Pearl Harbor day happened on December 7, 1941, when the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service attacked the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu.
It is also sometimes called “day of infamy” because of President Roosevelt’s speech. Interestingly enough, the most iconic words of his speech, “a date which will live in infamy,” were not the original words.
The original speech included the words “a date which will live in world history.” Roosevelt had plenty more to say about the attack, as you will see in these Pearl Harbor quotes. Other presidents have also commemorated the event with various speeches.
The Pearl Harbor quotes from survivors who were there that day are some of the most poignant reminders of the cost and horrors of the war. Many recall what they were doing in the moments before—down to the meals they ate, where they were, and hearing the alarms.
There are also several Pearl Harbor quotes from Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister at the time. Churchill was reportedly appalled, calculating, and exhilarated when he first received the news.
He phoned FDR and asked, “Mr. President, what’s this about Japan?” President Roosevelt said the reports were accurate.
While devastated by the loss, Churchill knew this meant that Britain was no longer alone, and the US would enter the war. And to Churchill, this meant they would indeed be victorious at last.
The events were later retold in a blockbuster movie, “Pearl Harbor.” Keep reading through these Pearl Harbor quotes to find some from the movie as well!
Pearl Harbor quotes from the survivors recounting the day
1. “I had just eaten breakfast. It was bacon, scrambled eggs and toast. I’ll never forget that meal. It was my day off, and I was below decks trying to decide whether I ought to wash my clothes or fall back in the rack and take a nap.” — Harold L. Dove, USS Sacramento
2. “I was forward on the USS Arizona at 7:55 a.m. Dec. 7, 1941, getting ready for shore liberty when the air raid alarm sounded.” — Russell McCurdy, USS Arizona
3. “I saw these planes coming over the hills.” — Harley Guynn, USS Maryland
4. “We thought they were U.S. planes until we saw the big red sun on the wings, and they began to bomb and strafe, and there was that big red sun on their wings, and it was war.” — William Harvey, USS Sacramento
5. “The general alarm went off, and everyone run to battle stations. I run up to the bridge and helped them get out the ammunition.” — Tom Hill, USS Sacramento
6. “I reached the deck, and so help me, right above me was a torpedo plane.” — Paul Kennedy, USS Sacramento
7. “I was on my way to my battle station located on the main mast some 100 feet above the water. There goes the inside of our ship straight up in the air. The ship quivered and shook and the bow raised up in the air.” — Russell McCurdy, USS Arizona
8. “I could look right out the door over to Ford Island, and I saw these airplanes come down and drop the bombs. When they dropped the first one, I didn’t know what it was, but in just seconds the debris and smoke and explosions were going.” — Lester Harley, USS Jarvis
9. “And the bombs felt like they were blowing the meat off of your body. Every bomb that drops, you think it’s gonna hit you.” — Russell McCurdy, USS Arizona
10. “I didn’t think I’d make it. Period. I didn’t think I’d live through that.” — Paul Kennedy, USS Sacramento
11. “I looked in the cockpit and could see the pilot. He was grinning at me.” — William Hollgate, USS Dobbin
12. “I stood there with my mouth wide open, watching (a torpedo) go through the water. (The USS Oklahoma) was over on its side in 20 minutes. The guys that were firing machine guns on the side, they were blown in the air and came down in the water.” — Paul Kennedy, USS Sacramento
Pearl Harbor quotes from President Roosevelt and others
13. “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.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt
14. “It’s quite true, they have attacked us at Pearl Harbor. We are all in the same boat now.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt
15. “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.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt
16. “We must be the great arsenal of democracy. For us, this is an emergency as serious as war itself. We must apply ourselves to our task with the same resolution, the same sense of urgency, the same spirit of patriotism and sacrifice as we would show were we at war.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt
17. “No man can tame a tiger into a kitten by stroking it. There can be no appeasement with ruthlessness. There can be no reasoning with an incendiary bomb.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt.
