D-Day: How Dare I Forget It?

Good grief.  I’m ashamed.  I almost forgot something that should never, ever, be forgotten.  The day that just concluded, 6 June, was the anniversary of D-Day.

A great way to reflect on it, if you have time — it’s only about 13.5 minutes, and you and I really should take the time — is to listen to this speech, delivered by President Ronald Reagan at Normandy, on the fortieth anniversary of that “longest day,” 6 June 1944.

In 1984, 6 June was a difficult day to speak.  President Reagan had no teleprompter.  The wind whipped his written text.  He later said that he had to practice giving the speech many times before he could deliver it without being overcome by emotion.  He felt it would be inappropriate, and disrespectful to the aging veterans gathered there before him, if he were to lose control and, thus, draw attention to himself rather than to the men he intended to honor.

And, please, take time to read this prayer, delivered by President Franklin Roosevelt on D-Day in 1944.  He was scheduled to give a radio address to the nation, which was already beginning to hear reports about a daring and unprecedentedly massive invasion of the European mainland, the outcome of which was still very much in doubt.  But he didn’t give a news report or offer a mere update.  He rallied Americans to renewed faith:

“My fellow Americans: Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation.  It has come to pass with success thus far.

“And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:

“Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

“Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

“They will need Thy blessings.  Their road will be long and hard.  For the enemy is strong.  He may hurl back our forces.  Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

“They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest — until the victory is won.  The darkness will be rent by noise and flame.  Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

“For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace.  They fight not for the lust of conquest.  They fight to end conquest.  They fight to liberate.  They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people.  They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

“Some will never return.  Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

“And for us at home — fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas — whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them — help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

“Many people have urged that I call the Nation into a single day of special prayer.  But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer.  As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

“Give us strength, too — strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and material support of our armed forces.

“And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

“And, O Lord, give us Faith.  Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade.  Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled.  Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment, let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

“With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy.  Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogancies.  Lead us to the saving of our country, and, with our sister Nations, into a world unity that will spell a sure peace, a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men.  And a peace that will let all men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

“Thy will be done, Almighty God.

“Amen.”

I’m afraid that I can’t help but wonder whether an American president could do such a thing today.  Would our current president do it?  Is that even thinkable?  And, if so, isn’t it a virtual certainty that the American Civil Liberties Union would be joining with American Atheists and with Americans United for Separation of Church and State to file a massive law suit?  What does this say about the direction America has taken since June 1944, sixty-eight years ago?

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  • Anne

    Very powerful; thank you for sharing this. I hadn’t read the FDR text before.


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