June 6, 1944 is a day that should never be forgotten. It was the day some 150,000 troops landed on French beaches to roll back the Nazi menace. On that first day 10,000 of these young men died. Today you can go to the Normandy Cemetery and find 9,388 white crosses marking the graves of brave Americans who died during the campaign.
It has just been commemorated again – for the 75th time. Every year however we have fewer and fewer veterans from that day left to pay tribute to. Soon there will be no more of these champions remaining to commemorate the liberation of Europe and the end of the Second World War.
Soon it will all be a distant memory. And one vital question that remains unanswered is this: is the West today capable of raising up such an army again? Would we have enough young people brave enough, manly enough, and willing to sacrifice their very lives for a cause greater than themselves?
Those are some very good questions, and one is fearful of ever getting affirmative responses. Not only has the West declared war on its own history, but in abandoning the values that made the West great – primarily Judeo-Christian values – we have nothing left to live for – or die for.
As one meme making the rounds on the social media puts it:
1944: 18-year-olds stormed enemy beaches, parachuted behind enemy lines, and charged into German machine gun fire….
2019: 18-year-olds need safe spaces, blankies, bubbles, colouring books, gun free zones, and counselling for ‘ptsd’ caused by opposing views and offensive words….
Yes that is far too accurate to merely be funny. It is scary indeed that a generation of snowflakes is being raised in the West who wouldn’t lift a finger to fight for what is important, including our very freedom. They burst into tears when their feelings are hurt – how will they deal with real enemies?
Indeed, 75 years ago young adults had to leave the safe space of their landing craft to hit the beaches, knowing that many of them would not even make it to the beach alive. And that is exactly what happened. So many were gunned down in the opening moments of the landing.
Hollywood has often tried to capture this horror, and many veterans have agreed that one of the best and most realistic depictions comes from the opening scenes of the 1998 film Saving Private Ryan. We can look at some old black and white footage from the actual events, but the full-colour version of events by Steven Spielberg is well worth watching to get a grasp of what really happened.
Here is a powerful 16-minute clip of this 27-minute opening scene: www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hjNgjPxY9w
Yet today most young people have a hard time getting out of bed, and are hurt by people with different points of view. They burst into tears when their fav left-wing candidate does not get elected, and they need counselling because they are worried about things like global warming.
These virtue-signalling weaklings would be no match for any foe in any war. Such a marked contrast to those brave young men who gave everything 75 years ago. Their stories must never be forgotten. We must keep retelling their stories – stories of heroism, bravery and self-sacrifice.
Thankfully US President Donald Trump did that just hours ago in a speech given at Normandy. He reminded us of these heroic 18-year-olds who never came back home. Or of those who did, but with deeply scarred memories. We already have the full transcript of this 27-minute speech.
Even Trump’s usual enemies in the media and politics have conceded that this was a very good and very moving speech. You can watch the entire speech here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJRtow5MUUM
But let me quote parts of it here as well. He began with these words:
President Macron, Mrs. Macron, and the people of France; to the First Lady of the United States and members of the United States Congress; to distinguished guests, veterans, and my fellow Americans:
We are gathered here on Freedom’s Altar. On these shores, on these bluffs, on this day 75 years ago, 10,000 men shed their blood, and thousands sacrificed their lives, for their brothers, for their countries, and for the survival of liberty.
Today, we remember those who fell, and we honor all who fought right here in Normandy. They won back this ground for civilization.
To more than 170 veterans of the Second World War who join us today: You are among the very greatest Americans who will ever live. You’re the pride of our nation. You are the glory of our republic. And we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. (Applause.)
Here with you are over 60 veterans who landed on D-Day. Our debt to you is everlasting. Today, we express our undying gratitude. When you were young, these men enlisted their lives in a Great Crusade — one of the greatest of all times. Their mission is the story of an epic battle and the ferocious, eternal struggle between good and evil.
On the 6th of June, 1944, they joined a liberation force of awesome power and breathtaking scale. After months of planning, the Allies had chosen this ancient coastline to mount their campaign to vanquish the wicked tyranny of the Nazi empire from the face of the Earth. The battle began in the skies above us. In those first tense midnight hours, 1,000 aircraft roared overhead with 17,000 Allied airborne troops preparing to leap into the darkness beyond these trees.
Then came dawn. The enemy who had occupied these heights saw the largest naval armada in the history of the world. Just a few miles offshore were 7,000 vessels bearing 130,000 warriors. They were the citizens of free and independent nations, united by their duty to their compatriots and to millions yet unborn. There were the British, whose nobility and fortitude saw them through the worst of Dunkirk and the London Blitz. The full violence of Nazi fury was no match for the full grandeur of British pride. Thank you. (Applause.)
There were the Canadians, whose robust sense of honor and loyalty compelled them to take up arms alongside Britain from the very, very beginning. There were the fighting Poles, the tough Norwegians, and the intrepid Aussies. There were the gallant French commandos, soon to be met by thousands of their brave countrymen ready to write a new chapter in the long history of French valor. (Applause.)
