Browse Topics

Services

Programs

The Lone War Dissenter
Walter Cronkite Remembers Pearl Harbor, Jeanette Rankin

Listen Listen to Walter Cronkite's exclusive report on Jeannette Rankin's vote against declaring war against Japan.

Listen NPR's Lisa Simeone interviews Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) about her lone dissenting vote on Sept. 14.

Pearl Harbor button

From the collection of Ken Rudin, NPR

Dec. 7, 2001 -- The events of Sept. 11 -- and the days of grief and heroism that followed -- have acquired their own distinct history and identity. Americans have had less need to measure those days against the attack that occurred 60 years ago at Pearl Harbor. But as special NPR commentator Walter Cronkite reports, at least one remarkable parallel persists.

When U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) cast the single no vote against President Bush’s request for special war powers last September, she followed in the lonely footsteps of former U.S. Rep. Jeannette Rankin (R-MT). Rankin was a true pioneer -- born on a ranch, she was the first woman ever to serve in the U.S. Congress and one of the first women in the world to be a representative in a legislative body.

Jeanette Rankin button

From the collection of Ken Rudin, NPR

She was also a committed pacifist, and 60 years ago tomorrow she cast the only dissenting vote in the House or Senate to President Roosevelt’s request to declare war on Japan.

Cronkite was among the millions who heard that drama the day after Pearl Harbor, and he would soon be on a North Atlantic convoy to England. But on Dec. 7, 1941, he was a young United Press editor in Kansas City listening in on KMBC.

The newsreel footage of the attack on Pearl Harbor and its aftermath are familiar to most Americans, as well as the recollections of the witnesses. But as the fires died down and the smoke cleared, the story shifted to Washington, D.C. -- where the day after the attack, a far less well-known drama played out in the House of Representatives.

Isolationist button

From the collection of Ken Rudin, NPR

NPR producer John McDonough discovered a set of transcription discs that had fallen behind some shelves at station WGN in Chicago. They were labeled "December 8, 1941."

They contained the only known record of the actual debate and roll call from the floor of the House of Representatives. Cronkite says these precious records shed new light on the curious story of Jeannette Rankin.

Search for more broadcast coverage on Pearl Harbor

Other Resources

The Jeanette Rankin Foundation awards scholarships to women 35 years old or older "who through undergraduate or vocational education are seeking to better themselves, their families, and their communities."

The Huntington Library in Southern California has a biography of Rankin.

• Official House of Representatives page for U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee

• Famous Texan Walter Cronkite, from FamousTexans.com.