Note: This story was originally published to Hotline On Call on Dec. 7, 2012.
Seventy-two years ago, Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., heard the news of the Pearl Harbor bombing on a Washington, D.C. street. The following day, Dingell, then a 15-year-old senior House page, was assigned to the House gallery to help radio broadcaster Fulton Lewis, Jr. record Franklin Roosevelt’s now-iconic “date which will live in infamy” speech. The Dean of the House spoke with National Journal about what he witnessed during those days.
National Journal: Talk about your experiences on Dec. 8, 1941, watching President Roosevelt deliver that speech to Congress.
John Dingell: I was given the responsibility of seeing to it that [Lewis] was able to record the president’s speech. Because you remember the president came up to ask for a declaration of war. So the House and the Senate met in joint session to hear him. I was supposed to see to it that he shut off the recording device after the president spoke. I left him to continue with that because I thought it was quite an important event. So he continued to record it, and the result was that the debate of the House on the declaration of war was recorded. It was a rather interesting debate, and it followed an extraordinary speech by the president which he had written himself. And in the debate which followed, it was kind of interesting. Because all of the right-wing conservatives who had been isolationists, and who had been strongly opposing any involvement of the United States in the war, all of a sudden decided they were going to become visibly patriotic Americans. So you had all these folks jumping the fence. ... Kind of interesting to observe how it worked.