Ronald Reagan died 10 years ago today. Some thought he was a great President, others had the opposite view. But almost everyone agrees — whatever you thought of his politics, the man could deliver a great speech.
Two of Reagan’s finest speeches were given on the same day: June 6, 1984, as the President, many surviving soldiers, and a host of others commemorated the 40th anniversary of D-Day. Many people remember the terrific speech about the boys of Pointe du Hoc, the Rangers who scaled the sheer cliffs of Normandy to begin the process of liberating the European continent. Fewer are aware of the equally moving speech Reagan gave later that day, about one daughter’s promise to a father who survived D-Day but was unable to return to the battlefields to place flowers at the graves of his fallen comrades.
The Wall Street Journal has republished both speeches here, to mark the anniversary of Reagan’s death. At a time when we seem in search of heroes, they are worth a read.
Today is the 68th anniversary of D-Day — the Allied invasion of Europe as part of the great campaign to wipe the scourge of Nazism off the face of the Earth and restore peace and democracy. It was a bloody, terrible day, but the beachhead was secured, the invasion went forward, and ultimately the enemy was defeated.
In 1984 President Reagan used the occasion of the 40th anniversary of D-Day to give one of the greatest speeches he ever delivered. He stood on the soil of Normandy, faced a group of Army Rangers — the “Boys of Pointe du Hoc” — who had acted with unbelievable courage in fulfilling their role in the battle plan on June 6, 1944, and talked about the deeply felt beliefs that motivated those men, and the brave citizens of every participating nation, to endure the sacrifices necessary to rescue the people of Europe from tyranny. The speech was deeply moving to anyone who felt pride in those sacrifices and profound appreciation for the Boys of Pointe du Hoc and their fellow Allied soldiers.
The RealClearPolitics website reprinted the speech today to commemorate the anniversary of D-Day. It’s well worth reading, and contemplating. As with so many great speeches, its meaning remains fresh, even though the Iron Curtain and the challenge to peace that existed in 1984 has passed, to be replaced by the challenges Europe faces today. It remains important for us to remember what happened 68 years ago, and why, and to ask anew: “Who were these men?”
D-Day was 65 years ago today. The U.S. Army has an interesting website with information, photos, and a transcript of General Eisenhower’s famous speech to the troops. The successful invasion of Normandy marked the beginning of the end for the Nazi regime in Germany and changed the world — not forever or unalterably, but for the better.
D-Day was a day where ordinary men who had trained to be soldiers did extraordinary things. I think the photo above helps to capture — admittedly, in a very limited way — what it must have been like to be on one of the landing craft on that fateful day. I cannot imagine, however, what it must have been like to leave that craft, to jump into the water as the bullets flew and the artillery fire raged, to make your legs move and keep your head as friends were being killed, and then to take the beachhead. When the beachhead was taken and the pillboxes had been knocked out and the adrenalin flow began to return to normal, what was it like to stand on the heights and look back on the carnage? Did the men reflect with pride on their achievement, or mourn their dead friends, or pray, or just want to smoke a cigarette and thank their luck and their God?