18. “Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force! You are about to embark upon a great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.” — Dwight Eisenhower
19. “Seventy years ago today, a bright Sunday morning was darkened by the unprovoked attack on Pearl Harbor…We salute the veterans and survivors of Pearl Harbor who inspire us still. Despite overwhelming odds, they fought back heroically, inspiring our nation and putting us on the path to victory.” — President Barack Obama
Pearl Harbor quotes from Winston Churchill
20. “No American will think it wrong of me if I proclaim that to have the United States at our side was to me the greatest joy.” — Winston Churchill
21. “I could not foretell the course of events. I do not pretend to have measured the marshall might of Japan, but now at this very moment I knew the United States was in the war up to the neck and in to the death. So we had won after all!” — Winston Churchill
22. “How long the war would last or in what fashion it would end, no man could tell, nor did I at this moment care. Once again in our long Island history we should emerge, however mauled or mutilated, safe and victorious. We should not be wiped out. Our history would not come to an end. We might not even have to die as individuals.” — Winston Churchill
23. “Hitler’s fate was sealed. Mussolini’s fate was sealed. As for the Japanese, they would be ground to powder. All the rest was merely the proper application of overwhelming force…United we could subdue everybody else in the world. Many disasters, immeasurable cost and tribulation lay ahead, but there was no more doubt about the end.” — Winston Churchill
24. “This certainly simplifies things. God be with you.” — Winston Churchill
25. “We then went back into the hall and tried to adjust our thoughts to the supreme world event which had occurred, which was of so startling a nature as to make even those who were near the centre gasp.” — Winston Churchill
26. “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.” — Winston Churchill
27. “I thought of a remark… that the United States is like a gigantic boiler. Once the fire is lighted under it there is no limit to the power it can generate. Being saturated and satiated with emotion and sensation, I went to bed and slept the sleep of the saved and thankful.” — Winston Churchill
Remembering Pearl Harbor quotes
28. “Pearl Harbor caused our Nation to wholeheartedly commit to winning World War II, changing the course of our nation’s history and the world’s future.” — Joe Baca
29. “Millions of people gave their lives fighting fascism and imperialism, but Pearl Harbor was the event that forever changed the course of human history.” — Sam Graves
30. “When Pearl Harbor was bombed, young Japanese-Americans, like all young Americans, rushed to their draft board to volunteer to fight for our country. That act of patriotism was answered with a slap in the face. We were denied service and categorized as enemy non-alien.” — George Takei
31. “The lesson of Pearl Harbor ought never to be forgotten, and of course the motto that came from that, 69 years ago, the war which my dad fought, was ‘Remember Pearl Harbor, never again.’ We need to keep that to mind.” — Oliver North
32. “They strafed us. I remember hitting the deck as this thing came over. You have the feeling of pulling your shoulder blades together.” — James F. Moore, USS Antares
33. “It was now Dec 7, 1941; the date that Franklin D. Roosevelt was destined to declare would live in infamy.” — Randall Wallace
34. “After the Pearl Harbor attacks, around 120,000 Japanese Americans were jailed in internment camps.” — Naomi Klein
35. “Everybody knows about Pearl Harbor. The thing that really fascinated me is that through this tragedy there was this amazing American heroism.” — Michael Bay
36. “My father pulled into Pearl Harbor four days after the bombing, and he said, everything was still burning. He said they never told the public how bad it was. It was really bad.” — John Lasseter
37. “As costly as it was in the lives of our men and women in uniform, in military assets, and in esteem and pride, Pearl Harbor was a watershed moment for America.” — Joe Baca
Pearl Harbor quotes from the movie
38. “The mission I am asking you to volunteer for is exceptionally dangerous. Take a look at the man beside you. It’s a good bet that in the next six weeks, you, or he, will be dead. Everyone brave enough to accept this…step forward.” — Lt. Col. James Doolittle (Alec Baldwin)
39. “A brilliant man would find a way not to fight a war.” — Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto (Mako)
40. “World War II, for us, began at Pearl Harbor, and 1,177 men still lie entombed in the battleship Arizona. America suffered, but America grew stronger. It was not inevitable. The times tried our souls…and through the trial, we overcame.” — Nurse Lt. Evelyn Johnson (Kate Beckinsale)
41. “It’s not easy making friends here. Two days ago I had a beer with a couple of the RAF pilots. Yesterday both of them got killed.” — Capt. Rafe McCawley (Ben Affleck)
42. “Victory belongs to those who believe in it the most and believe in it the longest. We’re gonna believe. We’re gonna make America believe too.” — Lt. Col. James Doolittle (Alec Baldwin)
