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Ronald Reagan's D-Day Speech

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
June 19, 2024 3:02 am

Ronald Reagan's D-Day Speech

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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June 19, 2024 3:02 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Young Army Rangers scaled Normandy cliffs under rifle fire and grenade blasts. Why did they do it? Hear President Reagan celebrate the surviving Rangers at the site, near the monument to the daggers they drove in to top the walls of Hitler's "Fortress Europe."

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Let's get into it. 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. 225 came here. After two days of fighting, only 90 could still bear arms. And 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 Puentejo. 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? Well, 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, 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. The Americans who fought here that morning knew word of the invasion was spreading through the darkness back home. They fought or felt in their hearts, though they couldn't know in fact, that in Georgia they were filling the churches at 4 a.m.

In Kansas, they were kneeling on their porches and praying, and in Philadelphia they were ringing the Liberty Bell. Something else helped the men of D-Day, the rock-hard belief that Providence would have a great hand in the events that would unfold here, that God was an ally in this great cause. And so the night before the invasion, when Colonel Wolverton asked his parachute troops to kneel with him in prayer, he told them, do not bow your heads, but look up so you can see God and ask his blessing in what we are about to do. Also that night, General Matthew Ridgway, on his cot, listening in the darkness for the promise God made to Joshua, I will not fail thee nor forsake thee.

These are the things that impel them. These are the things that shaped the unity of the allies. When the war was over, there were lives to be rebuilt and governments to be returned to the people. There were nations to be reborn. Above all, there was a new peace to be assured. These were huge and daunting tasks, but the Allies summoned strength from the faith, belief, loyalty, and love of those who fell here. They rebuilt a new Europe together. There was first a great reconciliation among those who had been enemies, all of whom had suffered so greatly. The United States did its part, creating the Marshall Plan to help rebuild our allies and our former enemies.

The Marshall Plan led to the Atlantic Alliance, a great alliance that serves to this day as our shield for freedom, for prosperity, and for peace. We in America have learned bitter lessons from two world wars. It is better to be here ready to protect the peace than to take blind shelter across the sea, rushing to respond only after freedom is lost.

We're bound today by what bound us 40 years ago, the same loyalties, traditions, and beliefs. Here in this place, where the West held together, let us make a vow to our dead. Let us show them by our actions that we understand what they died for. Let our actions say to them the words for which Matthew Ridgway listened, I will not fail thee nor forsake thee. Strengthened by their courage, heartened by their value, and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died.

Thank you very much, and God bless you all. And you've been listening to President Ronald Reagan in 1984, one of the great speeches of his presidency. You were young when you took these cliffs. You risked everything.

Why did you do it? And then Reagan described those things, faith and belief, loyalty and love. The use of force for liberation, not conquest, was the theme here, and indeed that's what we've done in this country or tried to do as best we can in our history. The story of President Ronald Reagan's point to hock speech and a vow he said to our dead to understand what those men did for us, what we do here on Our American Stories as often as possible.

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