THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Honolulu, Hawaii) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release September 2, 1995
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT NAVAL COMMEMORATION AND WREATH-LAYING CEREMONY
Flight Deck Aboard USS Carl Vinson Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
11:30 A.M. (L)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you, Admiral Fluckey, for your kind words and far more for your astonishing service to our country.
Secretary Dalton, Secretary Perry, Secretary Brown, Admiral Boorda, Admiral Macke, Admiral Zlatoper, Admiral Moore -- Admiral Moore, Captain Baucom, to all the distinguished veterans who are here from the United States Navy, the Marine Corps, the Coast Guard and the Merchant Marine; to the crew of the USS Carl Vinson: It's good to be back. I was on board in San Francisco in August of 1993, and now I have two of these caps which I can proudly wear around the United States.
Fifty years ago today, on the other side of this Pacific Ocean, the war ended. It was a war that erupted in smoke and horror aboard the battleship Arizona, and concluded with peace and honor aboard the battleship Missouri. Today we gather to offer a commemoration and to renew a commitment. We commemorate the men and women of the Navy, the Marine Corps and their sister services who gave everything they had to the cause of freedom. And we commit ourselves to their legacy by meeting the great demands of this age with the same determination and fortitude.
More than 2,000 years ago, Pericles gave a funeral oration in which he said it was the actions of his fallen soldiers and not his own words that would stand as their memorial. Today we say the same about our own beloved war dead, and you, their brothers and sisters still living who served alongside them. Your deeds in the Pacific will forever remain the greatest tribute to the American naval services.
Millions of sailors, aviators, submariners and Marines joined in the effort against Japan. They steered and stoked and flew and fought aboard thousands of ships and planes and boats. They were transported ashore by the Coast Guard, sustained by the Merchant Marine, supported by the WAVEs and healed by the Medical Corps. You who served lived in a world of grey steel and saltwater; coarse sand and endless skies; violent rain and hard wind; white coral and precious red blood. Long days and endless nights passed between hard battles. But the front line was usually no further away than the bow of your ship.
The Pacific journey started where we stand today in Pearl Harbor -- our darkest dawn. Here in the span of an hour, as they put out fires and struggled to save their ship, farm boys became sailors and teenagers grew into men. They fought in a war unlike any previous war, waged in places most Americans had never heard of, in disease-filled jungles and on an ocean we once thought too huge to fight across.
It was a war of battles dominated by aircraft carriers -- first at Coral Sea, then at Midway when a superior Japanese force was undone by American code-breaking and the courage of our pilots who dove into impossible odds to sink the enemy carriers.
It was a war where, for the very first time, sailors, soldiers, aviators and leathernecks all worked together. At Guadalcanal, the Navy, the Marines and the Army began to turn the tide in freedom's favor. Before they were done, sunken ships had transformed the sea floor into a steel carpet. The surrounding waters actually were renamed "Iron Bottom Sound."
In the Gilberts, the Marshalls, the Marianas, the Carolines, amphibious forces shot to shore with a prayer and the cover of their comrades in the air and at sea.
It was a war that required unparalleled courage -- at Leyte, where PT boats took on cruisers, where battleships damaged at Pearl Harbor returned to break the back of the Japanese fleet; at Iwo Jima, where more than 6,800 Marines gave their lives to have our flag snap in the wind atop Mt. Suribachi; and finally, on Okinawa, the war's final and bloodiest struggle.
In the Pacific, no two battles were the same, but each was fought for freedom. In the Pacific, our leaders were colorful and could not have been less alike, but they all shared a certain American greatness: Nimitz and Halsey, Spruance and Holland Smith, and Admiral Arleigh Burke, who honored me with his presence at dinner in Washington just a few weeks ago. And, of course, behind them all was President Roosevelt, who had been Assistant Secretary of the Navy in World War I, and who remained the guardian and inspiration to the Navy from his first day to his last as President.
In the Pacific, each ship was an outpost of liberty. In the Pacific, every American demonstrated that, as Admiral Nimitz said, they had uncommon valor as a common virtue.
In the Pacific, we won a war we had to win, but at a terrible cost of tens of thousands of lives never lived fully out. That sacrifice touches all of us today. But those of you here, more than anyone, who lost a shipmate or a friend, someone with whom you refueled a plane or scraped a railing or reloaded an overheated 40-millimeter gun -- you endured. And the basic American values of courage, optimism, responsibility and freedom all triumphed. And all of us are in your debt.
I would like to ask all the veterans of the Pacific War who are here to stand, or if you cannot stand, to wave your hand and be recognized. Please stand up. (Applause.)
We also owe you a very great deal because of what you did with your remarkable victory. You did not leave your ideals at the war's edge. You brought them home. You carried them to college and the G.I. Bill and into work. And together, you created the most prosperous nation on Earth. You extended our vision across the globe to rebuild our allies and our former adversaries, to win the Cold War, to advance the cause of peace and freedom.
So to all of you who brought us from the Arizona to the Missouri, all of us who followed will always remember your commitment, your deeds and your sacrifice. They are as constant as the tides and as vast as this great Pacific Ocean.
May God bless you and God bless America. (Applause.)
END 11:38 A.M. (L)