Ty Cobb: President Reagan’s D-Day speeches
In 1984 President Ronald Reagan and allied leaders attending the G-7 Economic Summit left London and gathered in Normandy to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, the difficult but eventually successful battle that turned the tide of the war in Europe. My God, it hardly seems possible it was 35 years ago!
Reagan gave two extraordinarily moving speeches that day, one at Omaha Beach with French President Francois Mitterrand, and another, more remembered, at Pointe du Hoc — the cliffs the Rangers scaled in the face of German artillery firing directly down on them. This was a U.S.-only ceremony, and many of the Rangers who survived that assault were on hand to hear the president that day. I was fortunate to be in charge of coordinating U.S., French and allied participation in the events, and it was a moment that none of us there will never forget.
Reagan’s speech that day (Peggy Noonan was the primary drafter) was one of the most memorable he gave in his presidency. In addition to extolling the bravery of the invasion forces, Reagan used the occasion to urge the Allies to stand firm in the face of aggression (now from Moscow), but did reach out to the Soviet leadership — saying he was prepared for an improvement in relations, if the Kremlin were as well (remember, this was still a time when the Soviet Union was led by aging apparatchiks, at that moment by the 84-year old Konstantin Chernenko!). I think Reagan was anticipating significant change in the Kremlin, and it came with the selection of Mikhail Gorbachev just eight months later.
Here is a link to the president’s speech — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEIqdcHbc8I&feature=channel_page — I strongly urge you to listen to Reagan’s short but poignant address, and reflect on the significance of this anniversary. Later that day Reagan and Mitterrand spoke at a joint commemoration of the D-Day landings at Omaha Beach. While Reagan and Mitterrand had a prickly relationship, that day both spoke movingly of the casualties suffered in the allied forces’ landings against extensive German resistance.
All in all, a most memorable day — the 40th anniversary of the D-Day landings some 75 years ago.