George W. Bush's
Forty-Third President (2001 to 2009)
Remarks on the 60th Anniversary of D-Day
The American Cemetery
Normandy, France -- June 6, 2004
PRESIDENT BUSH: Mr. President and Mrs. Chirac;
Secretary Powell and Secretary Principi; General Myers; members of
the United States Congress; my fellow Americans; and ladies and
gentlemen: It is a high honor to represent the American people here
at Normandy on the 6th of June, 2004.
Twenty summers ago, another American President came here to Normandy
to pay tribute to the men of D-Day. He was a courageous man,
himself, and a gallant leader in the cause of freedom. And today we
honor the memory of Ronald Reagan. (Applause.)
Mr. President, thank you for your gracious welcome to the reunion of
History reminds us that France was America's first friend in the
world. With us today are Americans who first saw this place at a
distance, in the half-light of a Tuesday morning long ago.
Time and providence have brought them back to see once more the
beaches and the cliffs, the crosses and the Stars of David.
Generations to come will know what happened here, but these men
heard the guns.
Visitors will always pay respects at this cemetery, but these
veterans come looking for a name, and remembering faces and voices
from a lifetime ago. Today, we honor all the veterans of Normandy
and all their comrades who never left. (Applause.)
|On this day in 1944, President
Franklin Roosevelt addressed the American people, not
with a speech, but with a prayer. He prayed that God
would bless America's sons and lead them straight and
true. He continued, "They will need thy blessings. They
will be sore tired by night and by day without rest,
until victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise
and flame. Men's souls will be shaken with the violences
|As Americans prayed along, more
than 12,000 Allied aircraft and about 5,000 Naval vessels were
carrying out General Eisenhower's order of the day. In this massive
undertaking, there was a plan for everything -- except for failure.
Eisenhower said, "This operation is planned as a victory, and that's
the way it is going to be."
They had waited for one break in the weather, and then it came. Men
were sent in by parachute and by glider. And on this side of the
Channel, through binoculars and gun sights, German soldiers could
see coming their way the greatest armada anyone had ever seen. In
the lead were hundreds of landing craft, carrying brave and
frightened men. Only the ones who made that crossing can know what
it was like. They tell of the pitching deck, the whistles of shells
from the battleships behind them, the white jets of water from enemy
fire around them, and then the sound of bullets hitting the steel
ramp that was about to fall.
One GI later said, "As our boat touched sand and the ramp went down,
I became a visitor to hell."
Hitler's Atlantic Wall was composed of mines and tank obstacles,
trenches and jutting cliffs, gun emplacements and pill boxes, barbed
wire, machine gun nests and artillery trained accurately on the
In the first wave of the landing here at Omaha, one unit suffered 91
percent casualties. As General Omar Bradley later wrote, "Six hours
after the landings, we held only 10 yards of beach." A British
commando unit had half its men killed or wounded while taking the
town of St. Aubin.
A D-Day veteran remembers, "The only thing that made me feel good
was to look around and try to find somebody who looked more scared
than I felt. That man was hard to find." At all the beaches and
landing grounds of D-Day, men saw some images they would spend a
lifetime preferring to forget. One soldier carries the memory of
three paratroopers dead and hanging from telephone poles "like a
horrible crucifixion scene." All who fought saw images of pain and
death, raw and relentless.
The men of D-Day also witnessed scenes they would proudly and
faithfully recount, scenes of daring and self-giving that went
beyond anything the Army or the country could ask. They remember men
like Technician 5th Grade John Pinder, Jr., whose job was to deliver
vital radio equipment to the beach. He was gravely wounded before he
hit shore, and he kept going. He delivered the radio, and instead of
taking cover, went back into the surf three more times to salvage
equipment. Under constant enemy fire, this young man from
Pennsylvania was shot twice again, and died on the beach below us.
The ranks of the Allied Expeditionary Force were filled with men who
did a specific assigned task, from clearing mines, to unloading
boats, to scaling cliffs, whatever the danger, whatever the cost.
And the sum of this duty was an unstoppable force. By the end of
June 6th, 1944, more than 150,000 Allied soldiers had breached
When the news of D-Day went out to the world, the world understood
the immensity of the moment. The New York Daily News pulled its lead
stories to print the Lord's Prayer on its front page. In Ottawa, the
Canadian Parliament rose to sing, "God Save the King" and the
"Marseillaise." Broadcasting from London, King George told his
people, "This time the challenge is not to fight to survive, but to
fight to win." Broadcasting from Paris, Nazi authorities told
citizens that anyone cooperating with the Allies would be shot.
