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D-Day Remembered

In remembrance of D-Day, I'm posting Ronald Reagan's beautiful tribute to those American soldiers who fought on the beaches of Normandy and saved the world from a great evil. He gave this speech in Pointe du Hoc, France, on June 6, 1984:

We're here to mark that day in history when the Allied armies joined in battle to reclaim this continent to liberty. For four long years, much of Europe had been under a terrible shadow. Free nations had fallen, Jews cried out in the camps, millions cried out for liberation. Europe was enslaved, and the world prayed for its rescue. Here, in Normandy, the rescue began. Here, the Allies stood and fought against tyranny, in a giant undertaking unparalleled in human history.


We stand on a lonely, windswept point on the northern shore of France. The air is soft, but forty years ago at this moment, the air was dense with smoke and the cries of men, and the air was filled with the crack of rifle fire and the roar of cannon. At dawn, on the morning of the 6th of June, 1944, 225 Rangers jumped off the British landing craft and ran to the bottom of these cliffs. Their mission was one of the most difficult and daring of the invasion: to climb these sheer and desolate cliffs and take out the enemy guns. The Allies had been told that some of the mightiest of these guns were here, and they would be trained on the beaches to stop the Allied advance.

The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers at the edge of the cliffs, shooting down at them with machine guns and throwing grenades. And the American Rangers began to climb. They shot rope ladders over the face of these cliffs and began to pull themselves up. When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again. They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe. Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After two days of fighting, only ninety could still bear arms.

Behind me is a memorial that symbolizes the Ranger daggers that were thrust into the top of these cliffs. And before me are the men who put them here. These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war. Gentlemen, I look at you and I think of the words of Stephen Spender's poem. You are men who in your "lives fought for life and left the vivid air singed with your honor."

I think I know what you may be thinking right now -- thinking "we were just part of a bigger effort; everyone was brave that day." Well, everyone was. You remember the story of Bill Millin of the 51st Highlanders? Forty years ago today, British troops were pinned down near a bridge, waiting desperately for help. Suddenly, they heard the sound of bagpipes, and some thought they were dreaming. Well, they weren't. They looked up and saw Bill Millin with his bagpipes, leading the reinforcements and ignoring the smack of bullets into the ground around him.

Lord Lovat was with him -- Lord Lovat of Scotland, who calmly announced when he got to the bridge, "Sorry, I'm a few minutes late," as if he'd been delayed by a traffic jam, when in truth he'd just come form the bloody fighting on Sword Beach, which he and his men had just taken.

There was the impossible valor of the Poles who threw themselves between the enemy and the rest of Europe as the invasion took hold, and the unsurpassed courage of the Canadians who had already seen the horrors of war on this coast. They knew what awaited them there, but they would not be deterred. And once they hit Juno Beach, they never looked back.

All of these men were part of a roll call of honor with names that spoke of a pride as bright as the colors they bore; The Royal Winniped Rifles, Poland's 24th Lancers, the Royal Scots Fusiliers, the Screaming Eagles, the Yeomen of England's armored divisions, the forces of Free France, the Coast Guard's "Matchbox Fleet," and you, the American Rangers.

Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here. You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet, you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith and belief. It was loyalty and love.

The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead, or on the next. It was the deep knowledge -- and pray God we have not lost it -- that there is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.

You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One's country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it's the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you.

The Americans who fought here that morning knew word of the invasion was spreading through the darkness back home. They fought -- or felt in their hearts, though they couldn't know in fact, that in Georgia they were filling the churches at 4:00 am., in Kansas they were kneeling on their porches and praying, and in Philadelphia they were ringing the Liberty Bell.

Something else helped the men of D-day; their rock-hard belief that Providence would have a great hand in the events that would unfold here; that God was an ally in this great cause. And so, the night before the invasion, when Colonel Wolverton asked his parachute troops to kneel with him in prayer, he told them: Do not bow your heads, but look up so you can see God and ask His blessing in what we're about to do. Also, that night, General Matthew Ridgway on his cot, listening in the darkness for the promise God made to Joshua: "I will not fail thee nor forsake thee."

These are the things that impelled them; these are the things that shaped the unity of the Allies.

When the war was over, there were lives to be rebuilt and governments to be returned to the people. There were nations to be reborn. Above all, there was a new peace to be assured. These were huge and daunting tasks. But the Allies summoned strength from the faith, belief, loyalty, and love of those who fell here. They rebuilt a new Europe together. There was first a great reconciliation among those who had been enemies, all of whom had suffered so greatly. The United States did its part, creating the Marshall Plan to help rebuild our allies and our former enemies. The Marshall Plan led to the Atlantic alliance -- a great alliance that serves to this day as our shield for freedom, for prosperity, and for peace.

