Jimmy Carter photo

Normandy, France Remarks of the President and President Giscard d'Estaing on Visiting the Site of the D-Day Landings.

January 05, 1978

PRESIDENT CARTER. President Giscard, friends of France and the United States of America join together in history in the present and in the future.

This morning I flew in a modern-day helicopter from our Armed Forces in Europe from Paris to these famous beaches, and on the trip I thought about the past which has brought us together today.

In June of 1940 General de Gaulle, the leader of the French Resistance forces, said, "The flame of the French Resistance must not and will not die." Four years later, on the 6th of June, 1944, the Allied forces came to the beaches known to us as Omaha, Utah, Juno, Gold, and Sword to begin a heroic action leading to the liberation of Europe.

On that day, an unprecedented armada landed on the shores of Normandy. One hundred and seventy-six thousand brave troops came here from England to launch a tremendous attack. Within 2 weeks, more than 1 1/2 million troops had moved into France and the other coastal countries.

Before me, beyond the flags of my country and that of France, there are more than 9,000 white marble crosses erected in memory of those who died near here. They served under great commanders-General Eisenhower, General Montgomery, General Bradley, General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., who, because of his heroism, was awarded the Medal of Honor and later joined the French 2d Armored Division under General Leclerc.

The 1st and the 29th American Divisions were the ones who landed near here on the Omaha Beach. This was where the most fierce resistance was encountered. And of the roughly 2,500 who came ashore, about 2,000 died.

At one point, American rangers had to scale a vertical hundred-foot cliff while the Germans above rolled down grenades upon them.

On Omaha Beach, hundreds of our troops lay dead, and the sight was so impressive that because of that the German commanders thought, until it was too late for them, that the victory had been won by Germany.

But from Juno, Gold, and Sword, Allied forces moved forward and were eventually victorious, and then swept across Europe, restoring freedom here.

Almost two centuries before that, the French had come to our shores to help give Americans freedom, led by Lafayette, Comte d'Estaing, and many other courageous men.

About 30 years before the Normandy invasion, in the First World War, when American soldiers arrived in Europe, their first words as they stepped ashore were, "Lafayette, we are here."

In Europe now, there are about 30,000 American soldiers and marines who are buried in Europe from the First World War. Sixty thousand others are buried in Europe from the Second World War. More than 150,000 bodies of American dead were returned to our own country to be buried there who lost their lives in the defense of freedom in Europe.

We are determined, with our noble allies here, that Europe's freedom will never again be endangered. We now have about 200,000 Americans, fighting men, in Europe to make sure that this threat is never before us again.

General Donaldson 1 told me that this is the first time that two Presidents have ever been together in a memorial to those who gave their lives in the past. But I believe that this is symbolic of the unshakable bonds which history has seen bind together American people and the heroic people of France.

1 Brig. Gen. John W. Donaldson, Officer in Charge, European Office, American Battle Monuments Commission.

We are proud for what we have done together. We are sure that our friendship will be everlasting. And it is indeed a great honor for me, as President of the United States, to come here to pay homage to the brave men and women of the past who have ensured our precious freedom today.

PRESIDENT GISCARD D'ESTAING. Mr. President, like all young Frenchmen of my age, on June 6 I heard the news of the landings over the radio. That news spread like wildfire across Paris—"They have landed." "They" were the Americans, the British, the Canadians, and the French, who, on five beaches, had come to give us back hope and freedom.

You can imagine our impatience and our pride. The fight was a harsh one. Here at Omaha, General Bradley's 1st American Army lost 3,000 men in the first few hours. It was only after 8 hours struggle that veterans of the 1st American Division managed to reach the top of the cliff.

Everyone knows Colonel Taylor's command—"The only people who are on the beach are those who are dead and those who are about to die—we must move."

All this France remembers. She expresses her gratitude to those who fell for her freedom, to their families, and all their friends.

Today, our two peoples join together in their deep-lying will for peace, but also in their dedication to liberty—that liberty which for us is the most precious of all possessions, which we will never renounce and which would justify, if by misfortune it became necessary, the greatest of all sacrifices. That is why we are ready to work in the pursuit of peace with all those who want freedom to spread throughout the world.

Note: The exchange began at 11:32 a.m. at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.

Jimmy Carter, Normandy, France Remarks of the President and President Giscard d'Estaing on Visiting the Site of the D-Day Landings. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/244074

Filed Under





Simple Search of Our Archives