Saturday, June 06, 2009

Remembering the Boys of Pointe du Hoc

One of the greatest and most moving speeches I have ever heard was given by President Reagan at Pointe du Hoc in Normandy on the 40th anniversary of D Day. Ten years later I took my Dad and some other friends to visit the Normandy cemeteries and beaches and pay our own tribute to those who had died for our freedom. I never thought I would see the day when my father would agree to visit a German cemetery, but he did. And we both shed a tear there too. If you've never been, I can highly recommend the experience. But take plenty of Kleenex with you.


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for posting this item. It is very moving and brought me to tears.
Indeed he was "the great communicator.

Anonymous said...

very moving, lest we forget.

I was asked by my friend's 19 year old daughter, what is D Day, my jaw dropped, youv'e got to be kidding i replied, sadly no she wasn't, i asked wasn't you taught this at school, didn't you ever listen to your nan who was a well loved may she rest in peace MOTHWA.
Labour education education education, our proud history is not being taught.

Anonymous said...

I have the book of the speech, so to speak, "The Boys of Pointe Du Hoc: Ronald Reagan, D-Day, and the U.S. Army 2nd Ranger Battalion" by Douglas Brinkley. It weaves together President Reagan's speech with the event that happened at Pointe Du Hoc, though there could have been a bit more detail in the book about the events.

The speech awakened the then current younger generation of Americans and made them look upon that "Greatest Generation" (of which Reagan was a part) with a new veneration and respect.

This speech along with President Reagan's "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" and his Challenger Disaster orations show the "Great Communicator" at his very best.

Jabba the Cat said...

A proper speech for the occasion by a politician of stature and gravitas.

Wholly fitting as the current crop of political pygmies have shown themselves unworthy of the occasion.

Nick K said...

I agree it is moving and an excellent speech. I was also struck by how great the delivery is: absolutely assured, clear, speaking in sentences, yet "conversational" in tone.

Perhaps President Obama has that rhetorical ability amongst today's politicians, but it is, and probably always was, a rare skill.

Guthrum said...

Anon 9.32

Kids are just not taught history anymore. They are taught 'history' through the filter of current political requirements. Posted on much the same this morning following the travesty that is Sutton Hoo.

Anonymous said...

thanks for this Iain. A truly moving tribute to so many who gave their lives FOR US.

It's a shame so many don't even know about it or even bother.

Silent Hunter said...

Many thanks Iain, for posting this.

It's good to remember - and in remembering, we should do all in our power to prevent young men and boys from having to go through such events again.

Thatsnews said...

Could you imagine G. Brown doing this? God, I can. What an idiot he'd make of himself. Might you, Regan was a thrower of lines, and Brown is a thrower of Nokias...

Gordon Brown clings on, half-man, half-limpet, employs his: "A big boy did it, and then he ran away" defence...

DespairingLiberal said...

Yes, Reagan was a good actor and could deliver a line. But in his younger days he was one of the actors who denounced "communists" (actually, anyone vaguely liberal) to the McArthy witchunts. So perhaps the lessons of opposing Nazi totalitarianism era did not quite reach him?

hatfield girl said...

Please don't make a speech in Normandy, Brown. Please. You shouldn't even be there this week end. You should be in Scotland after an audience with the Queen.

strapworld said...

Thank you Iain. I remember watching this at the time and it was so moving. I have always thought President Reagan to be the best US President in my lifetime.

Like Baroness Thatcher, he gets panned by the left wing ''comedians'' etc and that belittles those pygmies!

I expect another Obama sermon Look left, look right, pause, speak up, look right, look left.
The second coming has arrived! I am sorry I find the man is another phoney-like Bliar- all talk, no action.

DespairingLiberal said...

Let's not forget Ron's valiant war service as an acting coach in New York either. He managed to avoid service overseas by having himself classified as "nearsighted", something that many other young men in 1942 overcame by the devious trick of signing a form stating they did not mind wearing glasses in combat.

Lucky Ronald!

Alcuin said...

