Proclamation 6697

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Delivered on 30 May 1994.

By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation

Fifty years ago on June 6, 1944, the largest armada of land, sea, and air forces ever assembled embarked on a great crusade across the English Channel to free the European continent of a tyranny that had taken hold and threatened to strangle the very freedoms we cherish most. Over 5,000 ships and 10,000 aircraft carried more than 130,000 soldiers, sailors, and airmen from the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Poland, France, Norway, the Netherlands, Czechoslovakia, New Zealand, Australia, Luxembourg, and Belgium to the shores of Normandy. More than 9,000 Americans never returned.

D-Day was considered crucial not only by the Allies, but also by the Axis powers. Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, commander of the enemy forces in the area, dubbed the first 24 hours as "The Longest Day," referring to the fact that if the Allies were successful in establishing a beachhead, many more units would follow, overwhelming the enemy in the West. However, for the Allied forces, June 6, 1944, was truly "The Longest Day" for a different reason. For the men who landed on the beaches that fateful day, each minute of combat was like an eternity as they were continuously bombarded by the unyielding Nazi forces.

But the enemy was unsuccessful, as the Allied forces had more than just their will to win urging them on. As defenders of justice, they were driven by the desire to restore the peace and freedom that the Nazi occupation had denied to millions of people. Anne Frank wrote of the impending invasion in her diary:

"It's no exaggeration to say that all Amsterdam, all Holland, yes the whole west coast of Europe, right down to Spain, talks about the invasion day and night, debates about it, and makes bets on it and-hopes... The best part of the invasion is that I have the feeling that friends are approaching. We have been oppressed by those terrible Nazis for so long, they have their knives at our throats, that the thought of friends and delivery fills me with confidence."

For Anne Frank, that deliverance never came, for she died in a concentration camp just months before the end of the war. But millions of others were delivered from oppression and fear. Those who landed on the beaches of Normandy, not only on D-Day but also throughout the rest of the war, were responsible for the liberation of many of the concentration camps as well as cities, towns, and villages throughout Europe that had suffered for so many years.

Thus, 1944 was a year of triumphs and sorrows. The Allies made great advances in bringing liberty to millions, while families and friends on the home front, faced with the knowledge that many of their loved ones would not return, continued to build the "Arsenal of Democracy."

It is to those millions of American men and women, veterans and civilians, those who came home from the war and those who made the ultimate sacrifice that we say "a grateful Nation remembers." We must never forget the high price paid by the valiant to ensure the freedoms of the many.

The Congress, by House Joint Resolution 303, has designated June 6, 1994, as "D-Day National Remembrance Day."

Now, Therefore, I, William J. Clinton, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 6, 1994, as D-Day National Remembrance Day, and May 30, 1994, through June 6, 1994, as a Time for the National Observance of the Fiftieth Anniversary of World War II. I call upon all Americans to observe this period with appropriate programs and activities.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of May, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and ninety-four, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and eighteenth.

William J. Clinton

[Filed with the Office of the Federal Register, 2:52 p.m., May 31, 1994]

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).