“These are the Boys of Pointe du Hoc”
by Scott L. Vanatter
Forty years after the Allied forces landed at Normandy, President Reagan spoke commemorating those who stormed the beaches.
On June 6, 1984 he spoke at the U.S. Ranger Monument at Pointe du Hoc, France. He opened his remarks by recalling that “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.”
Poignantly he described, “the boys of Pointe du Hoc” who “took the cliffs” as “champions who helped free a continent.” He cited a poem by Stephen Spender, that the men “left the vivid air signed with your honor.’
In the face of a Soviet Union still active in the world, he clearly laid out America’s and the Allies’ purpose in this war, “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.”
The sacrifices of the men of Pointe du Hoc are not to be forgotten, neither is America’s purpose in war. Liberation, not Conquest.
Click here to see the full transcript of this important speech.
Please see below for key excerpts.
EUROPE UNDER A TERRIBLE SHADOW
For 4 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. . . .
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. . . .
THE BOYS THE BOYS OF POINTE DU HOC
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.” . . .
YOU WERE YOUNG THE DAYS YOU TOOK THESE CLIFFS
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. . . .
MORAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN USE OF FORCE FOR LIBERATION AND USE FOR CONQUEST
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. . . .
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. . . .
ISOLATION NEVER ACCEPTABLE TO TYRANNICAL GOVERNMENTS WITH EXPANSIONIST INTENT
We’ve learned that isolationism never was and never will be an acceptable response to tyrannical governments with an expansionist intent. . . .