SPEECH | June 6, 2019

Remarks As Prepared for Admiral James G. Foggo III at the U.S. Navy Memorial Event in Normandy, France, June 6, 2019

Ladies and Gentlemen, Français, Françaises, des invitées distingués et surtout les anciens combattants, good afternoon. Bonjour.

Quel honneur incroyable d'être ici parmi vous. Je peux dire à la suite de la soirée d'hier, que je suis entouré de vénérables patriotes et alliés qui, comme moi, sont honorés de participer à cette cérémonie importante.

Before I talk about the heroes that fought on this beach 75 years ago, I would like to thank one of MY heroes, Rear Admiral Frank Thorp (my classmate at the U.S. Naval Academy) and his organization, the U.S. Navy Memorial Association, for making today possible.

Frank has worked tirelessly in the United States to properly tell the story of sacrifice and service of the U.S. Navy to our country. He is also, just like me, a firm believer in trans-Atlantic unity, which, also like me, he learned from a father that, as Mike Newell mentioned earlier, parachuted into the fields of Normandy as part of the Allied invasion on D-Day!!! Given Frank’s devotion to this Alliance, he has energized the Navy Memorial to dedicate a Lone Sailor statue on this site that will forever be remembered as the first Lone Sailor statue located outside the United States, and frankly, I couldn’t think of any better place than on the beaches of Normandy where the liberation of Europe was brought ashore by the U.S. and Allied Forces. Well done Frank, both to you and the incredible Navy Memorial team.

Which includes our Master of Ceremonies for today’s celebration, Commander (retired) Mike Newell, who serves as a Navy Memorial board member. Mike carried the statue that we’ll commemorate today in his CARRY-ON luggage over from the U.S., which illustrates the mental and PHYSICAL dedication he has to this organization.
Ladies and gentlemen, a round of applause for the US Navy Memorial. [Applause]

Aussi, je voudrais remercier vivement l'amiral Philippe Dutrieux (Le Prefet Maritime de la Manche / mer du Nord), La Marine Nationale, ainsi que Monsieur Henri Milet (Le Maire de Ste. Marie Du Mont). Nos alliés et amis.

Étant francophone et francophile, je chéris la relation entre nos deux pays. Je reste constamment admiratif face à votre dévouement à agir de telle façon que nos pays ne soient jamais dans l’obligation de se lancer dans une autre guerre mondiale tant que nous resterons soudés.



Les membres de la First Alliance Organisation, dirigés par le VADM (retraité) Scott Van Buskirk, sont présents. Cette alliance a été créée pour célébrer le pouvoir de notre engagement mutuel, comme en témoigne votre présence ici aujourd'hui. Merci.
Finally, I have to pay my deepest thanks and warmest regards to the “HOST” of yesterday and today’s events, LtCol(ret) Val Simon of the U.S. Marine Corps. And ladies and gentlemen, I can tell you that Val is a MARINE in the truest sense of the word.

When she told my staff that her home would serve as the “TOC”, Tactical Operations Center, I knew we would be in the best of hands for this event.
It has been an absolute pleasure to get to know her as well as some of you over the past couple of days and I know you’ll all join me in a round of applause for this Marine who proudly upholds the legacy inherent in the uniform she dons today.

[Applause]

It is sometimes hard for us to imagine the scale and breadth of World War II. It was the most global war in history that directly involved more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. It was also the deadliest—estimates range from a staggering 50 to 85 million fatalities. In fact, we may never know the exact number.

Operation OVERLORD was the largest seaborne assault in human history. During the lengthy operation, over 6,000 Allied ships carried 1 million soldiers across the English Channel to a 50-mile-wide strip of the Normandy coast in Occupied France.

Look out on the English Channel today and try to picture it then. This was an amphibious assault on an open beach. Defensive fortifications stretched for miles, high above the beaches and hidden deep beneath the waves. Highly trained German Soldiers were in tactical positions.

Allied battleships and other combatants cruised offshore shelling those positions, but were not able to dislodge their foe from their location, nor degrade their ability to inflict catastrophic casualties on our troops and landing craft.

Like many of you, I have personal connections to this war: my father was in the Canadian Forces in WWII, like his father in WWI.

My dad landed at Normandy in July 1944, on D+44. He proceeded to crawl across France, Belgium, the Netherlands and into Germany until demobilizing on V-E Day, 8 May 1945.

I have his war map in my office, his unit history in my hand [Hold up Copy of Unit History], and his war stories in my heart. But none of it can adequately illustrate the horror this beach saw 75 years ago as well as the sheer courage of the sailors driving landing craft toward the beach and soldiers wading ashore.

Their courage was equaled by that of an elite band of frogmen, who were the predecessors to our modern-day Navy SEALs and EOD – Explosive Ordnance Disposal – personnel. It was their job to clear away the underwater obstructions and mines so that assault craft could get on to the beach.
They were the first to land on D-Day and came under intense sniper, mortar and shell fire, all the while contending with mined obstacles in rough seas.

