Jonathan Rath Hoffman, assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs, and other government officials speak at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, to honor the fallen as part of the 75th D-Day Remembrance Ceremony, June 5, 2019.
Let us pray. Almighty God, today we come to remember the names of the fallen who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Behind the names are sons and daughters, husbands and wives, friends and comrades. Thoughts of what was experienced on that day, the chaos, the struggle, the sacrifice, the hope, the tenacity, the ultimate victory and peace. We recall the words of Sir Winston Churchill in the Battle for Britain, “Never in the field of human conflict “was so much owed by so many to so few”. Today we remember the thousands who gave all their tomorrows, that we might have all of our todays. Gracious Lord, we celebrate and honor America’s own, who in their patriotism have given the ultimate sacrifice of their lives, in love of country and their fellow comrades at arms. Lord, here in our nation’s capital, we are reminded of Washington and Lincoln. One the 18th century father and the other the 19th century preserver of our nation. And between them, we honor those who took up the struggle for liberty and justice, freedom and peace in Europe. We remember those voices, now silent, who rest from their labors in sacred fields of honor, throughout this land and on foreign soil. Particularly those with whom we have served. Especially we hold sacred the memories who gave their lives in Europe on D-Day, represented in the 4,048 gold stars on the Freedom Wall. They shall shine like the sun and the kingdom of their father. Though there are fewer every year who experienced that day, help us never to forget the sacrifice that brought them through the joy and sorrows of that day. Many days and years have gone by and still we remember and honor all that D-Day, and those who are remembered today, represents. We would be remiss if we failed to forget the families of our fallen comrades, who have equally sacrificed by giving up their fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, children. We pause in a moment of silence to remember the fallen. They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them. Make us all leaders for peace in our day. Let freedom reign, amen.
Please be seated. Tonight on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the fateful landings on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, the Friends of the National World War II Memorial, is proud to host this Remembrance Ceremony and a reading of the 9,000 names of those who died during Operation Overlord and are buried at Normandy American Cemetery in France. Unfortunately, there is no complete list of all those who died during the Battle of Normandy. However, we will honor and remember all those brave souls, who made the ultimate sacrifice during this crucial campaign, while reading the names of those buried at Normandy American Cemetery. Friends of the National World War II Memorial, is proud to work to honor and preserve the national memory of World War II through these very special ceremonies, at this very special World War II Memorial. Friends is currently in the midst of a four year World War II 75th Anniversary Commemoration, that began on the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, in 2016, and will continue through the 75th anniversary of V-J Day, in 2020. Friends is the only organization marking every major battle in which American troops participated during World War II, here at the World War II Memorial. The Friends of the National World War II Memorial is also working to create the next greatest generation of Americans through our community service focused education programs. Friends is proud to have at its helm, Mr Josiah Bunting III, Chairman of the Board of the Friends of the National World War II Memorial. (audience applauding)
On this occasion, I wish to remember the tribute paid to the fallen in 1963 by a great and gallant American, to whom all of us remain indebted, Dwight Eisenhower. He sat on one of those bluffs overlooking Omaha Beach, 1963, being interviewed by Harry Reasoner, who asked him, “what are your reflections as you look at this and remember that day, their achievement and their sacrifice?” He gave such a beautiful response that was so wholly characteristic of Ike’s character and his heart. “Harry, we all think of course, “of the fallen and of their sacrifice. “But I think also, of what they will never know, “what they will never have, what they will never cherish. “They will not have families, they will not have children, “whom they raise and educate and love and cherish. “They will not enjoy and be grateful constantly “for happy families and marriages. “This is what they have lost”. When others talk of war and victory, too often they talk of divisions and regiments and victory and they forget what those who fell gave up. God bless them on this solemn day. And let all of us who are privileged to be here, and participate in this commemoration, remember our own obligation to see that succeeding generations of Americans not be allowed never to know of that sacrifice and their indebtedness to these brave men and women. God bless our country, God bless them. (audience applauding)
We are honored to have with us today Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia. Please help me welcome Senator Kaine. (audience applauding)
