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President Reagan's 1984 Normandy Speech

BEGIN TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: Today is the exact 69th anniversary of the Allied troop invasion of the beaches of Normandy in France, commonly known as D-Day.  The Normandy beaches comprised a 50-mile stretch of heavily fortified coastline.  The Germans at the time owned it. They occupied France, and they knew that the northern shore of that country would be the site of an invasion that would determine the future of Europe.  So it was heavily forfeited. 

Kathryn and I, as you know, spent a day at the Normandy beaches.  We went to Omaha Beach. We went to Pointe du Hoc and the American cemetery on Monday.  I received a series of e-mails, by the way, from people who said that they have done the same thing in the past -- three years ago, 10 years ago, what have you.  Everybody who goes is profoundly moved by it.  What we did is, we came home and we watched the first 30 minutes of Saving Private Ryan last night.

It's the Spielberg movie with Tom Hanks that reenacted it, in what veterans say is the most accurate portrayal of the horrors and the butchery of the invasion they had ever seen.  We're watching the movie, and in the movie the first troops that land on the beaches of Normandy are literally being wiped out.  You watch it and you ask yourself, "How in the world did we prevail?"  Because in the movie -- and this is what most people's frame of reference would be -- it seems like seven out of 10 Americans got killed. 

The answer is the Americans and the British and the Canadians just kept coming.  The Germans ended up being out manned and overrun.  And by the end of the day, the Allies controlled the Normandy beaches.  Five thousand ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the invasion.  Nine thousand Allied soldiers were killed or wounded.  That cemetery has 10,000 graves.  But more than 100,000 soldiers survived and began the march across Europe that reclaimed Europe and France for liberty and freedom. 

The Americans just kept coming. 

That's how it happened. 

They just kept coming. 

Nearly 200,000 arrived. 

And there was a great act of deception that day.  The Germans knew the invasion was coming, but they didn't know when, and they didn't know exactly where.  The deception was so great that the German commander, Irwin Rommel, was not even there.  He was taking a couple days leave for his wife's birthday. He was either in Paris or back in Germany, I'm not sure which.  But even being faked out, the Germans were still a formidable, formidable force.   I mentioned to you that Reagan gave one of the greatest speeches of his presidency (in my mind, anyway) on June 6, 1984, the fortieth anniversary of the invasion in Normandy. 

We posted from the Reagan Library the speech on our website, RushLimbaugh.com.  We send it out in our post-show update, Rush in a Hurry, the free e-mail we send to everybody that wants it.  That's been linked in Drudge.  I want to play for you the first six minutes.  The whole thing runs about 15 to 20. If you want to watch the whole thing, you can do it at our website, RushLimbaugh.com, or at the Reagan Library site, of course.  But the first six minutes tells the story of what happened in just one location on the Normandy beaches, and that would be (as the president pronounced it) Pointe du Hoc.

REAGAN:  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 at the edge of the cliffs shooting down at them with machineguns 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.

AUDIENCE: (applause)

REAGAN: 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, quote, "lives fought for life ... and left the vivid air signed with your honor."  I think I know what you may be thinking right now -- thinking "we were just part of a bigger effort; everyone was brave that day." Well, everyone was. Do you remember the story of Bill Millin of the 51st Highlanders? Forty years ago today, British troops were pinned down near a bridge, waiting desperately for help.

Suddenly, they heard the sound of bagpipes, and some thought they were dreaming.

Well, they weren't.

They looked up and saw Bill Millin with his bagpipes, leading the reinforcements and ignoring the smack of the bullets into the ground around him.  Lord Lovat was with him -- Lord Lovat of Scotland, who calmly announced when he got to the bridge, "Sorry I'm a few minutes late," as if he'd been delayed by a traffic jam, when in truth he'd just come from the bloody fighting on Sword Beach, which he and his men had just taken.  There was the impossible valor of the Poles who threw themselves between the enemy and the rest of Europe as the invasion took hold, and the unsurpassed courage of the Canadians who had already seen the horrors of war on this coast.

