And with Tony Dolan, President Reagan’s great speechwriter.
For me, Memorial Day happens twice within a week. The first, the official holiday at the end of May, is quickly reinforced a week later, every June 6: D-Day.
Of all the wartime anniversaries, none strike me quite like D-Day — the invasion of Normandy, the liberation of France, the final push to defeat Nazi Germany. It was June 6, 1944, a date that sticks like December 7, like July 4, like September 11. The mix of extreme sorrow and triumph has been unforgettably replicated on film by Steven Spielberg in the stunning opening of Saving Private Ryan.
What must it have been like to be among those first waves at the beaches? Indescribable, simply indescribable.
When I think of D-Day, I always think of two presidents, neither of which were president at the time: Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan. What they had to say about the event was profound.
Ike was Supreme Allied Commander during World War II, a long way from humble beginnings as a Kansas farm boy. He gave the final order to send an armada of 5,000 ships, 12,000 aircraft, and 155,000 soldiers — the largest amphibious assault in history. The morning prior, the forecast wasn’t good. Ike asked each of his subordinates what they thought about proceeding.
“Ike wasn’t taking a vote,” recorded Stephen Ambrose, the late WWII historian who was also Ike’s biographer. “Ike asked all 14 men in the room. Seven of them said to postpone and seven of them said to go ahead.” Everyone stared at General Eisenhower for what seemed like forever. Finally, Ike said simply, “Okay, let’s do it.”
Ike then wrote a note to himself: “Our landings… have failed.”
If failure resulted, Ike would take the blame. Of course, failure didn’t result, though a lot of horror came in the process. The men who battled on those beaches sampled their own taste of Armageddon. It was hell on earth.
Ike never forgot those boys. When he visited Omaha beach 20 years later — by then an ex-president as well as an ex-general — he told Walter Cronkite: “You know, Walter, I come here and the thought that overwhelms me is all the joy that Mamie and I get from our grandchildren. I look at these graves out here and I just can’t help but think of all the families in America that don’t have the joy of grandchildren.”
Another 20 years later still, June 6, 1984, another president, Ronald Reagan, visited those beaches, and gave two memorable speeches. The first paid tribute to the men who did return to that beach, and the second acknowledged a man who didn’t return.
The first speech was given at 1:20 PM at the U.S. Ranger Monument at Pointe du Hoc, France, where a group of American veterans of Normandy had re-convened for a special ceremony. Reagan stated:
We stand on a lonely, windswept point on the northern shore of France. The air is soft, but 40 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….
The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers — the edge of the cliffs shooting down at them with machineguns 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 2 days of fighting, only 90 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.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online