We're here to mark that day in history when the Allied armies joined in battle to reclaim this continent to liberty. For 4 long years, much of Europe had been under a terrible shadow. Free nations had fallen. 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.
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.
And the American Rangers began to climb. When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. They knew what awaited them there, but they would not be deterred. 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 there.
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.
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? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith and belief; it was loyalty and love; 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.
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. These are the things that impelled them; these are the things that shaped the unity of the Allies.
Today, as 40 years ago, our armies are here for only one purpose – to protect and defend democracy. 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.
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 us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died. Thank you very much, and God bless you all.
6 June 1984