Jimmy Carter photo

Normandy, France Remarks at the Bayeux Town Hall.

January 05, 1978

Mr. President, Honorable Mayor, distinguished and very friendly citizens of Bayeux:

It is a great honor and privilege for me, as President of the United States, to come here to extend to you the friendship of the people who love France as they love their own Nation.

On the automobile which President Giscard has provided for me to use in France, one of the license plates has a number 1776, the date of the Declaration of Independence of our country. The other license plate is 1789, the date of the Declaration of [the Rights of] Man of the French.

Our time of liberty began together with the alliance of freedom, which has persisted through 200 years, and it is a precious possession of the people of our Nation to be bound in brotherhood and sisterhood with the men and women of your great country, France.

I also remember, as a young man in the United States Navy, June 6, 1944, when 5,000 ships left the shores of England to move toward the shores of Normandy.

Three thousand of those ships disembarked, over a 2-week period, more than 1 1/2 million Allied troops—the turning point in the war which ultimately brought freedom to you and to us.

This morning I flew past your city and then down the beaches in a helicopter to observe the area which demonstrated the heroism of the Allies in those discouraging times. I witnessed the Omaha Beach area where 2,000 Americans lost their lives on the first day—a site of tragedy, of heroism, but of victory.

Omaha has one meaning, but Bayeux has a different but related meaning. Here, during the dark days of the occupation, you never lost your commitment to liberty and to complete freedom. And I am very proud to come to your village, which is known by Americans of this day because it was the first city liberated by Allied forces.

In the American cemeteries in Europe, almost a hundred thousand bodies lie, a symbol of our mutual dedication to the principles which have bound us together for more than two centuries.

Presently in Europe there are 200,000 American troops equally dedicated to those same principles of independence and freedom. We feel as a deep political and emotional feeling in our hearts the ties which have bound, do now bind, and always will bind together the people of France and the United States of America. This is a treasured possession of ours, one which is among the most important feelings and commitments of the American people.

I am very grateful of the heroism and the dedication of the people of France, who have for many years since the birth of our own Nation been an inspiration to us. I believe the world recognizes our military strength, which is of great importance, but also recognizes our mutual commitment to unchanging principles which are equally binding and of as great importance as military strength.

Let me say this morning that I am very grateful for your hospitality, your welcome to us, and a renewal of those commitments that have given you freedom, have given us freedom, and will guarantee the symbol of freedom throughout the world in the years ahead.

Thank you again for your warm welcome, which has lifted my heart. And I believe that the people in our own country who watch this ceremony and this tremendous gathering on television and who listen to the news will have their own spirits raised along with yours to the close ties that bind together the United States of America and the great Republic of France.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 1:15 p.m. at the Hotel de Ville. In his opening remarks, he referred to Jean-Louis Le Carpentier, mayor of Bayeux.

Following the remarks, President Carter and President Giscard d'Estaing boarded a train at Bayeux for the return trip to Paris. During the trip, they held a working luncheon and a meeting.

Jimmy Carter, Normandy, France Remarks at the Bayeux Town Hall. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/243827

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