Well, good afternoon and it is a true honor to be with you representing the United States Senate. Within the last few hours, 16 Senators and many House Members, went to broad aircraft to go over to be at the 75th Anniversary in Normandy. I believe I was asked today because I’m a senator from Virginia, as some of you know, the National D-Day Memorial is in Bedford, Virginia. A tiny town Northeast of Roanoke in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. Why Bedford? Bedford was a small town of between two and 3,000 people, when D-Day occurred in 1944. There were 32 young men from Bedford, who came ashore on that first day, 19 were killed almost immediately and another three died within the first few days after the D-Day invasion. No town in the United States was as affected on a per capita basis as the town of Bedford, and that’s why the National D-Day Memorial is beautifully built there in view of those Blue Ridge Mountains. I am here to honor, just as we all are, the sacrifices of those who lost their lives, those who were injured, those who fought on to liberate Europe and liberate the world. But I want to just acknowledge one other thing. It wasn’t just a military battle, it wasn’t just the effort to defeat the horrible forces of fascism, the invasion that day, just the very fact of the invasion, created a tremendous amount of hope in people who had lived under oppression in the years and had been waiting for that day. We had a session in the Senate yesterday, we heard from a Holocaust survivor, who is Yugoslavian, whose family had been put into a ghetto in Hungary. He was allowed out to work as a slave laborer during the day and he recounted as if it were five minutes ago, hearing the reports of the D-Day invasion on a clandestine radio in the plant that he worked and he reported the tremendous uplift that it gave. The sacrifice, the invasion, all of the work and effort gave people who had been under the thumb of oppression, tremendous feeling of hope, of hope. And as I conclude, let me just read you one account of that day. “‘This is D-Day,’ the BBC announcer announced at 12, “This is the day the invasion has begun. “Is this really the beginning “of the long-awaited liberation? “The liberation we’ve all talked so much about? “Which still seems too good, “too much of a fairytale, ever to come true. “Will this year, 1944, bring us victory? “We don’t know yet. “But where there’s hope, there is life, “it fills us with fresh courage and makes us strong again”. Anne Frank, diary entry June 6th, 1944. (audience applauding)
Thank you, Senator Kaine. We are also honored to be joined today by Jonathan Rath Hoffman, Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs. Please help me welcome Mr. Hoffman. (audience applauding)
It’s an honor to be here today on behalf of the 1.8 million men and women who serve our country in uniform. The 700,000 civilians at the Department of Defense, Acting Secretary Shanahan, and Chairman Dunford. Chairman Bunting and your team at Friends of the World War II Memorial, thank you for all you do, day in and day out, to honor our D-Day veterans and our World War II veterans and for putting on this special day. Colonel Cruise, Senator Kaine, Miss George, thank you for being here and for your support of our military. And to the D-Day veterans here today and to the World War II veterans in your families, thank you for your service and your sacrifice to our nation. Few days in our national conscience so clearly capture the public’s understanding of the monumental and desperately paid for turning point in world history, as June 6th, 1944 does. One day tyrants rule Europe, and on the next, a force of good such that the world has never seen before, or since, made up of hundreds of thousands of British, French, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, Polish, Belgian, Czechoslovakian, Danish, Norwegian, Dutch, Greek and American warriors, valiantly establish a beachhead for democracy on the continent. June 6th is not just a day of remembrance for Americans, it is day to commemorate the valor of all free people who willingly go into battle to defeat despots and release their fellow men from oppression. As we remember the 75th anniversary of D-Day, it is important to reflect on the scale of the D-Day operation, and what a massive undertaking it was for the United States and our many allies. 175,000 troops, including 60,000 American soldiers, landed on Normandy that day. They embarked for more than 5,000 ships and 10,000 Allied aircraft used to support the landings. 50,000 vehicles and 100,000 tons of supplies were thrown upon the beaches. Millions more allied men and women, both service members and civilians, contributed to the invasion and its eventual success. The largest amphibious assault in history, the Battle of Normandy, is a totem of how free nations can come together at a decisive time and place, and place the entirety of their shared resources, treasure, knowledge and men, for a common mission. The invasion forged partnerships and reinforced crucial bonds that remain to this day. Today, over 200,000 U.S. troops are stationed around the world with our allies in support of our collective self-defense. Following September 11th terrorist attack on our nation, our European allies, those who fought along with us on the beaches of Normandy, joined us again in the War on Terror. The willingness of U.S. and Europe to stand together to defend democracy and freedom, will never waver. To all who were part of the D-Day operation, your bravery and heroism still resonates with our military today. We are forever indebted to you for your service, we seek to follow in your footsteps and we honor you. Not only on the 75th anniversary of D-Day, but every day, as we remain ready to defend our nation, our friends and our allies, as you did so courageously 75 years ago. (audience applauding)
Thank you, Mr. Hoffman. It is now my distinct honor to introduce Ms. Barbara George. Ms. George’s father, Captain Malcolm L. George, served with the 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, during World War II. On D-Day, June the 6th, 1944, he fought his way ashore on Utah beach. Captain George successfully landed and survived D-Day, but he died the next day on June the 7th, 1944. Captain George was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his devotion to duty and valiant leadership. Please join me in welcoming Barbara George. (audience applauding)
