THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Rome, Italy)
BACKGROUND BRIEFING BY SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL
June 2, 1994
The Excelsior Hotel
8:01 P.M. (L)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I know that you've been given a good deal of information about the program, but in case some of you don't have all of the information, or in case parts of the schedule or program have changed since you got your packets, I'll just run start to finish very quickly.
The President is going to the Sicily-Rome-American cemetery tomorrow to honor all the American and Allied forces who fought in the Italian campaign in World War II. That includes, of course, the landings in Sicily, Salerno, Anzio, the liberation of Rome and the campaign to penetrate the Gustav Line that preceded that event.
There's a tendency, of course, to think of this trip in shorthand as a D-Day trip; and, indeed, I notice your teeshirt says D-Day trip. But, of course, as important as D-Day is, there's more to the trip than just D-Day. We're here for the ceremony tomorrow to commemorate the sacrifice and valor of those who fought in the Italian campaign. And when we go to England, we'll be commemorating the sacrifice and valor of those who participated in the air war over Europe. And then we go to Normandy for the D-Day events.
In terms of the program tomorrow, the President and the First Lady will arrive by motorcade at the cemetery at 9:10 a.m. After a short hold, where he is greeted by the superintendent of the cemetery, Joe Bevilaqua, the President will proceed at 9:30 a.m. through part of the cemetery and stop briefly at a couple of gravesites.
First he'll stop and pay respect at the grave of Ophelia Tiley, who was a Red Cross nurse who was killed in an airplane crash in Italy in March of 1944. Nurse Tiley had been active at the beginning of the war in terms of evacuating people in France, and then was a participant in the Italian campaign until her death in March of 1944. At that gravesite, the President will be joined by June Wandrey, who is a World War II nurse from Wisconsin, who served in the North African and Italian campaigns. Nurse Wandrey was also a participant later in the war in the liberation of Dachau. There is a handout that the Press Office will be giving you that has bios on the people that are involved in terms of the gravesites and the greeters.
Second, the President will stop at the gravesite of First Lieutenant Robert Waugh, who won the Medal of Honor in North Africa before his death in 1944. And there, the President will be joined by Rocco Telese, a World War II veteran who was a friend of Lieutenant Waugh's in the 85th Division.
Third, the President will stop at the gravesite of Sergeant Silvester Baer, and will be joined by Robert Shaefer, who was a friend of Sergeant Baer's, and on the day that Sergeant Baer died, was actually the soldier that was supposed to be on the patrol, but was unable to go on the patrol; his place was taken by Sergeant Baer, and Sergeant Baer and the others on the patrol were killed.
And, last, in terms of the pre-ceremony events, the President will stop at the Grave of the Soldier Known But to God, where he'll be joined by four United States Senators who are World War II veterans -- Senator Dole, Senator Hollings, Senator Inouye and Senator Pell.
At that Grave of the Unknown, the President will hand flowers to the four Senators who will lay the flowers at the gravesite.
The ceremony itself begins at 10:05 p.m. when the President, President Scalfaro and Prime Minister Berlusconi are announced. The Italian and United States National Anthems will be played, the Presidents will proceed to the stage, there will be a prayer, then Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jesse Brown will make welcoming remarks and introduce President Scalfaro.
After remarks by President Scalfaro, Secretary Jesse Brown will introduce John Shirley, who is a veteran of the Anzio campaign who served as a sergeant and landed at Anzio in April, 1944, later won the Silver Star and is currently the President of the Society of the Third Infantry Division. The Third Infantry Division was one of the principal units involved in the campaign at Anzio and the four-month struggle after the landings to hold that beachhead.
John Shirley will make brief remarks and then introduce the President. The President will make remarks, there will be a wreath-laying by President Clinton and President Scalfaro, a 21-gun salute, the playing of Taps, and then a flyover, first by U.S. F-16s in the missing man formation, and then by the Italian Aerial Demonstration Team. The aircraft will be proceeding east to west when they do their fly-over.
The President and the First Lady will then exit the stage and proceed to the chapel where they'll bid farewell to President Scalfaro. And following the ceremony, the President will conduct about a one-hour informal meeting with American veterans at a reception that begins at 11:30 a.m. The veterans will be grouped by unit, up to a thousand of them, in six tents. And the President will proceed from tent to tent for about an hour, hour and 10 minutes, before he departs Nettuno at 1:10 p.m.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Are there any questions on the event tomorrow or --
Q This Silvester Baer from Texas -- on the Silvester Baer from Texas, could you tell us from where in Texas he is and what his unit was?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, I'm sorry I don't have his unit or hometown in Texas. We can try to get that for you.
Q Is there some way we can get that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We'll do our best.
Q Who were the four senators? Dole, Hollings --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Inouye and Pell.
Q When Bush came here in '89, they made a big point of saying that he would specifically not mention the name "Anzio" because they said the military historians were so split on the U.S. general had been so timid. Is that going to be President Clinton's -- is he going to mention Anzio? Does he share that view?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, I suspect the President will use the word "Anzio." The battle to hold the Anzio beachhead lasted about four months in the face of a very determined German counterattack. There has been a debate among historians about whether General Lucas moved quickly enough to exploit the tactical surprise they achieved on the initial landings, which meant very light resistance. But that's not a factor in anything we're doing tomorrow. We're here to honor all those U.S. and Allied who participated in the Italian campaign. It's not just Anzio, but the entire fight for the liberation of Italy.
END8:10 P.M. (L)