Turning Points
Ideas from the National Archives for National History Day

Resources at the
Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library

Creation of the Manhattan Project

In August, 1939, Albert Einstein sent a letter to President Franklin Roosevelt warning that Nazi Germany was attempting to build a new weapon which was more powerful and more destructive than any weapon ever known to mankind. That weapon was the Atomic Bomb. This letter would eventually change the course of history and would alter the face of the modern world.

Einstein's letter and other correspondence about the A-Bomb and the Manhattan Project were locked up in Franklin Roosevelt's White House Safe in Top Secret files on Roosevelt advisor, Alexander Sachs and on Manhattan Project Director, Vannevar Bush.

The Sachs and Bush links will lead you to digital images and text versions of the actual A-Bomb documents found in Franklin Roosevelt's Safe. These documents have been declassified by the Atomic Energy Commission and the National Security Council and are held today by the FDR Library.

United States Declares War on Japan

On December 7, 1941, the "date which will live in infamy," Japanese forces attacked U.S. military installations at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. On December 8, 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt addressed the U.S. Congress and requested that its members make a declaration of war with the Empire of Japan (page 2), (page 3). Congress agreed, and America entered the most devastating, most costly, and the most transformational war in the history of the world. The Atom Bomb, the Holocaust, the Cold War, the United Nations, the G.I. Bill of Rights - all were byproducts of World War II, and the list could go on and on. On December 9, 1941, Franklin Roosevelt gave one of his famous fireside chats to the nation. In this chat, he announced the state of war to his people (page 2), (page 3), (page 4), (page 5), (page 6), (page 7), (page 8), (page 9), (page 10). These documents are held by the FDR Library.

NOTE: A Teaching with Documents Article featuring an audio clip of the December 8, 1941 speech is available from the National Archives Digital Classroom.

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