It’s an honor to be here. Like he said, my father was Captain Malcolm George, and he died on June 7th and I think the best description of his death was in the citation that accompanied his Distinguished Service Cross, and I’ll read that to you. “On the second day of the invasion, “the battalion in which Captain George “was planning and training officer, “was engaged in a desperate battle. “A powerful enemy force with a number “of 88 milometer guns and automatic weapons “was holding the high ground and impeding “the advance of the battalion. “Caption George observed that severe casualties “were being inflicted by a hidden enemy “and immediately organized a group of volunteers “and with complete disregard for his own safety, “personally led them in a successful assault “upon the enemy mission gun position. “While leading the attack, Captain George lost his life. “The extraordinary heroism, complete devotion to duty “and valiant leadership displayed “by Captain George reflect great credit upon himself “and was in keeping with the highest traditions “of the Armed Forces”. It was odd for me and my brothers to grow up in the 40’s and early 50’s, hearing that our father was dead and yet no one talked about it. My oldest brother said they were a lot of people at our house one day and he either heard that our father was dead, or my mother told him something and that was it. He didn’t get any sorry, or any comfort, he just got on his bicycle and ran through town. It was a era of children are to be seen, not heard. When I was 14, my mother moved to another town and I was mystified, in my heart was thinking, how will my father find us when we move? Even though I knew that was illogical, it just was there. And it didn’t become real for me until I was 63 and went to Normandy American Cemetery. And I saw his grave and I went, “Oh, it’s real, it’s true”. My father’s military records were destroyed in the 1973 fire in St. Louis, and so the mystery of his life continued for me. However, after my mother died, I found my father’s army trunk, which had been returned to her. Ah, such a treasure, because my father had kept a copy of all his Army records. It was the first time that I realized he smoked a pipe and wore eyeglasses, because I found those things there. It appeared that my mother had also added her records of house leases, rent, permits, licenses, ID cards from that period. I read of my mother’s grief, and how the telegram notifying her of my father’s death, didn’t come to her house until 13 days after he was killed. She was devastated and still had to talk to her in-laws, who were absolutely crushed. I can’t imagine losing your son. And my mother really had no friends to talk to because she had traveled base to base with my father and all her friends were the Army wives and they’d all been sent back to their home states. After two years of my father was killed, the War Department sent a letter notifying my mother of the burial location of my father and it was a temporary location. It was another year before she was notified that he was permanently interred in the grounds beside his comrades who also lost their lives. And that turned out to be the Normandy American Cemetery. It was hard on her, but it was hard on my brothers and I, too. We grew up in a small town where everybody, all the kids, had a mother and a father. We didn’t, people would say, “Where’s your daddy”? Well, he was killed in the war, whatever that meant. In piecing his story together from the records I found, I found that he took ROTC in college and attended ROTC Infantry Camp at Fort George Meade in Maryland. While he was still college, he accepted an appointment as Second Lieutenant Infantry in Officers’ Reserve Corps. After college graduation, he worked for his father while continued to be a part of the Officers’ Reserve Corps. He was soon appointed First Lieutenant of Infantry in the Army of the United States. Life appeared to be good for him, with a good job, wife, two boys and a baby on the way. But in May of 1941, he was ordered to active duty. A few months later he received a commendation from Headquarters, 4th Motorized Division, Fort Benning, for his demonstrated aptitude and ability. Later he was transferred from the Anti-Tank Company to Company M in order to take command of Company M. Then in June of ’42, he was promoted from First Lieutenant to Captain. Not only did my father make the ultimate sacrifice for his country, but I think his character is best reflected in some of the letters of condolences that my mother received. Congressman Kelly wrote, “The sacrifice which Malcolm has made “will not have been in vain”. General Marshall extended his deep sympathy writing, “Your husband fought valiantly, “in the supreme honor of his country’s need, “his memory will live in the grateful heart of our nation”. The wife of Lieutenant Colonel Erasmus H. Strickland, wrote that her husband, “Relied on Malcolm absolutely, “and he always felt that he could talk with him “and he would understand and not discuss it with other people”. A fellow Captain Robert Lyle Jr. wrote a letter to our family and said, “Your husband and father stood for the best in man. “His ideals were high “and his love for his family so intense, “that he shall be with you always”. And another officer, Captain Malter Salatich, wrote to my mother and said he realized he’d never met her, but he felt he had to write because of how my father talked about her. He felt like he knew her. And then he added, “He was truly a man “whom all called friend, “one who always had a cheerful hello, “regardless of where or when. “Such an officer is an asset to the outfit. “Many are the times we realize “when this battalion suffered with his loss, “when we hear phrases like great man “and great loss for the battalion. “His outfit has more than made history, “due to such leaders as he behind the wheel. “He may be gone, but not forgotten”. May we never forget the great sacrifices of everybody involved in Operation Overlord and their battles. Thank you. (audience applauding)
Thank you very much, Barbara. Ladies and gentlemen, please rise and render appropriate honors for the playing of “Taps”. (“Taps”)