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#189: Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor Pulls US Into War

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The USS California after being struck by a torpedo and a bomb during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941
The USS California after being struck by a torpedo and a bomb during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941

STEVE EMBER: Welcome to THE MAKING OF A NATION - American history in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember.

(MUSIC)

History is usually a process of slow change. However, certain events also can change the course of history. Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo was such an event. So was the first airplane flight by the Wright brothers. Or the meeting between the Spanish explorer Cortez and the Aztec king Montezuma.

All these events were moments that changed history. And so it was, too, with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December seventh, nineteen forty-one.

(SOUND)

NEWS BULLETIN: "We interrupt this program to bring you a special news bulletin. The Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, by air, President Roosevelt has just announced. The attack also was made on all naval and military facilities on the principal island of Oahu.

"We take you now to Washington. The details are not available. They will be in a few minutes. The White house is now giving out a statement. The attack was apparently made on all naval and military activities on the principal island of Oahu.

"The president's brief statement was read to reporters by Stephen Early, the president's secretary. A Japanese attack upon Pearl Harbor naturally would mean war. Such an attack would naturally bring a counterattack. And hostilities of this kind would naturally mean that the president would ask Congress for a declaration of war."

(MUSIC)

STEVE EMBER:The surprise attack on America's large naval base in Hawaii was a great military success for Japan. However, the attack on Pearl Harbor had more than a military meaning.

The attack would force Americans to enter World War Two. More importantly, it would also make them better recognize their position as one of the most powerful nations in the world.

In future weeks, we will discuss the military and political events of World War Two. But today, we look back at the years before the United States entered that war.

The period between the end of World War One and the attack on Pearl Harbor lasted only twenty-three years, from nineteen eighteen to nineteen forty-one. But those years were filled with important changes in American politics, culture and traditions.

We start our review of these years with politics.

(MUSIC)

In nineteen twenty, Americans elected Republican Warren Harding to the presidency. The voters were tired of the progressive policies of Democratic president Woodrow Wilson. They were especially tired of Wilson's desire for the United States to play an active role in the new League of Nations.

Harding was a conservative Republican. And so were the two presidents who followed him, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover.

All three of these presidents generally followed conservative economic policies. And they did not take an active part in world affairs.

Americans turned away from Republican rule in the election of nineteen thirty-two. They elected the Democratic presidential candidate, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. And they continued to re-elect him. In this way, the conservative Republican policies of the nineteen twenties changed to the more progressive policies of Roosevelt in the nineteen thirties.

This change happened mainly because of economic troubles.

(MUSIC)

The nineteen twenties were a time of growth and business strength.

President Calvin Coolidge said during his term that the "chief business of the American people is business." This generally was the same belief of the other Republican presidents during the period, Warren Harding and Herbert Hoover.

There was a good reason for this. The economy expanded greatly during the nineteen twenties. Many Americans made a great deal of money on the stock market. And wages for workers increased as well.

(MUSIC)

However, economic growth ended suddenly with the stock market crash of October nineteen twenty-nine.

In that month, the stocks for many leading companies fell sharply. And they continued to fall in the months that followed. Many Americans lost great amounts of money. And the public at large lost faith in the economy. Soon, the economy was in ruins, and businesses were closing their doors.

President Hoover tried to solve the crisis. But he was not willing to take the strong actions that were needed to end it. As time passed, many Americans began to blame Hoover for the terrible economic depression.

Democrat Franklin Roosevelt was elected mainly because he promised to try new solutions to end the Great Depression.

FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT: "This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself - nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."

STEVE EMBER:Soon after he was elected, Roosevelt launched a number of imaginative economic policies to solve the crisis.

FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT: "Our greatest primary task is to put people to work. This is no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously. It can be accomplished in part by direct recruiting by the Government itself, treating the task as we would treat the emergency of a war, but at the same time, through this employment, accomplishing greatly needed projects to stimulate and reorganize the use of our great natural resources.

"Hand in hand with that, we must frankly recognize the overbalance of population in our industrial centers. And by engaging, on a national scale, in a redistribution, endeavor to provide a better use of the land for those best fitted for the land. Yes, the task can be helped by definite efforts to raise the values of agricultural products, and with this, the power to purchase the output of our cities.

"It can be helped by preventing realistically the tragedy of the growing loss through foreclosure of our small homes and our farms. It can be helped by insistence that the federal, the state, and the local governments act forthwith on the demands that their costs be drastically reduced."

STEVE EMBER: Roosevelt's policies helped to reduce the amount of human suffering. But the Great Depression finally ended only with America's entry into World War Two.

Roosevelt's victory in nineteen thirty-two also helped change the balance of power in American politics. Roosevelt brought new kinds of Americans to positions of power: Labor union leaders. Roman Catholics. Jews. Blacks. Americans from families that had come from places such as Italy, Ireland and Russia.

These Americans repaid Roosevelt by giving the Democratic Party their votes.

The nineteen twenties and thirties also brought basic changes in how Americans dealt with many of their social and economic problems.

