North Dakotans Shocked by Japanese Attack - Delegation Votes for War
December 7, 1941
North Dakotans, like people across the nation, are in a state of shock. The Empire of Japan this afternoon attacked Pearl Harbor, killing hundreds and disabling our navy. Last year the state’s people, led by Norway-born Governor John Moses, raised $46,000 for Norwegian relief after Hitler’s Nazi Germany invaded Norway. No one, however, dreamed that the United States would become involved in the same war as Norway was.
North Dakotans and their leaders have remained solidly against American intervention in the European war which began when Germany invaded Poland in 1939. Senator Gerald P. Nye, whom Time magazine labeled “the U.S. Senate’s most rabid isolationist,” spent every day through December 7 warning against intervention and attacking the president’s plans to aid England. Even when Paris fell before the German onslaught, Senator Lynn J. Frazier maintained, “There is no immediate danger of any nation attacking us.” No North Dakota political leader, including Governor Moses, supported President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s actions to help the Allies (England and France) against Germany. A poll of North Dakota’s veterans indicated that they were against any loans or indirect help for the Allies.
Although the vast majority of citizens agreed with the non-involvement attitude, some believed that, as the Grand Forks Herald stated, “Hitler must be stopped.” Political hopeful Thomas E. Whelan, who wanted to unseat Frazier in 1940, argued that Frazier and other isolationists “sold America short.”
As Japanese bombs smashed into Americans, installations, and ships on this fateful Sunday afternoon, Senator Nye was speaking against involvement to a packed auditorium in Philadelphia. When the news broke, he ended his speech but told the North Star Dakotan, “We have been maneuvered into this by the President.”
DELEGATION VOTES FOR WAR
December 8, 1941
In his request for congressional declaration of war, President Roosevelt called the attack on Pearl Harbor “a day that will live in infamy.” Nye and Frazier, along with Representatives Usher Burdick and Charles R. Robertson, voted for the declaration. Only Montana’s Jeanette Rankin stood alone as voting no. We are now at war with Japan, Germany, and Italy (the Axis powers).
By Dr. D. Jerome Tweton
Originally published as The North Star Dakotan student newspaper, written by Dr. D. Jerome Tweton and supported by the North Dakota Humanities Council.