office in the United States.
She was widely ridiculed in the press for her rather pointless vote to make it 388-1 in the House and was wildly unpopular after this. She did not seek re-election in 1942, knowing that she certainly would lose.