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Bush Speaks at Normandy

Aired May 27, 2002 - 08:16   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to get our viewers back to Normandy, France, where, again, we anticipate the president will be making his remarks any moment now with the first lady.

And before we get to that, Jack, I want to talk just a little bit more about the veterans who not only go back, but, you know, the thing to remember about 1944 going into 1945 is we talk about how brutal and vicious this battle was for the Allied troops who stormed that beach.

But the fight was nowhere near over at that point. You had to get all the way through France. The Battle of the Bulge and the Ardennes in Europe, Belgium, the northern part of Luxembourg. You eventually had to get to the Rhine and cross the Rhine and make your way to Berlin. It was an enormous sacrifice, and this was just, in the sense of argument here, the first large step in terms of military strategy.

June of '44 you hit the beach. It was about 10 months later before you had any real capitulation on the side of the Germans.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: You know, sometimes it's better to be lucky than good, Bill, and in wartime that can mean lives saved. Apparently the Third Reich made some dramatic miscalculations about where the invasion was scheduled to happen, about when, how to deploy Rommel's armor to repel. They had -- they were in the wrong place. They were looking in the wrong place. They had a lot of their defensive weaponry in the wrong place.

And had things been just a little different, or if the intelligence network had somehow broken down and they had been able to intercept some of the intelligence, that would have given them a better idea of where this invasion was coming. It might have turned out differently, although eventually I think the outcome of the war would have been as it was.

But they got some good luck that day.

HEMMER: Despite that, though, there was a formidable German force...

CAFFERTY: Oh, yes.

HEMMER: ... waiting on top of that beach head, on top of that cliff when the Allied troops came on board. French President Jacques Chirac, we saw him about an hour ago. He is back leading that procession. So, too, on the far left of the screen, Secretary of State Colin Powell. A week-long European tour for the president. Secretary Powell, Condoleezza Rice also on that tour, all beginning in Germany last week, in Berlin, going to Russia over the weekend, that signing of a nuclear arms pact with Vladimir Putin.

Now in France, and then later today and tomorrow, Tuesday, Prime Minister Berlusconi, in Italy, for the final stop of this tour.

Here is the president now, and this should be, we anticipate, the beginning of the remarks on this Memorial Day from the beaches of Normandy in the American Cemetery there.

CAFFERTY: That's quite a picture right there.

HEMMER: It must be an awe-inspiring walk right there.

CAFFERTY: Yes, you wonder what's going through his mind now as he makes his way to the microphone there. I was noticing we had a banner up earlier: 1,500-plus Americans never accounted for, still listed as missing in action.

HEMMER: Well, over 9,000 people losing their lives in that battle.

We are waiting. When the president gets at the end of this walk here, his address, which should extend about 15 minutes time, and we mentioned about 45 minutes ago normally the American president is at Arlington National Cemetery on a day like today. But given the events of the world, this becomes even more poignant, I think, Jack.

CAFFERTY: I think so too.

HEMMER: Normandy Beach, reflecting back about, you know, about 1944 -- and we certainly will hear some of those comments contained in this speech forthcoming.

CAFFERTY: And the president, part of his, the reason for this trip was to try and shore up European support for the war against terrorism and this is perhaps the perfect setting to remind everyone what's at stake here.

HEMMER: That is an awful long walk.

CAFFERTY: You can hear the applause beginning now as he apparently gets closer.

HEMMER: If you're just joining us on this Memorial Day, we are awaiting the president's comments there to about 2,000 veterans who have made the trek back to Normandy, veterans from the D-Day invasion in June 6, 1944. The president and the first lady in a town nearby not too long ago, now making the trek to the cemetery, where the speech will be made as we watch from Normandy, France.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President and Mrs. Chirac, Secretary Powell and Secretary Principi, members of the United States Congress, members of the American armed services, veterans, family members, fellow Americans and friends, we have gathered on this quiet corner of France as the sun rises on Memorial Day in the United States of America.

This is a day our country has set apart to remember what was gained in our wars and all that was lost. Our wars have won for us every hour we live in freedom. Our wars have taken from us the men and women we honor today and every hour of the lifetimes they had hoped to live.

This day of remembrance was first observed to recall the terrible casualties of the war Americans fought against each other. In the nearly 14 decades since, our nation's battles have all been far from home. Beyond the continent of Europe were some of the fiercest of those battles, the heaviest losses and the greatest victories.