They knew what awaited them there, but they would not be deterred. And once they hit Juno Beach, they never looked back.  All of these men were part of a roll call of honor with names that spoke of a pride as bright as the colors they bore: the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, Poland's 24th Lancers, the Royal Scots Fusiliers, the Screaming Eagles, the Yeomen of England's armored divisions, the forces of Free France, the Coast Guard's "Matchbox Fleet" -- and you, the American Rangers.  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?

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, 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.   

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

RUSH:  And that, ladies and gentlemen, was a president, the great Ronald Reagan, affectionately known here as Ronaldus Magnus.  That was a president.  That speech on D-Day of 1984, June the 6th, that was in the middle of the presidential campaign for that election year.  The Democrat candidate was Walter F. Mondull.  The Democrat convention had not yet occurred in San Francisco, where Mondull was gonna promise to raise everybody's taxes.  But the Mondull people know that they had the nomination at that point.  It wasn't official, convention hadn't happened, but they knew when Reagan gave that speech that it was curtains, because that was a president.  You can't fake sincerity like that.  And I really urge you to try to find time to listen to all of it.  I think it's about 15, 20 minutes.

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RUSH:  Roanoke, Virginia.  Hi, Chris.  Great to have you with us on the EIB Network.  Hello.

CALLER:  Hi, Rush.  I am a long-time listener since 1992.

RUSH:  Thank you.

CALLER:  And I wanted to comment on your comments about visiting the D-Day beaches.  I just came back from France and spent a day at Arromanches, Omaha Beach, and Pointe du Hoc with my two children.  My children are age 27, 22.  And they both told me that was the highlight of our trip to France.  We were in France for eight days.  Paris was fine, but the historical value of our visit was tremendous.  Our family was greatly impacted by World War II.  My parents, their grandparents, were displaced persons after the war and fled to the US to immigrate.  So the effects of World War II are well known by my children as well as the cost of fighting for freedom and the value of freedom.  The visit to Arromanches was amazing just to see the artificial port that was put into place by the British.  Omaha Beach, to see it with your own eyes, was worth more than a thousand words.
RUSH:  Isn't that incredible?  It's so huge --

CALLER:  You can see all the movies you want, but I encourage all your listeners to make a visit just to see the expanse, the distance, the massive length of the beach and then the next beach and the Pointe du Hoc with its lunar craters from bombings still present and you can climb into the bunkers. It was just amazing, and to see the monuments along the beach there and to see the distance with your eyes. It took six hours for these men to get to this point and all the casualties, then go to the cemetery to see the beautiful, beautiful memorial and the endless pool there.  It really impacted us.

RUSH:  Me, too.  It's impossible for it not to. You say that you hope everybody could go.  Most people are never gonna be able to, which is why I'm glad you called.  You're very descriptive.  It's a great way you've told the story. 

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

RUSH:  That last caller was just excellent in describing what she and her family had seen.  She said, "I would urge all of your listeners to make the trip and see it."  The fact of the matter is most people are not going to be able to take a trip to France to see this, and in fact, folks, that's one of the reasons why I'm taking the time to explain it, as I saw it, and as it moved me, because I know that most people are not gonna be able to ever go to France.  Many will, but the vast majority who would like to won't be able to, and yet it's still, to me, very worthwhile.  It's relevant, that's the Greatest Generation, as it's been popularly referred to. 

What happened in World War II and the bravery of Americans in reclaiming that continent, it's indescribable.  I hope in describing it I can somehow convey the sheer unique bravery and audacity of what was attempted and what was achieved, what was accomplished against the odds.  It's why I've said -- and I've gotten in trouble for this -- talking about my own generation, the Baby Boom generation.  I saw a story earlier this week that Baby Boomers are committing suicide in record numbers, and everybody's trying to figure out why.  And, you know, I've gotten in a lot of trouble when I have pointed out that, in my opinion, my generation had it easy compared to the D-Day generation, compared to the World War II generation, compared to the depression generation, the World War I generation. 

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I mean, those were tough times.  That required growing up and being an adult, realizing that there were far more things much bigger than you as an individual.  They had to learn that when they were 18, 14, 15 years old.  Baby Boomers today, some of them in their sixties, still do not come to grips with the fact that the world does not rotate around them.  So I've popularized the saying that we, Baby Boomers, had to invent our traumas to try to tell ourselves how tough our lives were compared to everybody else's, and we've been very successful at it.  We have invented a lot of traumas, and we believe the traumas, and we have created a whole lot of stress for ourselves.  And it's very real. 