The nineteen twenties generally were a period of economic growth with little government intervention in the day-to-day lives of the people. But the terrible conditions of the Great Depression during the nineteen thirties forced Roosevelt and the federal government to experiment with new policies.

The government began to take an active role in offering relief to the poor. It started programs to give food and money to poor people. And it created jobs for workers.

The government grew in other ways. It created major programs for farmers. It set regulations for the stock market. It built dams, roads and airports.

American government looked much different at the end of this period between the world wars than it did at the beginning. Government had become larger and more important. It dealt with many more issues in people's lives than it ever had before.

(MUSIC)

Social protest increased during the nineteen twenties and thirties. Some black Americans began to speak out more actively about unfair laws and customs. Blacks in great numbers moved from the southern part of the country to northern and central cities.

The nineteen twenties and thirties also were a time of change for women. Women began to wear less conservative kinds of clothes. Washing machines and other inventions allowed them to spend less time doing housework. Women could smoke or drink in public, at least in large cities. And many women held jobs.

Of course, the women's movement was not new. Long years of work by such women's leaders as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony had helped women win the constitutional right to vote in nineteen twenty.

(MUSIC)

The nineteen twenties and thirties also were important periods in the arts.

George Gershwin wrote his "Rhapsody in Blue" originally for piano and jazz band. It later went on to become a symphony concert favorite.

George Gershwin
George Gershwin

Writers such as Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Eugene O'Neill and others made this what many called the "Golden Age" of American writing. Frank Lloyd Wright and other architects designed great buildings. Film actors like Clark Gable, and radio entertainers like Jack Benny did more than make Americans laugh or cry. They also helped unite the country. Millions of Americans could watch or listen to the same show at the same time.

Politics. The economy. Social traditions. Art. All these changed for Americans during the nineteen twenties and thirties. And many of these changes also had effects in countries beyond America's borders.

However, the change that had the most meaning for the rest of the world was the change produced by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

America's modern history as a great superpower begins with its reaction to that attack. It was a sudden event in the flow of history. It was a day on which a young land suddenly became fully grown.

Our story continues next week.

Our program was written by David Jarmul. You can find our series online with transcripts, MP3s, podcasts and pictures at www.unsv.com. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter at VOA Learning English. I'm Steve Ember inviting you to join us again next week for THE MAKING OF A NATION - American history in VOA Special English.

___

This was program #189

历史通常是一个缓慢变化的过程,然而,一些特殊事件的发生却能急速改变历史。拿破仑兵败滑铁卢,怀特兄弟驾驶第一架飞机上天,西班牙探险家卡尔特斯与蒙特祖玛国王阿兹特克的会面都是这样的历史事件,都是改变历史的时刻。同样,当日本于1941年12月7日偷袭珍珠港时,历史的进程也被骤然改变了。

美国的新闻广播说:"我们打断正在播放的节目,向您插播一条特别新闻。罗斯福总统刚刚宣布,日本空袭了夏威夷的珍珠港。日本还向夏威夷另一个大岛──瓦胡岛的海军和军事设施发动了攻击。我们现在看看华盛顿的情况。关于此次攻击的细节还不清楚,要过几分钟才能知道。白宫正在发表声明。这次空袭可能意在摧毁瓦胡岛的海军基地和军事设施。"

广播还说:"总统秘书斯蒂芬.厄尔利向媒体宣读了总统声明。日本对夏威夷珍珠港的进攻,很自然意味着战争的开始,很自然会遭到反击。这种敌对行动一定会使总统要求国会对日宣战。"

对美国夏威夷珍珠港重要海军基地的突袭是日本一次重大的军事胜利,然而,这一突袭的意义并不仅仅局限于军事方面。它还将迫使美国投入第二次世界大战。更为重要的是,这次突袭还将使美国人对世界最强大国家这个地位有更深刻的了解。

从一战结束到1941年日本偷袭珍珠港只间隔了23年,但在这段时间里,美国的政治、文化和传统都发生了重要变化。上个世纪二十年代,美国人民选择共和党人沃伦.哈丁为总统,因为他们厌倦了民主党总统伍德罗.威尔逊的激进政策,他们尤其厌倦了威尔逊希望美国在新成立的国际组织──国联中担当重要角色的想法。

哈丁是一位保守派共和党人,在他之后的两任总统加尔文.柯立芝和休伯特.胡佛也都是保守派共和党人。这三位总统基本采取保守的经济政策,在国际事务上也不积极。1930年,美国人抛弃了共和党,转而将选票投给民主党,他们选举富兰克林.罗斯福为总统,四年后,罗斯福当选连任。因此,二十年代共和党保守的经济政策到了三十年代罗斯福当总统时被积极进取型政策所取代,造成这一变化的主要原因是经济困难。