And across France, the Resistance defied those warnings.
Near the village of Colleville, a young woman on a bicycle raced to
her parent's farmhouse. She was worried for their safety. Seeing the
shattered windows and partially caved-in roof, Anne Marie Broeckx
called for her parents. As they came out of the damaged house, her
father shouted, "My daughter, this is a great day for France."
As it turned out, it was a great day for Anne Marie, as well. The
liberating force of D-Day included the young American soldier she
would marry, an Army Private who was fighting a half a mile away on
Omaha Beach. It was another fine moment in Franco-American
In Amsterdam, a 14-year-old girl heard the news of D-Day over the
radio in her attic hiding place. She wrote in her diary, "It still
seems too wonderful, too much like a fairy tale. The thought of
friends in delivery fills us with confidence." Anne Frank even
ventured to hope, "I may yet be able to go back to school in
September or October."
That was not to be. The Nazis still had about 50 divisions, and more
than 800,000 soldiers in France alone. D-Day plus one, and D-Day
plus two and many months of fierce fighting lay ahead, from Arnhem
to Hurtgen Forest to the Bulge.
Across Europe, Americans shared the battle with Britains, Canadians,
Poles, free French, and brave citizens from other lands taken back
one by one from Nazi rule. In the trials and total sacrifice of the
war, we became inseparable allies. The nations that liberated a
conquered Europe would stand together for the freedom of all of
Europe. The nations that battled across the continent would become
trusted partners in the cause of peace. And our great alliance of
freedom is strong, and it is still needed today.
The generation we honor on this anniversary, all the men and women
who labored and bled to save this continent, took a more practical
view of the military mission.
Americans wanted to fight and win and go home. And our GIs had a
saying: The only way home is through Berlin. That road to V-E Day
was hard and long, and traveled by weary and valiant men. And
history will always record where that road began. It began here,
with the first footprints on the beaches of Normandy.
Twenty years after D-Day, former President Eisenhower returned to
this place and walked through these rows. He spoke of his joy of
being a grandfather, and then he said, "When I look at all these
graves, I think of the parents back in the states whose only son is
buried here. Because of their sacrifice, they don't have the
pleasure of grandchildren. Because of their sacrifice, my
grandchildren are growing up in freedom."
The Supreme Commander knew where the victory was won, and where the
greatest debt was owed. Always our thoughts and hearts were turned
to the sons of America who came here and now rest here. We think of
them as you, our veterans, last saw them. We think of men not far
from boys who found the courage to charge toward death and who
often, when death came, were heard to call, "Mom," and, "Mother,
help me." We think of men in the promise years of life, loved and
mourned and missed to this day.
Before the landing in Omaha, Sergeant Earl Parker of Bedford,
Virginia proudly passed around a picture of Danny, the newborn
daughter he had never held. He told the fellows, "If I could see
this daughter of mine, I wouldn't mind dying." Sergeant Parker is
remembered here at the Garden of the Missing. And he is remembered
back home by a woman in her 60s, who proudly shows a picture of her
handsome, smiling, young dad.
All who are buried and named in this place are held in the loving
memory of America. We pray in the peace of this cemetery that they
have reached the far shore of God's mercy. And we still look with
pride on the men of D-Day, on those who served and went on. It is a
strange turn of history that called on young men from the prairie
towns and city streets of America to cross an ocean and throw back
the marching, mechanized evils of fascism. And those young men did
it. You did it. (Applause.)
That difficult summit was reached, then passed, in 60 years of
living. Now has come a time of reflection, with thoughts of another
horizon, and the hope of reunion with the boys you knew. I want each
of you to understand, you will be honored ever and always by the
country you served and by the nations you freed.
When the invasion was finally over and the guns were silent, this
coast, we are told, was lined for miles with the belongings of the
thousands who fell. There were life belts and canteens and socks and
K-rations and helmets and diaries and snapshots.
And there were Bibles, many Bibles, mixed with the wreckage of war.
Our boys had carried in their pockets the book that brought into the
world this message: Greater love has no man than this, that a man
lay down his life for his friends.
America honors all the liberators who fought here in the noblest of
causes, and America would do it again for our friends. May God bless