My memories of Reagan during his Presidency were unfortunately largely formed by "comedians" in Britain. Spitting Image portrayed Reagan much as they more recently portrayed Bush, as a bumbling gung-ho warmonger, who needed idiot boards to make his speeches, as a man who hit the deck "laying down" rather than running, who spoke soothing bromide to a complacent people.

I now realise what a travesty that portrait of Reagan was. Reagan did not do soaring rhetoric like Kennedy or Obama, he spoke simple truths. I recommend all reading this go to YouTube, type in "Ronald Reagan" and listen to one or two of his speeches.

golden_balls said...

@Alcuin and others

I too remember the 80's and the spitting image parody but while he was a great communicator he wasn't the best of politicians.

The issue today should be about the great sacrifice people gave that day for our freedom not about reagan and his success or failure.

Max Atkinson said...

There's also an audio version of this which serves as a moving soundtrack to a neatly edited selection of D-Day pictures and film footage that I've posted on my blog today. It's also going to be interesting to see whether Obama manages anything near as impressive as the great communicator at the top of his game - see

Newmania said...

I wish we could have him back and it reminds me how little I trust the current incumbent.
In some ways quite a hard headed speech Iain with logic and contemporary resonance . I would say you under praise if anything

( get back to your blog ..... no sleeping Dale to important )

Carl Gardner said...

I've visited Normandy cemeteries a couple of times - American, German and Commonwealth. All are impressive and moving, each has a different mood, and all tell you something about the country that tends them, I think, and its attitude to the war. The American cemetery I visited was like a "shining city on a hill" and the German ones I've visited are subdued, sombre and seem even quieter, if that's possible.

I think how you feel about them may depend exactly where you go and in what order, but what struck me, visiting a Commonwealth cemetery last, was how gentle, international and human it was compared to the others. There were even Germans in that cemetery as I recall, something I greatly approve of, as well as Czechs, Poles and others. And the graves were interspersed with a variety of flowers.

It left me with the impression that the War Graves Commission does an excellent job.

Anonymous said...

The only speech Brown should ever be allowed to make is;

"I resign"

In addition,he does ever survive beyond Monday,the press should boycott his press conferences,perhaps leaving just the Japanese journalists to ask that would be good - similar to the best protest of all - turning you back on the person.

Anonymous said...

Did Brown just call it "Obama" beach instead of "Omaha" beach ?

Mirtha Tidville said...

Anyone visiting the War sites in Normandy should ensure they visit both the German Cemetery at La Cambe, which is stark, symbolic and as you would expect rather Teutonic. Their dead were also in large numbers and roughly the same age as the Allied very young..

Follow that with a visit to the American one at Colleville, very close by, and have your breath taken away by the sheer size, scale and number of crosses, everyone of them facing towards America, their home.

The British cemeteries are more localised and smaller, beautifully kept by the War Graves Commission and all of them are poignant, sad and yet hopeful places..

Havent been for a while,but must go again soon. They draw you back...inspiring

joc said...

Indeed he did - what a twat.
Speeches today not too bad, but nothing near the Reagan one.

Gary Elsby said...

If ever you're in the Cannock Chase area, make a point of visiting the German War cemetery there.

Reburied from all corners of the UK and two to a grave. 1st and 2nd war, including whole Zeppelin crews in one grave each.

Many died of flu and at least one murdered in a prison camp by fellow prisoners in a notorious kangaroo trial.

Totally isolated, walled and fenced in securely.

No flowers allowed but graves are covered with a heather growing naturally nearby.Total respect is demanded, if not total silence.

An incredible sight and not that far from the new National war Cemetery near Lichfield.

Nickname unavailable said...

I believe it was the great speechwriter Peggy Noonan who wrote that. She also wrote the speech Mr Reagan gave the evening of the day the Challenger blew up.

She writes a column for The Wall Street Journal, if you are interested in reading more of her writing. This week her column is about the unveiling of a statue of Mr Reagan in the Capitol building in Washington.

Jimmy said...

"that "Greatest Generation" (of which Reagan was a part)"

Yes, I imagine he picked up a few paper cuts on the front line at Burbank.