In spite of our great efforts and successes, not all that followed the end of the war was happy or planned. Some liberated countries were lost. The great sadness of this loss echoes down to our own time in the streets of Warsaw, Prague, and East Berlin. Soviet troops that came to the center of this continent did not leave when peace came. They're still there, uninvited, unwanted, unyielding, almost forty years after the war. Because of this, allied forces still stand on this continent. Today, as forty years ago, our armies are here for only one purpose: to protect and defend democracy. The only territories we hold are memorials like this one and graveyards where our heroes rest.

We in America have learned bitter lessons from two world wars. It is better to be here ready to protect the peace, than to take blind shelter across the sea, rushing to respond only after freedom is lost. We've learned that isolationism never was and never will be an acceptable response to tyrannical governments with an expansionist intent. But we try always to be prepared for peace, prepared to deter aggression, prepared to negotiate the reduction of arms, and yes, prepared to reach out again in the spirit of reconciliation. In truth, there is no reconciliation we would welcome more than a reconciliation with the Soviet Union, so, together, we can lessen the risks of war, now and forever.

It's fitting to remember here the great losses also suffered by the Russian people during World War II: 20 million perished, a terrible price that testifies to all the world the necessity of ending war. I tell you from my heart that we in the United States do not want war. We want to wipe from the face of the earth the terrible weapons that man now has in his hands. And I tell you, we are ready to seize that beachhead. We look for some sign from the Soviet Union that they are willing to move forward, that they share our desire and love for peace, and that they will give up the ways of conquest. There must be a changing there that will allow us to turn our hope into action.

We will pray forever that someday that changing will come. But for now, particularly today, it is good and fitting to renew our commitment to each other, to our freedom, and to the alliance that protects it.

We're bound today by what bound us 40 years ago, the same loyalties, traditions, and beliefs. We're bound by reality. The strength of America's allies is vital to the United States, and the American security guarantee is essential to the continued freedom of Europe's democracies. We were with you then; we are with you now. Your hopes are our hopes, and your destiny is our destiny.

Here, in this place where the West held together, let us make a vow to our dead. Let us show them by our actions that we understand what they died for. Let our actions say to them the words for which Matthew Ridgway listened: "I will not fail thee nor forsake thee."

Strengthened by their courage, heartened by their valor and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died.

Thank you very much, and God bless you all.

****

Five years ago, a collector found a dog tag belonging to Pvt. William Bernice Clark. It was buried in the sand of Omaha Beach, probably right where Pvt. Clark died. The tag was returned to his family today.

"It's in pretty remarkable condition considering it was buried in the sand for 58 years," said National D-Day Memorial director Jeff Fulgham, who presented the tag to Clark's surviving family members.


The D-Day Memorial, based in Bedford, Va., keeps records of nearly every American and Allied soldier killed during the invasion, and it helped locate Clark's family in Huntingdon a couple months ago.

"I remember the day the soldiers came and told his mother (that Clark had died)," Park said. "They never accepted it because there was no proof, no body."

The family has only a few personal effects from Clark: two yellowing photos, a couple of letters during his short service and his Purple Heart. His remains were buried in a cemetery for American soldiers in France.

The return of a small piece of metal has reconnected his family to the young soldier's life that was cut short.

"We were just like brothers and sisters," said another first cousin, Ava Smothers, 84.

The collector from New Jersey, Bill Santora, said the dog tag was the most cherished piece in his World War II collection, but he was happy to give it up when the memorial officials told him it could be returned to his family.

"I always wondered who it was," Santora said. "I feel more connected to the soldier, a little connected to family and I think they are going to be happy to have this memento back."

Clark was one of 4,000 American and Allied soldiers killed during intense fighting on D-Day, a crucial turning point in the war. The D-Day Memorial is in Bedford, Va., because that town lost 19 soldiers, the highest per capita loss from any single town in the United States.

Mary Katharine has a great post with many links and videos commemorating the day.

Tom Bevan at The RealClearPolitics Blog asks:

Does Anyone Care it's D-Day?

I care.


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Comments (19)

President Reagan died three... (Below threshold)
The Undertaker:

President Reagan died three years ago yesterday:

Announcing the Death of Ronald Reagan

D-Day remembered and also a... (Below threshold)
Gmac:

D-Day remembered and also another battle that changed history:

http://scyllacharybdis.blogspot.com/2007_06_01_archive.html#7088725895038633738

Does anybody care it's D-Da... (Below threshold)
Buckeye:

Does anybody care it's D-Day?

Yes. All my family and friends care.

People who retired this yea... (Below threshold)

People who retired this year at 62 to collect Social Security were not born when D-Day took place. I think we're in grave danger of forgetting the sacrfices...and as a result losing the spirit that birthed the men who made them.

