George W. Bush Forty-Third President (2001 to 2009)
2002 Memorial Day
at Normandy American Cemetery
Colleville-Sur-Mer, France - May 27, 2002
BUSH: Mr. President and Mrs. Chirac; Secretary Powell and Secretary
Principi; members of the United States Congress; members of the
American Armed Services; veterans; family members; fellow Americans;
and friends: We have gathered on this quiet corner of France as the
sun rises on Memorial Day in the United States of America. This is a
day our country has set apart to remember what was gained in our
wars, and all that was lost.
Our wars have won for us every
hour we live in freedom. Our wars have taken from us the men and
women we honor today, and every hour of the lifetimes they had hoped
This day of
remembrance was first observed to recall the terrible casualties of
the war Americans fought against each other. In the nearly 14
decades since, our nation's battles have all been far from home.
Here on the continent of Europe were some of the fiercest of those
battles, the heaviest losses, and the greatest victories.
in all those victories American soldiers came to liberate, not to
conquer. The only land we claim as our own are the resting places of
our men and women.
More than 9,000 are buried here, and many
times that number have -- of fallen soldiers lay in our cemeteries
across Europe and America. From a distance, surveying row after row
of markers, we see the scale and heroism and sacrifice of the young.
We think of units sustaining massive casualties, men cut down
crossing a beach, or taking a hill, or securing a bridge. We think
of many hundreds of sailors lost in their ships.
correspondent, Ernie Pyle, told of a British officer walking across
the battlefield just after the violence had ended. Seeing the bodies
of American boys scattered everywhere, the officer said, in sort of
a hushed eulogy spoken only to himself, "Brave men, brave men."
All who come to a place like this feel the enormity of the loss.
Yet, for so many, there is a marker that seems to sit alone -- they
come looking for that one cross, that one Star of David, that one
name. Behind every grave of a fallen soldier is a story of the grief
that came to a wife, a mother, a child, a family, or a town.
A World War II orphan has described her family's life after her
father was killed on a field in Germany. "My mother," she said, "had
lost everything she was waiting for. She lost her dreams. There were
an awful lot of perfect linen tablecloths in our house that never
got used, so many things being saved for a future that was never to
Each person buried here understood his duty, but also
dreamed of going back home to the people and the things he knew.
Each had plans and hopes of his own, and parted with them forever
when he died.
The day will come when no one is left who knew
them, when no visitor to this cemetery can stand before a grave
remembering a face and a voice. The day will never come when America
forgets them. And our nation and the world will always remember what
they did here, and what they gave here for the future of humanity.
As dawn broke during the invasion, a little boy in the village
off of Gold Beach called out to his mother, "Look, the sea is black
with boats." Spread out before them and over the horizon were more
than 5,000 ships and landing craft. In the skies were some of the
12,000 planes sent on the first day of Operation Overlord. The
Battle of Normandy would last many days, but June 6th, 1944, was the
The late President, Francois Mitterrand, said
that nothing in history compares to D-day. "The 6th of June," he
observed, "sounded the hour when history tipped toward the camp of
freedom." Before dawn, the first paratroopers already had been
dropped inland. The story is told of a group of French women finding
Americans and imploring them not to leave. The trooper said, "We're
not leaving. If necessary, this is the place we die."
of Army Rangers on shore, in one of history's bravest displays,
scaled cliffs directly in the gunfire, never relenting even as
comrades died all around them. When they had reached the top, the
Rangers radioed back the code for success: "Praise the Lord."
Only a man who is there, charging out of a landing craft, can
know what it was like. For the entire liberating force, there was
only the ground in front of them -- no shelter, no possibility of
retreat. They were part of the largest amphibious landing in
history, and perhaps the only great battle in which the wounded were
carried forward. Survivors remember the sight of a Catholic
chaplain, Father Joe Lacey, lifting dying men out of the water, and
comforting and praying with them. Private Jimmy Hall was seen
carrying the body of his brother, Johnny, saying, "He can't, he
can't be dead. I promised Mother I'd look after him."
was the size of the Battle of Normandy. Thirty-eight pairs of
brothers died in the liberation, including Bedford and Raymond
Hoback of Virginia, both who fell on D-Day. Raymond's body was never
found. All he left behind was his Bible, discovered in the sand.
Their mother asked that Bedford be buried here, as well, in the
place Raymond was lost, so her sons would always be together.
On Memorial Day, America honors her own. Yet we also remember
all the valiant young men and women from many allied nations,
including France, who shared in the struggle here, and in the
suffering. We remember the men and women who served and died
alongside Americans in so many terrible battles on this continent,
Words can only go so far in capturing the grief
and sense of loss for the families of those who died in all our
wars. For some military families in America and in Europe, the grief
is recent, with the losses we have suffered in Afghanistan. They can
know, however, that the cause is just and, like other generations,
these sacrifices have spared many others from tyranny and sorrow.
Long after putting away his uniform, an American GI expressed
his own pride in the truth about all who served, living and dead. He
said, "I feel like I played my part in turning this from a century
of darkness into a century of light."
Here, where we stand
today, the new world came back to liberate the old. A bond was
formed of shared trial and shared victory. And a light that
scattered darkness from these shores and across France would spread
to all of Europe -- in time, turning enemies into friends, and the
pursuits of war into the pursuits of peace. Our security is still
bound up together in a transatlantic alliance, with soldiers in many
uniforms defending the world from terrorists at this very hour.
The grave markers here all face west, across an ageless and
indifferent ocean to the country these men and women served and
loved. The thoughts of America on this Memorial Day turn to them and
to all their fallen comrades in arms. We think of them with lasting
gratitude; we miss them with lasting love; and we pray for them. And
we trust in the words of the Almighty God, which are inscribed in
the chapel nearby: "I give unto them eternal life, that they shall