Radio and the war 

26 July 2018

From Movie-Radio Guide for 20-26 December 1941

For the record, Movie-Radio Guide presents herewith a resume of the first hectic twenty-four hours of war in the U. S. Surprising, yes. But Movie-Radio Guide can point to numerous instances where readers have been offered accurate predictions. To wit: Edwin Hartrich’s recent map-story, “Where Japan Will Attack Next.” Now that our country actually is at war, Movie-Radio Guide proposes to intensify and enlarge its service, dedicate itself to cooperate in every way with radio in doing broadcasting’s huge war-time job. — The Editors.


IT WAS 2:25 p.m., December 7, in New York and broadcasters were settling down to a normal Sunday afternoon.

Then eight fateful words flashed over the United Press news wire:

“White House announces Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor.”

Suddenly, newsrooms of all networks were in an uproar. Skilled experts went into action with lightning swiftness. Five minutes later Americans had the news — the U. S. was at war. And U. S. radio was at war, too.

From that moment radio was on a new footing. Comedy shows and dance bands went by the boards. News of the fast-breaking developments in the Pacific took over for the duration, interrupting any program at any time. Radio became a bulletin board for orders of the U. S. Army and Navy. Radio hams were ordered off the air. Radio studios were guarded against sabotage. Radio was indeed at war.

As could be expected, U. S. radio lived up to its reputation as the world’s finest. Columbia Broadcasting System, about to go on the air with its “World Today” news round-up when the United Press bulletin came in, canceled broadcasts from Cairo and Geneva, in a matter of seconds set up calls to reporters in Manila, London and Washington. It was a war edition prepared with such speed as no newspaper could have touched. After reading of the bulletin by John Charles Daly came interpretations from London, Washington and New York. Then, suddenly, barely fifteen minutes after the first White House flash, Columbia’s Ford Wilkins came in from Manila. But his voice — coming from nine thousand miles across the Pacific — was abruptly cut off. The censors were at work.

With like speed, NBC burst into the august “University of Chicago Round Table,” broke the news at approximately the same time, broadcasting simultaneously over Red and Blue networks and international shortwave stations. Mutual’s key stations in New York and Chicago made separate announcements. Within minutes Americans had learned the shocking news. Within minutes they heard from experts what portentful significance lay behind the terse bulletin.

AS WAR CAME to the U. S., radio newsrooms throughout the nation worked day and night to feed speedy, accurate news to America

But radio’s real job merely started at this point. Broadcasting networks and many local stations throughout the country immediately went on a twenty-four-hour basis.

NBC’s Loren Thurston in Honolulu brought the first details of the attack, scooping news services and newspaper correspondents. Other radio correspondents brought the first news from other vital Pacific islands.

At home analysts and commentators stepped forward to help listeners realize the implications of war.

Almost immediately, too, David Sarnoff led a procession of prominent radio moguls in offering complete facilities of the chains to President Roosevelt for whatever use he saw fit. Quickly there came orders and announcements of many kinds from the Government. There were orders revoking leaves, ordering men to report for duty. There were warnings to industry to protect defense plants against attack. There were instructions from civilian defense officials for mobilization of air-raid wardens, police and fire departments. Ham short-wave operators were summarily ordered off the air by the FCC, an obvious precaution since many U. S. amateur signals are heard clearly in Japan.

In those first hours under attack America gathered its mighty sinews for the gigantic task ahead. As recruiting offices were stampeded, as politicians forgot their petty peeves, so radio upset its elaborate entertainment schedules. Now that the first shock has passed, it is natural that radio should return to a more normal schedule. But radio will remain the watchdog of our safety, ready to throw schedules to the winds fulfilling its war-time mission. Radio will remain a great rallying force for the national effort. And in this work Movie-Radio Guide intends to offer every cooperation, to use every opportunity to aid listeners and broadcasters alike, until the happy day of our “inevitable triumph” when America can return to “broadcasting as usual!”






YESTERDAY, December 7, 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 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. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or 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 Hongkong.

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 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.

Always will we 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 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 very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.

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 7, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945), 23rd President of the United States 1933-1945

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