The D-Day Address by President Ronald W. Reagan: June 6, 1984

In the days before this issue of World War II Chronicles was due to be sent to press, we learned of the passing of one of our most beloved American Presidents, Ronald Reagan. President Reagan, often called “The Great Communicator,” was known for giving some of the most powerful and moving speeches ever delivered in our nation’s history. From consoling the country following the loss of the space shuttle Challenger, to his inspiring call for General Secretery Gorbechev to “Tear down this wall!”, his eloquence touched all of us. Among the most memorable speeches of this former Army Air Corps Captain were the two addresses he gave on June 6, 1984 in Normandy, to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of D-Day. Delivered from the Ranger Monument at Pointe du Hoc and at Omaha Beach, these two speeches remain the best remembered from any of the D-Day anniversary ceremonies yet held. World War II Chronicles is proud to reprint the famed speech at Pointe du Hoc delivered by President Reagan on that day 20 years ago as a tribute to his memory. He is, and will continue to be, greatly missed.

We’re here to mark that day in history when the Allied armies 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 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. 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—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 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.

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.’’