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Remarks on Departure From Midway Island.

June 08, 1969

Captain Yesensky and all of the officers and men and families here in Midway:

I first want to say how much all of us in our party have appreciated the courtesy that has been extended to us on our short visit to Midway.

It happens that for most of us this is the first time we have been to this island. We have read about it for years, and now we finally have come and seen it. We have been most impressed by the splendid American group that is here.

I also know that many of you probably wonder about many of the others in our party, and I think you would like to know who they are. You see the two Presidents, and now I think you would like to meet a man who, like myself, got his World War II experience in the Navy, the Secretary of State, Mr. Rogers.

You know your CINCPAC, Admiral McCain,1 a submariner. Commander of our forces in Vietnam, and one of the great military men of our generation, General Abrams. One of the most distinguished members of our diplomatic corps who has taken a number of very difficult assignments and has handled them with great distinction around the world, Ambassador Bunker.2 The man who was my running mate when I ran for President in 1960, and who now is serving as our chief negotiator in Paris, Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge.

1 Adm. John S. McCain, Jr., Commander in Chief, U.S. Forces in the Pacific.

2 Ellsworth Bunker, U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam.

If I could add just one personal word before we go. As I stand here and see so many of you who are serving your country, and your wives and children and families who are with you, I can imagine that sometimes you must have those moments when you wonder about whether you should have entered the armed services. For some of you it was, perhaps, a voluntary action; for others, it may have been the necessary service that so many of our young people are undertaking at this time.

Particularly, I think it is difficult to serve in an area like this, so far away from the great cities, and for that matter, so far away from the battlefront. I have often thought that serving in what is called a rear area when there is any kind of action going on is more difficult than to be in the area where the action is.

Also, in these periods, I know that you must have read and heard about some of the concern that has been expressed about America's role in the world, and the role of our military. I had something to say about that a few days ago, when I spoke at Colorado Springs.

I simply want, in personal terms, to express my feelings about you who are serving in our Armed Forces. Without the power of the United States of America in places like Midway and around the world, there would be no chance for millions of people on this earth to have peace and freedom.

Now, I know you hear those terms so often they sound like cliches. But that is the fact. Without the presence that you help to create and the power that you have helped to establish, other nations, other peoples in the world, would not have the opportunity that they now have, a chance to choose their own way and not to be dominated by a foreign power.

Speaking of Vietnam, this has been a terribly difficult war. It has deeply divided the people of Vietnam, and it has divided the people of the United States.

But I think we can see in that war something that makes us very proud of the American role in the world. When that war comes to a conclusion, the United States will not have a base; we won't have any economic concessions; we won't have any territory:

We will have gained nothing for ourselves except the possibility that the people of South Vietnam will be able to live in peace and choose their own way without any foreign domination. And this is the American role in the world.

It could have been otherwise. We are the most powerful nation in the world. We are the most powerful, by far, of all the free world nations. The United States could have played, I suppose, a role in which we tried to embark on conquests around the world. We chose not to do so.

I say to you that we as Americans should be proud of our Armed Forces, proud of the role we play in the world. We want, for ourselves and for the world, peace, freedom, and we are willing to make the sacrifices to achieve that goal.

Twenty-seven years ago today, the Battle of Midway came to a conclusion. It was the turning point in World War II.

What this meeting at Midway means, only history will record. But I will say this: That I am confident that as I stand here on this historic island that Americans can be proud of their role in World War II and what men did in that battle and so many others.

And I am confident that in the years ahead Americans can look back on this period of our history with all of the difficulties that have been presented to us, and we are going to be proud that we played a great role in the world; that we did not back away from the challenges that were presented to us; and that as a result of what we did, as a result of the sacrifices that Americans made, the world was a better place for everybody to live in. That is something you can be proud of.

And I certainly want you to know that for all of us who work with you, those men who were standing with me on this platform, we hope that the policies we develop will be worthy of the fine sacrifices all of you are making in your service to the United States of America.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 4:16 p.m. at the air terminal at the U.S. Naval Station on Midway Island. Capt. Albert S. Yesensky was Commanding Officer of the U.S. Naval Station at Midway Island.

Richard Nixon, Remarks on Departure From Midway Island. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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