And in all of those victories, American soldiers came to liberate, not to conquer. The only land we claim as our own are the resting places of our men and women.

More than 9,000 are buried here. And many times that number have -- of fallen soldiers lay in our cemeteries across Europe and America. From a distance, surveying row after row of markers, we see the scale and heroism and sacrifice of the young.

We think of units sustaining massive casualties, men cut down crossing the beach or taking a hill or securing the bridge. We think of many hundreds of sailors lost in their ships.

War correspondent Ernie Pyle told of a British officer walking across a battlefield just after the violence had ended. Seeing the bodies of American boys scattered everywhere, the officer said in sort of a hushed eulogy spoken only to himself, "Brave men, brave men."

All that come to a place like this feel the enormity of the loss. Yet for so many there's a marker that seems to sit alone. They come looking for that one cross, that one star of David, that one name.

Behind every grave of a fallen soldier is a story of the grief that came to a wife, a mother, a child, a family or a town. A World War II orphan has described her family's life after her father was killed on the field in Germany. "My mother," she said, "had lost everything she was waiting for. She lost her dreams."

There were an awful lot of perfect linen tablecloths in the house that never got used -- so many things being saved for a future that was never to be.

Each person buried here understood his duty but also dreamed of going back home to the people and the things he knew. Each had plans and hopes of his own imparted (ph) with him (ph) forever when he died. The day will come when no one is left who knew them, when no visitor to this cemetery can stand before a grave remembering a face and a voice. The day will never come when America forgets them. Our nation and the world will always remember what they did here and what they gave here for the future of humanity.

As dawn broke during the invasion, a little boy in a village off of Gold Beach called out to his mother, "Look, the sea, it's black with boats." Spread out before them over the horizon, more than 5,000 ships and landing craft. In the skies were some of the 12,000 planes sent on the first day of Operation Overlord.

The battle of Normandy would last many days, but June 6, 1944, was the crucial day. The late President Francois Mitterand said that nothing in history compares to D-Day. The 6th of June, he observed, the sound of the hour when history tipped toward the camp of freedom.

Before dawn, the first paratroopers already had been dropped inland. The story is told of a group of French women finding Americans and imploring them not to leave. The trooper said, "We're not leaving. If necessary, this is the place we die."

Units of army rangers on shore in one of history's bravest displays scaled cliffs directly into gunfire, never relenting, even as comrades died all around them. When they had reached the top, the rangers radioed back the code for success: Praise the Lord.

Only a man who was there charging out of a landing craft can know what it was like. For the entire liberating force, there was only the ground in front of them, no shelter, no possibility of retreat. They were part of the largest amphibious landing in history and perhaps the only great battle in which the wounded were carried forward.

Survivors remember the sight of a Catholic chaplain, Father Joe Lacy, lifting dying men out of water and comforting and praying with them. Private Jimmy Hall (ph) was seen carrying the body of his brother Johnny, saying, "He can't, he can't be dead. I promised mother I'd look after him."

Such was the size of the battle of Normandy -- 38 pairs of brothers died in liberation, including Bedford and Raymond Hoback of Virginia, both who fell on D-Day. Raymond's body was never found. All he left behind was his bible discovered in the sand. Their mother asked that Bedford be buried here, as well, in the place Raymond was lost, so her sons would always be together.

On Memorial Day, America honors her own. Yet, we also remember all of the valiant young men and women from many allied nations, including France, who shared in the struggle here and in the suffering.

We remember the men and women who served and died alongside Americans in so many terrible battles on this continent and beyond. Words can only go so far in capturing the grief and sense of loss for the families of those who died in all our wars. For some military families in America and in Europe, the grief is recent, with the losses we have suffered in Afghanistan. They can know, however, that the cause is just. And like other generations, these sacrifices have spared many others from tyranny and sorrow.

Long after putting away his uniform, an American G.I. expressed his own pride in the truth about all who served, living and dead. He said, "I feel like I played my part in turning this from a century of darkness into a century of light.

Here, where we stand today, the new world came back to liberate the old. A bond was formed of shared (UNINTELLIGIBLE) scattered the life from these shores and across France. It spread to all of Europe in time, turning enemies into friends and the pursuits of war into the pursuits of peace.

Our security is still bound up together in a transatlantic alliance, with soldiers in many uniforms defending the world from terrorists at this very hour.

