WARM SPRINGS — It is a day that continues to live in infamy.
On Dec. 7, 1941, “the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan,” President Franklin D. Roosevelt told Congress as he asked for a declaration of war.
Commemorating the 74th anniversary of the United States’ entrance to World War II, re-enactors and tourists visited Roosevelt’s retreat home in Warm Springs on Saturday.
James Fowler, a retired East Coweta High School history teacher, portrayed Roosevelt and recited his now famous speech for a packed auditorium at the Little White House’s visitors center.
In portraying Roosevelt, Fowler hopes people will learn about the late president’s legacy and take the lessons of his time and apply them to the present.
“I hope that people can learn that as America was in this great financial depression, with severe unemployment and hopelessness, Roosevelt brought hope to the public,” he said. “The future was going to be alright. I hasten to add that many of his programs were not so successful, but Roosevelt often said, ‘take a method and try it. If it fails, try another.’”
As America’s only four-term president, Roosevelt oversaw recovery efforts from the Great Depression and the nation’s entrance to World War II on what today is called Pearl Harbor Day.
“Roosevelt was on the second floor of the White House that Sunday afternoon,” Fowler said. “He was with his stamp collection, it was a way for him to relax.”
The president famously visited Warm Springs to seek treatment for his polio. After the war broke out, though, Roosevelt wasn’t able to visit Georgia as often, Fowler said.
“After Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt did not come to Warm Springs as much,” he said. “But it was always on his mind, especially the Roosevelt Institute for treating polio. His movements were curtailed somewhat by the war effort.”
As part of the Pearl Harbor Day commemoration at Roosevelt’s home in Warm Springs, a display of WWII-era military equipment informed visitors about the role technology played in the war effort.
Rob Anzuoni, a re-enactor playing a WWII colonel, showed off radar equipment similar to the kind used on Pearl Harbor when the war broke out. It wasn’t the only piece of equipment used during the period, though, he said. At the time, carrier pigeons were still in use.
“It’s amazing that in 1941, we had some real primitive communication like pigeons and signal flags, but some really high-tech things like radar,” Anzuoni said.
Like Fowler, Anzuoni hopes that the visitors to the Little White House will reflect on the history of World War II.
“I grew up with a lot of War War II veterans, and I remember sitting around the table listening to their stories. As a kid I was fascinated by that time,” he said. “It’s a significant time in our history.”
Tyler H. Jones is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2155.