Ronald Reagan Speech
President Reagan's Speech at Pointe de Hoc
Ronald Reagan -- Pointe de Hoc, Normandy, June 6, 1984 (The 40th
anniversary of D-Day)
We're here to mark that day in history when the Allied peoples
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
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.
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 signed with your honor'...
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