"THOSE THINGS WHICH ARE PRE... (Below threshold)
Tbird:

"THOSE THINGS WHICH ARE PRECIOUS ARE SAVED ONLY BY SACRIFICE"
David K. Webster Pvt.
E Company
2nd Battalion
506th PIR
101st ABD

Thanks Kim for posting Pres... (Below threshold)

Thanks Kim for posting President Reagan's speech which was, IMO, one of the greatest speeches delivered by one of the greatest speakers, in our time.

Two relevant paragraphs contain a timeless warning:

They're (the Russians) still there, uninvited, unwanted, unyielding, almost forty years after the war. Because of this, allied forces still stand on this continent. Today, as forty years ago, our armies are here for only one purpose: to protect and defend democracy. The only territories we hold are memorials like this one and graveyards where our heroes rest.

And,

We in America have learned bitter lessons from two world wars. It is better to be here ready to protect the peace, than to take blind shelter across the sea, rushing to respond only after freedom is lost. We've learned that isolationism never was and never will be an acceptable response to tyrannical governments with an expansionist intent

I care also. thank you for ... (Below threshold)
debbie robinson-hinkle:

I care also. thank you for the great article.

My father came across on Om... (Below threshold)
nogo postal:

My father came across on Omaha Beach...
When I was at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital receiving treatment in 1971...we had the first and last talk of his experiences in the European Theater...
He said..."When you were overrun dozens died..when we hit the beach...thousands died"..

For those that in their minds equate D-day with anything today..you are clueless...

Oh yeah..do not disrespect ... (Below threshold)
nogo postal:

Oh yeah..do not disrespect Hollywood stars and sports stars who joined in WWll..when Reagan did not..,.
..and yes..I remember Reagan going to Bitburg..Reagan..like Bush..had the opportunity to face combat...they are no different than that coward Clinton..

http://battlefieldsww2.50megs.com/normandy_american_cemetery.htm

Those with courage..while R... (Below threshold)
nogo postal:

Those with courage..while Reagan shivered..
http://www.jodavidsmeyer.com/combat/military/actors_in_wwii.html

nogo postal, you have no id... (Below threshold)
Wizbang long gone:

nogo postal, you have no idea what you're talking about, you jerk. Reagan was denied overseas service due to his nearsightedness, asshat.

When is wizbang going to get rid of its hateful trolls?

or are you content with your slow slide into Kosland?

I stand corrected"Ro... (Below threshold)
nogo postal:

I stand corrected
"Ronald Reagan - Captain, US Army Air Corps. Because of a severe hearing loss, he was not allowed any flying duties. However, he appeared in training films. Prior to the war, he was a cavalry officer in the Nebraska National Guard."
lection2004/docs.html

His hearing loss was due to an on the job injury...
I apologise for inferring that Reagan could have served like Bush but did not..
Reagan was the first President to be elected with a hearing aid..
...again..it was inappropriate for me to compare Reagan and our President..

I'm watching The Longest... (Below threshold)
Tim:

I'm watching The Longest Day right now. I care. When I visited the invasion beaches, I looked up at the bluffs and wondered how they did it. I wondered if I could have done it. I still do.

my father was a combat engi... (Below threshold)
Justrand:

my father was a combat engineer in the 3rd wave at Omaha Beach. The engineers in the 3rd wave expected a relatively "easy time"...they got HELL.

I will NEVER forget what those brave men went through. My fathers, and hundreds of thousands like him, saved the world. PERIOD.

p.s. my father got severely wounded at Normandy. After being patched up he wound up in a scout column of Patton's 3rd Army...just in time to take part in the relief of Bastogne!! Lucky guy, huh? 3 Purple Hearts and the Bronze Star later he returned home to raise a family (including Moi). God bless and keep them all!!

No goYou can't and w... (Below threshold)

No go
You can't and won't differentiate between a great speech and personal anecdote. What BS. It's the same chicken hawk argument microwaved at a different setting.

Reagan delivered a message for the ages. As did Lincoln.

Your hate consumes you.

Kim, I must point out to yo... (Below threshold)
James Cloninger:

Kim, I must point out to you that in paragraph 14, line 3, you omitted the word "and" between "France" and "cheese".

WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO HIDE FROM US?!?!?

/snark off

Nogo is a a*%hole.... (Below threshold)
jhow66:

Nogo is a a*%hole.

Forgot to mention my brothe... (Below threshold)
jhow66:

Forgot to mention my brother made it the second day and fought to within sight of Berlin.

I care very much.N... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

I care very much.

Nogo, this is a post about D-Day. Can you please put your hatred for republicans away to remember all the republicans, democrats, indians, etc., that gave their life storming that beach? ww




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