North Dakotans Shocked by Japanese Attack - Delegation Votes for War

Washington, D.C.
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.

World War II poster. Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution.

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.”

Washington, D.C.
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).

World War II poster. Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution.

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.

Grade Level


Subject Matter

Social Studies

North Star Dakotan:

Journals and Art Work: The Indian People, The Trade, and The Land

The Indian People

The Purchase and Exploration of Louisiana

The Fur Trade

Dakota Territory

The Military Frontier

The Reservation System

George Armstrong Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn

The Great Dakota Boom, 1878-1890

Reservation Troubles, 1886-1890

The Making of a State and a Constitution

The North Dakota Economy, 1890-1915

Life on the Indian Reservations

The North Dakota National Guard and the Philippines

North Dakota, The Great War and After

The Nonpartisan League's Rise to Power

The Nonpartisan League in Power

The Nonpartisan League's Decline

The 1920s

1930s: North Dakota's Economic and Political Climate

The New Deal in North Dakota

The Road to World War II

North Dakota and American Society

North Dakota Optimism and Economic Developments

North Dakota and Political Change

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