Commemorating the 40th Anniversary of D-Day
Delivered by President Ronald Reagan, June 6, 1984 Omaha
Beach, Normandy, France
today at a place of battle, one that 40 years ago saw and felt
the worst of war. Men bled and died here for a few feet of - or
inches of sand, as bullets and shellfire cut through their ranks.
About them, General Omar Bradley later said, "Every man who
set foot on Omaha Beach that day was a hero."
survived the battle of June 6, 1944, are here today. Others who
hoped to return never did.
Lis, I'll go back," said Private First Class Peter Robert
Zannata, of the 37th Engineer Combat Battalion, and first assault
wave to hit Omaha Beach. "I'll go back, and I'll see it all
again. I'll see the beach, the barricades, and the graves."
of Private Zanatta come to us from his daughter, Lisa Zanatta
Henn, in a heart-rending story about the event her father spoke
of so often. "In his words, the Normandy invasion would change
his life forever," she said. She tells some of his stories
of World War II but says of her father, "the story to end
all stories was D-Day."
made me feel the fear of being on the boat waiting to land. I
can smell the ocean and feel the sea sickness. I can see the looks
on his fellow soldiers' faces-the fear, the anguish, the uncertainty
of what lay ahead. And when they landed, I can feel the strength
and courage of the men who took those first steps through the
tide to what must have surely looked like instant death."
daughter wrote to me, "I don't know how or why I can feel
this emptiness, this fear, or this determination, but I do. Maybe
it's the bond I had with my father. All I know is that it brings
tears to my eyes to think about my father as a 20-year old boy
having to face that beach."
of D-Day was always special to her family. And like all the families
of those who went to war, she describes how she came to realize
her own father's survival was a miracle: "So many men died.
I know that my father watched many of his friends be killed. I
know that he must have died inside a little each time. But his
explanation to me was, `You did what you had to do, and you kept
like Private Zannata and all our Allied forces stormed the beaches
of Normandy 40 years ago they came not as conquerors, but as liberators.
When these troops swept across the French countryside and into
the forests of Belgium and Luxembourg they came not to take, but
to return what had been wrongfully seized. When our forces marched
into Germany they came not to prey on a brave and defeated people,
but to nurture the seeds of democracy among those who yearned
to bee free again.
them today. But, Mr. President [Francois Mitterand of France],
we also salute those who, like yourself, were already engaging
the enemy inside your beloved country-the French Resistance. Your
valiant struggle for France did so much to cripple the enemy and
spur the advance of the armies of liberation. The French Forces
of the Interior will forever personify courage and national spirit.
They will be a timeless inspiration to all who are free and to
all who would be free.
their memory, and for all who fought here, we celebrate the triumph
of democracy. We reaffirm the unity of democratic people who fought
a war and then joined with the vanquished in a firm resolve to
keep the peace.
From a terrible
war we learned that unity made us invincible; now, in peace, that
same unity makes us secure. We sought to bring all freedom-loving
nations together in a community dedicated to the defense and preservation
of our sacred values. Our alliance, forged in the crucible of
war, tempered and shaped by the realities of the post-war world,
has succeeded. In Europe, the threat has been contained, the peace
has been kept.
living here assembled-officials, veterans, citizens-are a tribute
to what was achieved here 40 years ago. This land is secure. We
are free. These things are worth fighting and dying for.
Henn began her story by quoting her father, who promised that
he would return to Normandy. She ended with a promise to her father,
who died 8 years ago of cancer: "I'm going there, Dad, and
I'll see the beaches and the barricades and the monuments. I'll
see the graves, and I'll put flowers there just like you wanted
to do. I'll never forget what you went through, Dad, nor will
I let any one else forget. And, Dad, I'll always be proud."
words of his loving daughter, who is here with us today, a D-Day
veteran has shown us the meaning of this day far better than any
President can. It is enough to say about Private Zannata and all
the men of honor and courage who fought beside him four decades
ago: We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will
always be prepared, so we may always be free.