43. “There’s nothing stronger than the heart of a volunteer.” — Lt. Col. James Doolittle (Alec Baldwin)
44. “The smart enemy attacks you exactly where you think you are safe.” — Adm. Husband E. Kimmel (Colm Feore)
45. “Ma’am, I’m never gonna be an English teacher. But I know why I’m here: to be a pilot. And you don’t dogfight with manuals. You don’t fly with gauges. I mean, it’s all about feeling and speed, and lettin’ that plane become like a part of your body.” — Capt. Rafe McCawley (Ben Affleck)
46. “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant.” — Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto (Mako)
47. “You know at Pearl they hit us with a sledgehammer. This raid, even if it makes it through, it’ll only be a pinprick… but it’ll be straight through their hearts.” — Lt. Col. James Doolittle (Alec Baldwin)
48. “I like sub commanders. They have no time for bullshit, and neither do I.” — President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Jon Voight)
49. “We’re building refrigerators, while our enemies build bombs.” — President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Jon Voight)
50. “But when I see defeat in the eyes of my countrymen, in your eyes right now, I start to think that maybe He brought me down for times like these when we all need to be reminded who we truly are, that we will not give up or give in.” — President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Jon Voight)
Thought-provoking Pearl Harbor quotes
51. “Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States uprooted more than 100,000 people of Japanese descent, most of them American citizens, and confined them in internment camps. The Solicitor General was largely responsible for the defense of those policies.” – Neal Katyal
52. “Pearl Harbor was the defining event in my life. It shaped who I am, and all of my hang-ups and my drives, I think, stem from that.” – David Suzuki
53. “The attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 completely crippled our Pacific Fleet.” – Jerry Costello
54. “Like the attack on Pearl Harbor, another hinge event in American history, 9/11 was a great tactical victory for America’s enemies. But in both these cases, the tactical success of the attacks was not matched by strategic victories. Quite the reverse.” – Peter Bergen
55. “Pearl Harbor’ is definitely about December 7, 1941, but it is not of December 7, 1941. It’s not even really of our age, either. It has more of the feel of a film from, roughly, mid-war.” – Stephen Hunter
56. “Before the war, my parents were very proud people. They’d always talk about Japan and also about the samurai and things like that. Right after Pearl Harbor, they were just real quiet. They kept to themselves; they were afraid to talk about what could happen.” – Fred Korematsu
57. “Dec. 7 remains a day that lives in infamy even after 80 years. Today, we honor those who lost their lives in the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The memory of their courage and sacrifice will never fade.” – Department of Defense
58. “My father volunteered in early 1941, before Pearl Harbor, and became an officer in the U.S. Navy. As I was growing up, he taught me the responsibility of command: A leader is ultimately responsible for every aspect of the welfare of people under his or her care. That was a deeply felt obligation in his generation.” – Chelsey Sullenberger
59. “The day before, I was a happy-go-lucky kid, didn’t have a care in the world. Got up that morning, and here I was right in the middle of a whole war.” – Robert Newkirk
60. “The attack on Pearl Harbor is one of the darkest moments in our nation’s history, and we will forever remember the thousands of service members and civilians whose lives were tragically taken on that horrible day.” – Ned Lamont
What did you learn from these Pearl Harbor quotes?
Pearl Harbor, which premiered in 2001, was an American romantic war film directed by Michael Bay, produced by Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer, and written by Randall Wallace.
It is not surprising that the movie performed well at the box office, with its all-star cast, including Ben Affleck, Kate Beckinsale, Cuba Gooding Jr., Jon Voight, Colm Feore, and Alec Baldwin. It earned $59 million in its opening weekend and nearly $450 million worldwide.
Despite the financial win, though, the film did not fare well with critics. Many criticized the story, which was a highly fictionalized version of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
The movie was also incredibly long, with a runtime of 3 hours and 4 minutes, and critics disliked the screenplay, dialogue, pacing, and overall performances.
The movie was still nominated for four Academy Awards. However, it was also nominated for six Golden Raspberry Awards, including Worst Picture, which it ultimately won.
It made history as the first Worst Picture-nominated film to win an Academy Award (Best Sound Editing).
Let us know what you thought of the film’s historical context in the comment section below! Don’t forget to also share these Pearl Harbor quotes and sayings with your friends and followers.
April 27, 2022 7:00 AM EST