I'm not denying the stress is real, but when I say that, you know, in statistic terms, my generation hasn't faced nearly what the World War II generation faced, although you might say that we do face it in a way now.  Back during the 1940s and fifties and sixties in the Cold War era, this country was threatened by external forces who verbalized the threat.  They promised, they swore they would wipe us out. They swore that they would make our children slaves.  My parents and grandparents believed them and fought them accordingly.  Today the threat still exists externally, but to many people there's an internal threat now as well that has to be fought, and it's no less serious today than it was in the past. 

So an argument could be made that these are every bit as serious times as they were back then.  But all that aside, it was 69 years ago when this happened, over 70 years ago when it began.  Pearl Harbor today, largely forgotten.  So realizing most people will never be able to go there and see it, most people's contact with it visually will be in a movie, I feel very fortunate to have been able to visit this place and come back and share with you my thoughts on it, 'cause to me it's extremely important, understanding the past, its relationship to liberty and freedom.  Which is what I think the daily struggle in this country really is all about.  Individual liberty and freedom, that to me is what American exceptionalism always means. 

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The history of humanity is one of tyranny, dungeons, bondage, prisons.  The vast majority of human beings who have lived on this planet have been subjected to tyrannical, authoritarian governments, regimes, neighborhoods, leadership, what have you.  The United States really was the first time in the history of humanity where a nation was founded on the concept that it is the individual who reigns supreme. That it is the individual, as he was created by God, that makes the difference.  The individual triumphs over any government, over any institution. 

The institutions in the government serve the individual.  Not the other way around.  That was what was exceptional.  Up until the founding of this country, the individual had always served the institution, the government, the dictator, the tyrannical leader, the whoever.  And we saw what happened with the founding of this country.  The turning loose of the natural born yearning of the human spirit created the greatest country ever.  For one simple reason.  We had the freedom to be the best we could be.  We had the freedom to pursue our dreams.  Our dreams in this country can become reality.

For most of the people who have lived on this planet, dreams remained just that.  History is replete with the accounts of great individuals who attempted to break free from tyranny and authoritarianism.  And that's why the founding of this country is so special and that's why so many people want to preserve it.  That's why so many people fear that it is under assault by fellow citizens who do not appreciate that aspect of this country, who do not believe in the prominence and the triumph of the individual. 

Those people believe that individuals are incapable.  The people who do not believe in the founding of this country look at average people with contempt, and they see incompetence, inability.  They see people that need to be provided for, need to be led, need to have decisions made for them.  We don't.  We believe turn people loose and the vast majority of them will pursue excellence, however they define it, will try to make their dreams come true.  In this country more people than ever before made their dreams come true.  That's the beauty of it.  And in World War II -- well, the D-Day invasion, the accounts differ on the number of people who died, 9,000 on that day. 

largeYou walk through that cemetery, I'll tell you the reaction I had, the American cemetery at Normandy. The wind is always blowing there; it's never really still.  It's on the coast.  It was cold.  Even though it was sunny, it was chilly.  It always is.  There may be a month or two when it's in the eighties, but it's always chilly.  The wind is always blowing. The wind is always a hawk.  You always have to bundle up.  But it's nevertheless strikingly beautiful today.  You walk through that cemetery, and you see these tombstones and the Stars of David, and they are aligned perfectly, and no matter which direction you look they are perfectly aligned, no matter what angle, they're perfectly aligned.  You can't help but be moved by it. 

And then you look at the names and the dates of the death of everybody on the tombstones, and you see 18 to 22, 18 to 30, and every tombstone represented a life, somebody was alive, somebody was living before that day, and they died for people they would never meet.  They died for people they would never know.  To me, it's profound.  That's why every day I age I have an increasing awe for people in the United States military and the military around the world.  I have a great unbound appreciation for what they sign up for and what they accomplish.  So that's why I take the time to explain it because most people will not be able to see it other than that movie.  

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