On September 11, 1941 (9/11!), President Roosevelt issued an order to the U.S. Navy to shoot German or Italian warships in the west Atlantic on sight.
The order was in direct response to a torpedo attack by a German sub on the U.S. Destroyer Greer southeast of Greenland, but followed months of attacks on merchant ships and threatening action against U.S. war ships.
In a passionate national radio address, Roosevelt said “We have sought no shooting war with Hitler. We do not seek it now. But, neither do we want peace so much that we are willing to pay for it by permitting him to attack our naval and merchant ships while they are on legitimate business.”
Roosevelt’s shoot on sight order was interpreted as an act of aggression by Germany, and was the major action sited in the Germany’s Declaration of War with the U.S issued three months later, three days after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor.
“When you see a rattlesnake poised to strike you do not wait until he has struck before you crush him. These Nazi submarines and raiders are the rattlesnakes of the Atlantic.
They are a menace to the free pathways of the high seas. They are a challenge to our sovereignty. They hammer at our most precious rights when they attack ships of the American flag-symbols of our independence, our freedom, our very life. “
– Franklin Roosevelt in his radio address announcing his Shoot or Sight orders –