Congress · Japan · Roosevelt · Second World War · Senate · United States

December 8, 1941 – Sole No Vote Cast for War

Pacifist (noun): a person who believes that war and violence are unjustifiable.

I have known a number of people that call themselves pacifists in my day and even those people are willing to let others do violence on their behalf. They claim that they would call the cops if someone were to try and hurt them and such like that.

Reminds me of a quote that is supposed to have come from George Orwell.

People Sleep Peacefully in Their Beds at Night Only Because Rough Men Stand Ready to Do Violence on Their Behalf.

Having held the role of Rough Man / Less Civilized Man a few times in my life I will be the first one to say; “I am not a pacifist!” At the same time, I don’t want to send someone to fight in my place.

On December 7, 1941 the United States was caught with their pants down in the Pacific. The fleet was attacked –sucker Punched– in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and the Japanese Army invaded the Philippine Islands.

on Japan Declaring War on United States and Britain
Image Source: Japansociety.org

On December 8, 1941 President Roosevelt addressed a joint session of congress and asked their permission to wage war on Japan. This was the address where the Day that will Live in Infamy came from.

After a 40-minute debate on the floor of the House a roll call vote was called. When it came to Jeanette Rankin of Montana she stood and said; “As a woman, I can’t go to war and I refuse to send anyone else.”

The American people were out for blood and wanted revenge for the deaths caused by an unprovoked attack in the Pacific.

This single surprise attack killed 2,400 Americans, wounded over 1,000 more, and damaged or destroyed 20 ships in port. Almost half of all the casualties of the day came from the USS Arizona. She was struck four separate times by Japanese bombers.

Casualty: a person killed or injured in a war or accident

USS Arizona Facts:

  • 23 sets of brothers died aboard the ship that day
  • The ships only father-son pair Thomas Augusta Free and William Thomas Free both KIA that day
  • The Arizona Band was on deck preparing for the flag raising ceremony all KIA
  • 30 surviving crewmen have had their ashes interned with their fallen brothers
  • Elvis Presley raised $50,000 in a benefit concert for the memorial

Anyway, back to the topic at hand.

Picture 023
Jeanette Rankin 1880-1973
Image Source: Congress.gov

The Montana Republican Jeanette Rankin was the first ever woman elected to Congress. She was elected to the House of Representative in the 1916. She was a dedicated, lifelong pacifist, and the only person to vote against US involvement in both World Wars.

Because of her vote against the First World War people felt that women were incapable of making leadership quality decisions and she did not seek reelection in 1918.

She ran and lost a Senate bid in 1918. Congresswoman Rankin was reelected in 1940 by the people of Montana. Just in time for her to be the sole person to stick to her guns and say no.

I have a ton of respect for someone that will vote their conscience knowing that their political career is doomed.

I cannot even fathom the ire that Representative Rankin received as a result of her vote.

How many words that start with R can I put in a sentence? –I regrettably reviewed the revulsion radiated toward Representative Ranking  as a result of her rejecting the reallocation of resources to the readiness of revenge.– that was fun!

The press called her disloyal. They named her Japanette Rankin. When people heard of the vote there were threats made toward her and she needed police escorts.

She never waived and never apologized for her vote. I have so much respect for someone like her that will stand their ground in the face of such opposition and hatred.

She was not nominated for election in 1942. After she left congress in 1943 she continued to be advocate for peace the remainder of her days. She was a member of the National Council for Prevention of War.

Representative Rankin passed away on May 18, 1973.

Sources:

 

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