The grave markers here all face west, across an ageless and indifferent ocean to the country these men and women served and loved. The thoughts of America on this Memorial Day turned to them and to all their fallen comrades in arms.

We think of them with lasting gratitude. We miss them with lasting love. And we pray for them.

And we trust in the words of the almighty God, which are inscribed in the chapel nearby: "I give unto them eternal life, that they shall never perish.

God bless.

HEMMER: The day will never come where America forgets them what they gave for the future of humanity. President Bush in his remarks to the veterans who have gathered there, now with the French President Jacques Chirac. A nine-day battle in June of 1944, just the beginning for the war, the strong substantial foothold for the Allied forces in Europe. Thirty-eight pairs of brothers lost that day, Jack, a cemetery with more than 9,000 headstones of those who lost their lives.

President mentioned a story of grief early on in his story. So many stories of grief arising from that -- from that day in western France. Toward the end, he tied his speech directly to the war on terrorism, mentioning Afghanistan and saying that U.S. soldiers continue to help defend the world now against terrorists.

And as the president makes his way down the line, Jack Cafferty, this is a rather poignant day in the lives of so many Americans as we remember and thank those who have fought and paid the ultimate price for freedom.

CAFFERTY: Indeed it is. I would guess that it is a bit of a challenge for the president to go forward with what some overseas are criticizing as this war against terrorism and at the same time walk the ground that he's on now and deal with the fact that if it had not been for those who went ashore June 6 in 1944, and the many thousands who followed, and all that fought during the dark days of World War II, the entire question of what's going on now might well have been academic. Had not the United States been drawn into World War II, it would be probably safe to say a far different planet on which we all live now.

And so a lot of emotions running through this day for the president of the United States, for the man on his left, French President Jacques Chirac, no doubt, and for all of us who have been made suddenly much more aware of how fragile a thing the freedom that we all enjoy and take for granted is.

HEMMER: Earlier we heard from the -- for lack of a better phrase, the tour guide for the president and the first lady. There are two type of -- two types of people in Normandy, those who are dead and those who are going to die.

Let's get to Normandy and Kelly Wallace, traveling with the president.

Kelly, hello, good afternoon.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon, Bill, to you and Jack.

Definitely a very powerful moment for President Bush. You know he said it was going to be a pretty dramatic moment, the son of a World War II veteran coming here. We all know his father, the former president, served during World War II, was a pilot, flew 58 combat missions over the Pacific, was actually shot down, I believe, in 1944.

This also, though, the first Memorial Day since the September 11 attacks, and the president saying earlier on Sunday that this is the first time many young people know the sacrifices that have been made for their freedom. So a very, very powerful moment.

The president spending most of his speech paying tribute to all those who served here, those who lost their lives -- those lost their lives defending the freedom of Europe, and mentioning, Bill, as you said, at the end, a message to the European allies, to the countries around the world that the war on terror continues and that the United States and its allies must remain together and stay the course in that fight -- Bill.

HEMMER: Kelly, as the son of a World War II veteran, as you pointed out, has President Bush ever traveled to this part of France before, or is this an initial visit today?

WALLACE: I believe this is his first time here. I will need to check that. I believe it's his first time here. It's certainly his first time to France as president. I am told it is his first time here, first time here as president and first time here to Normandy as well, and obviously a very, very powerful moment. Believe the president was only born about two years after D-Day, so he grew up as a young man hearing about this, hearing about what the men, what happened to the men who fought here, learned about it clearly, through his father -- doesn't like to talk about his father very much, but clearly, he must have learned a great deal about what went on during World War II from his dad.

And it's a difficult moment, no question, for a commander in chief to come here, to look at this hallowed ground, on what was lost, what was gained.

And of course, it has added meaning coming now as the president is really trying to keep this coalition together, and he faces lots of skeptics, a lot of skeptics throughout this European tour on where this president wants to take the war on terror -- Bill.

HEMMER: Thank you, Kelly.

Kelly Wallace, again, in Normandy.

The wreath laying ceremony now underway.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, please remain standing for the playing of the national anthems of France and the United States, and remain standing for a 21-gun salute, the playing of "Taps," and the flyover in memory of those that have made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.






HEMMER: One French Mirage jet, followed by three American F-15s, flying off in the missing man formation

Live in Normandy on this Memorial Day, President Bush, French President Jacques Chirac.




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