上个世纪二十年代是美国经济实力增长,商业发展的年代,柯立芝总统曾说"美国人的首要任务是发展经济。"这同样代表了这一时期其他两位共和党总统,沃伦.哈丁和休伯特.胡佛的观点。这是有充分理由的。上个世纪二十年代,美国经济迅速发展,许多美国人从股票市场上赚到了好多钱,而且工人们的工资也持续上涨。

然而,美国经济的快速发展在1929年10月因股票市场的崩盘而突然终结,一个月内,许多大公司股票狂跌,并在此后的几个月里持续下跌。许多美国人因此损失了大量财富,大部分公众对经济失去信心,不久,美国经济崩溃,企业关门。

胡佛总统试图解决经济危机,但他又不愿意采取结束危机所需的强有力措施。随着时间的流逝,许多美国人开始认为,胡佛总统要为经济大萧条负责。民主党人富兰克林.罗斯福后来当选,主要是因为他承诺采用新办法,结束经济萧条。

罗斯福说:"我们这个伟大的国度曾经历经磨难,今后仍将经受考验,但必将恢复,会再次繁荣。所以,首先请允许我坚定我的信念:我们惟一该恐惧的就是恐惧本身,是那种难以名状的、盲目的、和毫无根据的恐惧,这种恐惧阻碍了我们前进的努力。"

当选总统后不久,罗斯福就发起了一系列具有创造性的解决经济危机的经济政策。他说:"我们的首要任务是给人们工作。只要我们明智而勇敢地对待它,这就不是无法解决的问题。通过政府直接征募人员可以部分实现这个目标,就像我们应付战时紧急状态那样,但同时,通过政府雇人兴建急需的大型工程,我们可以刺激经济,重新配置和利用我们丰富的自然资源。"

他说:"与此同时,我们必须坦率地承认,我们的那些工业中心已经出现人口失衡;应在全国范围调整人口布局,尽力把土地提供给最善于耕种的人,使土地得到更好的利用。为了帮助这项任务的完成,要采取具体措施提高农产品价格,从而提高对城市产品的购买力。"

他说:"要从现实出发,制止对小房产和农场取消抵押品赎回权所造成的日趋严重的悲惨损失。一定要让联邦、各州和地方政府立即按大幅度削减政府经费的要求采取行动。"

1932年罗斯福当选总统还改变了美国的政治平衡,他把一些新面孔带进了权力机器:如工会领导人、天主教徒、犹太人和黑人,还有从意大利、爱尔兰和俄罗斯移民来美国的人。这些人把票投给民主党,以此来回报罗斯福的政策。

20世纪二、三十年代,美国人解决许多社会和经济问题的方式也发生了根本性改变。二十年代的美国,经济快速发展,政府基本上不干预人们的日常生活。但到三十年代,经济大萧条导致的惨况使罗斯福和联邦政府尝试采取一些新政策。

政府开始在帮助穷人方面发挥积极作用。政府开始设立向穷人提供食品和补助金的项目,并为失业者提供就业岗位。政府还通过其它方式扩 大自己的影响力。比如在农业方面推出许多重点项目,为股票市场建立规章制度,修建大坝、道路和飞机场。

美国政府在二战开始前已经变得同一战结束时很不一样了,变得更庞大,更重要。在人们的生活中,政府承担的责任比以往任何时候都要多。20世纪二、三十年代,美国社会的抗议声日益高涨。一些黑人开始对不公平的法律和社会待遇积极地发出不满的声音。许许多多的黑人从南方向北部和中部城市转移。

20世纪二、三十年代也是美国妇女地位发生变化的时期。妇女们开始穿一些不太保守的衣服。洗衣机和其它的一些发明减少了妇女做家务的时间。至少在大城市,妇女可以在公共场合抽烟喝酒,而且还有许多妇女有了工作。当然,妇女运动并不是从那时才开始的。伊丽莎白.卡蒂.斯坦顿和苏珊.安东尼等一些妇女运动领导人多年的努力已经帮助美国妇女在1920年赢得了宪法赋予的选举权。

20世纪二、三十年代还是美国艺术发展的重要时期,乔治.格什温创作了"蓝色狂想曲",这起初是为钢琴和爵士乐队所作的,后来成了交响乐的经典。在文学创作方面出现了像海明威、福克纳和尤金.奥尼尔等著名作家,使这一时期被很多人称为美国文学创作的"黄金时期"。而弗兰克.劳埃德.赖特和其他著名的建筑师也设计出许多伟大的作品。克拉克.盖博等电影明星和杰克.班尼等广播艺人则赚取了许多美国人的欢笑和眼泪。这些名人使美国人更加团结,千百万美国人可以在同一时间,收听或观看同样的节目。

20世纪二、三十年代,美国无论是政治、经济,还是社会传统和艺术都发生了很大的变化。然而,对于世界其它地方而言,美国最重要的变化是日本偷袭珍珠港带来的变化。美国作为超级大国的现代史就始于珍珠港事件之后它所做出的反应。在历史长河中,偷袭珍珠港只是一个突发事件,但对美国这个年轻的国家来说,这次事件却标志着它突然长大成人。

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