And, finally, there were the Americans. They came from the farms of a vast heartland, the streets of glowing cities, and the forges of mighty industrial towns. Before the war, many had never ventured beyond their own community. Now they had come to offer their lives half a world from home.
As mentioned, he gave stories of some of these brave young warriors. Here is one of them:
The GIs who boarded the landing craft that morning knew that they carried on their shoulders not just the pack of a soldier, but the fate of the world. Colonel George Taylor, whose 16th Infantry Regiment would join in the first wave, was asked: What would happen if the Germans stopped right then and there, cold on the beach — just stopped them?
What would happen? This great American replied: “Why, the 18th Infantry is coming in right behind us. The 26th Infantry will come on too. Then there is the 2nd Infantry Division already afloat. And the 9th Division. And the 2nd Armored. And the 3rd Armored. And all the rest. Maybe the 16th won’t make it, but someone will.”
One of those men in Taylor’s 16th Regiment was Army medic Ray Lambert. Ray was only 23, but he had already earned three Purple Hearts and two Silver Stars fighting in North Africa and Sicily, where he and his brother Bill, no longer with us, served side by side.
In the early morning hours, the two brothers stood together on the deck of the USS Henrico, before boarding two separate Higgins landing craft. “If I don’t make it,” Bill said, “please, please take care of my family.” Ray asked his brother to do the same.
Of the 31 men on Ray’s landing craft, only Ray and 6 others made it to the beach. There were only a few of them left. They came to the sector right here below us. “Easy Red” it was called. Again and again, Ray ran back into the water. He dragged out one man after another. He was shot through the arm. His leg was ripped open by shrapnel. His back was broken. He nearly drowned.
He had been on the beach for hours, bleeding and saving lives, when he finally lost consciousness. He woke up the next day on a cot beside another badly wounded soldier. He looked over and saw his brother Bill. They made it. They made it. They made it. At 98 years old, Ray is here with us today, with his fourth Purple Heart and his third Silver Star from Omaha. (Applause.) Ray, the free world salutes you. (Applause.) Thank you, Ray. (Applause.)
And one more moving story from his speech:
Down on the beach, Captain Joe Dawson, the son of a Texas preacher, led Company G through a minefield to a natural fold in the hillside, still here. Just beyond this path to my right, Captain Dawson snuck beneath an enemy machine gun perch and tossed his grenades. Soon, American troops were charging up “Dawson’s Draw.” What a job he did. What bravery he showed.
Lieutenant Spalding and the men from Company E moved on to crush the enemy strongpoint on the far side of this cemetery, and stop the slaughter on the beach below. Countless more Americans poured out across this ground all over the countryside. They joined fellow American warriors from Utah beach, and Allies from Juno, Sword, and Gold, along with the airborne and the French patriots.
Private First Class Russell Pickett, of the 29th Division’s famed 116th Infantry Regiment, had been wounded in the first wave that landed on Omaha Beach. At a hospital in England, Private Pickett vowed to return to battle. “I’m going to return,” he said. “I’m going to return.”
Six days after D-Day, he rejoined his company. Two thirds had been killed already; many had been wounded, within 15 minutes of the invasion. They’d lost 19 just from small town of Bedford, Virginia, alone. Before long, a grenade left Private Pickett again gravely wounded. So badly wounded. Again, he chose to return. He didn’t care; he had to be here.
He was then wounded a third time, and laid unconscious for 12 days. They thought he was gone. They thought he had no chance. Russell Pickett is the last known survivor of the legendary Company A. And, today, believe it or not, he has returned once more to these shores to be with his comrades. Private Pickett, you honor us all with your presence. (Applause.) Tough guy. (Laughter.)
The President finished his speech this way:
Seven decades ago, the warriors of D-Day fought a sinister enemy who spoke of a thousand-year empire. In defeating that evil, they left a legacy that will last not only for a thousand years, but for all time — for as long as the soul knows of duty and honor; for as long as freedom keeps its hold on the human heart.
To the men who sit behind me, and to the boys who rest in the field before me, your example will never, ever grow old. (Applause.) Your legend will never tire. Your spirit — brave, unyielding, and true — will never die. The blood that they spilled, the tears that they shed, the lives that they gave, the sacrifice that they made, did not just win a battle. It did not just win a war. Those who fought here won a future for our nation. They won the survival of our civilization. And they showed us the way to love, cherish, and defend our way of life for many centuries to come.
Today, as we stand together upon this sacred Earth, we pledge that our nations will forever be strong and united. We will forever be together. Our people will forever be bold. Our hearts will forever be loyal. And our children, and their children, will forever and always be free. May God bless our great veterans. May God bless our Allies. May God bless the heroes of D-Day. And may God bless America. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you very much.
Could the West deliver to us such committed, dedicated, brave and selfless young men today? That is a very good question indeed. To help highlight the importance of that question, let me finish with another terrific speech given to honour the fallen on that day.
On June 6, 1984 Ronald Reagan gave two speeches in Normandy. One of them finished with these words:
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 you.