I apologize for coming so early. I am deeply moved by your welcome--and I thank all of you very much.
On yesterday, it was my sad duty to cross the Pacific to the capital of a great and faithful ally to pay my last respects to a man who was my friend--and your friend, too--the late Prime Minister of Australia, Harold Holt. As I said to his countrymen, Harold Holt was courageous and he was steadfast-he was there when he said he would be there--and that is the kind of leader the cause of freedom requires.
On tomorrow, I will return to Washington, but I could not come so near without coming on here--to be with all of you, even for a very short time. I know that, at this season of the year especially, I bring with me the love of your families and the affection of your friends who are thinking of you, who are all praying for your safekeeping every waking hour. I bring with me, also, the gratitude of the Nation you serve so honorably, so loyally, and so well.
But I come to this American Air Force base--on the soil of a gallant and independent nation--to express to each of you the great respect, the admiration, and the abiding affection held for you by your Commander in Chief. Our Nation has never been more ably or honorably served than by all the men who are serving here.
I especially want to tell you of the very great importance of what all of you are doing to shorten the war.
In the history of air power, no such difficult set of tasks has ever been assigned as those assigned to you and those assigned to your comrades in the Army, the Navy, and the Marines. Guerrilla combat provides no easy targets. That is why aggressors--here as elsewhere--have been tempted to choose guerrilla tactics as the means of their aggression. Yet here, for the first time, air power is actually depriving the aggressor of his advantage.
Through the use of air power, a mere handful of you men--as military forces are really reckoned--are pinning down several hundred thousand--more than half a million--North Vietnamese. You are increasing the cost of infiltration. You are imposing a very high rate of attrition when the enemy is engaged--and you are giving him no rest when he withdraws. Air power is providing the mobility which meets and matches the stealth of an enemy whose tactics are based on sudden, hit-and-run attacks.
Working with the Vietnamese and our other fighting allies, we are defeating this aggression. We are doing it with a proportion of forces at least half that usually required to cope with a guerrilla. enemy of such size. The use we are making of air power--in all its forms--is a major reason the plans of the enemy are now doomed to complete failure.
It is a factor of utmost importance to the future of the peace of Asia--and for that matter, the peace of the entire world--that aggressors never again will be able to assume that aggression through cruel, brutal, and sadistic wars of national liberation will ever be either economic or successful.
Air power is denying aggression access to cheap success or to ultimate victory.
Whether men fly B-52's, light spotter planes, fighter bombers, helicopters, sea-and-air rescue, the tankers, or the reconnaissance-whether they serve in the cockpit or on the ground, in communications or in supply--whether in the Air Force, the Army, the Navy, or the Marines--your Commander in Chief salutes you, each of you, one and all. You are manifesting a courage and skill, a discipline and a restraint, an imagination and a patriotism which adds to our admiration and our esteem every day. I know--as I am sure you know--that your missions are bringing closer every week the time of peace for which we and all of your fellow countrymen pray each day.
I am glad I can be with you early this morning, as I am with you every single day of every month in spirit.
I cannot promise--and you above all others know that no man rightly could promise--that the way ahead will be easier or that our tasks we may soon lay down.
To this generation of Americans, much has been given. Of us all, much is asked. We shall know other great trials. We shall be faced by other great tasks. The life of free men is never again going to be a life of ease. It is not ease, though, that we Americans seek. It is justice and peace that we seek, in a world where aggression is denied its victory and oppression is deprived of its dominion.
Let no man in any other land misread the spirit of America. The spirit of America is not to be read on the placards or the posters. It is a spirit that is manifest in the steadfastness and the resolve of a nation that is holding firmly and faithfully to its course.
No man can come here for even a short period and shake your hand or look you in the eye and have the slightest bit of doubt for a moment that America is going to hold firm and that America is going to stay faithful throughout the course until an honorable peace is secured.
From our course, none of us shall ever turn.
So as I meet you and greet you and leave you this morning, I say on behalf of your families and your friends, on behalf of all the American people and our allies, and freedom- and liberty-loving peoples everywhere, God bless you, God keep you, every one of you.
We shall always be deeply in your debt. Thank you and good morning.