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Public Papers - 1989

Statement on the 45th Anniversary of D-Day

1989-06-06

Today we remember those who fought for freedom 45 years ago at Normandy in the Allied invasion that hastened the liberation of Europe. In so doing, we remember all Americans who have fought to keep us free, and the young men and women who today act as guardians of the peace and freedom that America's veterans achieved through courage and sacrifice.

The alliance of Americans, Canadians, British and French, and others who fought together that misty morning was forged in the fire of battle. Last week in Europe, that alliance, now greatly broadened, was further cemented by an extraordinarily successful NATO summit. The mutual agreement of the allies on a future course for Europe has the potential to brighten the prospects for peace -- real peace -- and freedom.

From the vantage point of 1989, after four decades of peace in Europe, it is difficult to remember that on the morning of June 6, 1944, General Eisenhower carried in his pocket a draft message declaring the invasion to have been a failure and taking personal responsibility for that failure. He never needed to use that draft, of course, because all the years of painstaking preparations bore the fruit of victory. The turmoil and confusion of battle that day belied the calm purposefulness with which freedom confronts tyranny. In recent days, the face of the world has again been marked by dramatic occurrences -- winds of change -- that signify the determination with which freedom confounds its adversaries. As with General Eisenhower then, we cannot know with certainty today whether the forces of freedom will prevail soon or in every instance. Yet the ultimate victory of freedom and democracy is inevitable. The new breeze of democratic change will bring mankind to better, more tranquil times.

Last week's success of allied unity; the first free elections in Poland in more than 50 years; and even the momentous, tragic events in China give us reason to redouble our efforts to continue the spread of freedom and democracy around the globe, to end the division of Europe, to broaden the community of free nations, and to reaffirm the rights of man.

In light of the striking events in the world of the past week, and in remembrance of those brave Americans who fought at Normandy on this date 45 years ago, several lines often quoted by Winston Churchill in the darkest days of World War II seem especially apt today:

For while the tired waves, vainly breaking,

Seem here no painful inch to gain,

Far back, through creeks and inlets making,

Comes silent, flooding in, the main.

And not by eastern windows only,

When daylight comes, comes in the light,

In front, the sun climbs slow, how slowly,

But westward, look, the land is bright.

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