Hopkins thought it possible the whole thing was a garble. Roosevelt did not. He said the report was probably true, as it was the kind of attack the Japanese would choose to make. A few minutes later Adm. Harold Stark, Chief of Naval Operations, called and confirmed the news. Pearl Harbor was burning.
Eleanor was returning to her own study when she passed by her husband’s. One glance inside told her something was wrong, recounted historian Doris Kearns Goodwin in “No Ordinary Time,” her history of the Roosevelt marriage and the World War II home front.
The secretaries were all there. Military aides were bustling about. All the phones were occupied.
How did FDR react to the sudden onset of war? He was “deadly calm,” Eleanor later remembered, according to Goodwin’s book.
“He was completely calm. His reaction to any event was always to be calm. If it was something that was bad, he just became almost like an iceberg, and there was never the slightest emotion that was allowed to show,” Eleanor later said.