Sept. 1941 — Roosevelt orders Navy to shoot on sight

Summers, Buffalo Evening New

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.

Cal Alley, K.C. Journal

“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 – 

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8 Responses to Sept. 1941 — Roosevelt orders Navy to shoot on sight

  1. Jean-Francois Dupont (France) says:

    Roosevelt’s shoot on sight order was interpreted as an act of aggression by Germany? Oh really? lol

    I wonder what the USA would do if Irak or Vietnam had ordered to shoot American ships. The Americans have started war on those two and many more countries without them even having done anything to Americans.

    You American people should stop lying to the world, we know today that it was you who started war on Germany, not the other way round. It is historic proof that the USA started helping the enemy as of 11th March 1941, and they not only helped the British aggressor with massive quantities of arms, they also helped British ships attacking and sinking German ships. The Germans never started war on the USA, in both world wars it was the massmurderers W. Wilson (1917) and F. Roosevelt (1941) who started war on Germany, with the aim to wipe an economic competitor off the map.

    I think America should pay reparation to Germany for having wiped over 160 cities off the map, having contained so much art and beauty.

    You Americans have invaded Irak, you have invaded Afghanistan and you have invaded and bombed Libya, now you are trying to instigate war on Russia and you tried it on Syria. I think you evil people should stop terrorizing and mass-murdering the world. Never wondered why you are the most-hated nation in the world?

    • Um says:

      I know this will fall on deaf ears, but first you didn’t bother to cite an incident where both Roosevelt and Woodrow mass murdered presumably innocent people. I can show you Auschwits fairly easily. The Americans didn’t aggravate the Germans. The Germans violated a corrupt peace treaty, but a peace treaty none-the-less. Also, the German army was not our primary target. In fact many German generals whose families were being threatened by the third reich allowed the allies to win several key victories so as to do their jobs and keep their loved ones safe. The Germans were as much Germanie’s enemie’s as we were. I also dearly wish it were true that we initiated aggression. It would have saved so many innocent lives

  2. Jean-Francois Dupont (France) says:


    ” Roosevelt said “We have sought no shooting war with Hitler. We do not seek it now”

    Oh yes, that’s why you gave order to “shoot german ships on sight”, right? Very funny 🙂

    What you tried to sweep under the carpet in your fraudulent hollywood-history text is the fact that both the USS Kearny and the USS Greer had attacked German ships, and the Germans did not even shoot back at first, because they wanted no war with the USA.

    Look at who is spreading bloodshed today in half the world, is that Germany or the Americans?

    • K. R. says:

      You obviously are being biased. Take a step back and figure it out. Geezum.

    • jim says:

      Sigh. Germany was planning somthing, obviously. The shoot on sight order was a precaution, and Roosevelt took it. Would you shoot at genocidal fascists with itchy trigger fingers aimed at you?

    • Caroline says:

      It if wasn’t for us, you would be speaking German right now. Look at the facts.

  3. Tom says:

    The French would know best about “not shooting back.”

  4. anonymous says:

    FDR only was helping Britain because if they fell Hitler would look to conquer the U.S.A next, and we would have no help

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