Mike provided you with the story about SF1 – Special Forces First Class, Angelos Chatas and we are honored to have his granddaughter with us here today.

A minute ago, I asked you to imagine what this beach would have looked like under an amphibious assault on the scale of OVERLORD. Now look in the opposite direction toward the terrain leading up from the beach. That was Angelos’s view as the first man to come ashore to begin the demolition work. I can think of no greater depth of courage to whither that unyielding fire to ensure your fellow warriors could land safely behind you to continue the fight. Elisabeth Wright we are all honored to live your grandfather’s story through you and hope to measure up to his sacrifice when our service is complete.

Although Angelos arrived first, he certainly wasn’t the last. The mission of the “Lock-Yews”, which is the catchy name for the Landing Craft Obstruction Clearance Units was as murky as the water they came ashore through. These men were charged to “clear the way” for the landing craft to distribute the invasion force ashore and push back the German defenders.

However, they weren’t yet certain of the obstacles that they would encounter. I tell you, these men were a higher breed than we mere mortals. In this day, it would be difficult for me to plan such an intricate operation without the necessary “intelligence” of what I should expect.

The Navy realized this fact after the war and Angelos and his fellow Lock-Yews became the ancestors for that special breed of warrior, the U.S. Navy SEAL.

We just heard a descendent of the frogmen speak – my new Fleet Master Chief Derrick Walters. Master Chief Walters is the first special operator to hold a position this senior in the enlisted community—that of Fleet Master Chief—and I know that he’s ready to carry forward this immense responsibility not just because his exquisite training or hundreds of combat missions, but because of the heritage and pedigree passed down to him which emanated from the sand here beneath our feet.

Speaking of that sand, I’m returning with some today that was picked up some 75 years ago [Messages from Resistance to England / Dad kept this until he died]

A final visual given to us by another SEAL “plankowner”, Explosive Ordinance Technician Dennis Shyrock, describes the scene for us. He described the carnage of cutting through the German Defenses on Utah Beach. The ocean water around him "looked like pure blood. That was sickening." But he added, "we couldn’t stop doing our job."

Several of these men gave the last full measure of devotion to “do their job” on this beach, and they succeeded in clearing a path for the landing force to reach the shore.

Other Sailors and Coast Guardsmen manned the landing craft that drove the those troops ashore. Landing Craft like the “Higgins Boat” and “Mike Boat” made the miracle that was D-Day possible.

Many of those landing craft sunk off the beach, a number of them fell victim to the mines that the Lock Yews couldn’t get to in time, or that the weather had driven the landing craft on to. But many made it. Those that did turned the tide of war.

Victory in Europe would not have been possible without the determination and sacrifice of those Sailors Soldiers and Marines here on Utah beach, 75 years ago today.

The Lone Sailor monument represents all these Sailors and Marines that lost their lives at sea. And what they have given to us.

Their steadfast commitment defeated tyranny and preserved freedom. To them, we are forever indebted.

Our common goal of a Europe whole, free, and at peace remains as valid today as it was then. We share these common values and common interests.

Together, we are committed to European security and promoting peace in Europe and beyond.

I understand these words are often spoken, but I also believe in putting words to action. If you look down to my (right/left), you’ll see my Command Senior Enlisted Leader from the NATO Headquarters I command in Naples, Italy. He is Sergeant Major Juergen Stark and he is a German soldier whose Grandfather fought in WWII. (So our forefathers were once on opposite sides of the battle…) Before coming here I showed Sgt Major Stark my dad’s “class ring” Im wearing it today…

But you see my Dad never went to college, but he had a ring from the “College of Hard Knocks.” It was given to him by a German Major who surrendered his unit to my father when he was a young Lieutenant. [Pause]

[A symbol of respect between former combatants.] My dad remained in the Army for 32 years and he never took his ring off. He was in the Class of 1945 ladies and gentlemen…

Command Sergeant Major Stark is my Senior Enlisted Leader and ALWAYS has not only my back, but those of all Allies at our Command. He believes as I do; that, although we will never forget D-Day and WWII, we will constantly learn from the mistakes of the past to become stronger friends and Allies.

Ensemble…Nous veillerons à ce que le monde soit protégé du mal que les marins et les soldats débarqués sur cette plage il y a Soixante-quinze ans, ont empêché avec un courage et une résilience inégalés. Nous nous souvenons ensemble, nous avançons ensemble et ensemble nous tenons.

En 1789 [Dix-sept cents, quatre-vingts-neuf] a été rédigée la Déclaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen qui promeut La Liberté, l’Égalité, et la Fraternité.

Messieurs, Mesdames, Ces trois mots sont peut être les plus importants principes de notre civilization moderne…

Vive La République! Vive La France! Vive l'amitié franco-américaine!

Merci.