Lloyd Austin Addresses Veterans at D-Day Event in Normandy

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin addressed veterans, officials, and families at an event marking the 79th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, France, on Tuesday, June 6.

Austin joined American and French speakers to commemorate the Normandy landings of 1944, which began the campaign to liberate Europe and defeat Nazi Germany.

Speaking at the Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, Lloyd said: “It’s easy to forget how desperate the battle was, how loud the clash was, and how many things could’ve gone wrong. How many did go wrong. But on D-Day, courage won out over terror, daring over cruelty, and liberty won out over tyranny.” Credit: US Department of Defense via Storyful

Video transcript

- (SINGING) --can you see by the dawn's early light what so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming. Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous was fight, o'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming. And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air gave proof through the night that our flag was still there. Oh say does that star-spangled banner yet wave o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

- Please be seated.


Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the American Batlle--

LLOYD AUSTIN: Well, thank you, sir. It is indeed an honor to be in France today. Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, and above all, World War II veterans here today, I am absolutely humbled to join you at this hallowed place on this fateful day.

79 years ago, France and much of the rest of Europe lay beneath the Nazi boot. The night before Operation Overlord, General Eisenhower met with troops from 101st Airborne, and some thought he looked nervous. But one soldier called out, now, quit worrying, General. We'll take care of this thing for you, and they did.

Young men from the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada, France, and other countries rallied together, as President Roosevelt said, to set free a suffering humanity. The largest armada in history carried tens of thousands of Allied troops to the gates of Nazi-occupied France. The Allied pilots flew low under relentless German fire. The paratroopers jumped into the cloudy skies and improvised when many of them landed miles from their drop zones. Soldiers weighed down by gear waded off boats and were raked by Nazi guns. And the medics dove in to care for the wounded as the cold waters turned red.

It's easy to forget how desperate the battle was, how loud the clash was, and how many things could have gone wrong, how many things did go wrong. But on D-Day, courage won out over terror, daring over cruelty, and liberty won out over tyranny. Quit worrying, General. We'll take care of this thing for you.

One of the soldiers who took care of things was First Lieutenant Waverly Wray, known as Charlie, of the 2nd Battalion 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment who are known as the Panthers. Lieutenant Wray jumped into Normandy before dawn on D-Day. His battalion was on its own until it could be reinforced by the Allied amphibious forces storming the beach.

So Wray's unit, Company D, faced terrifying odds. German forces outnumber them by more than 20 to 1. But the Nazis didn't count on the Panthers, and they certainly didn't count on citizen soldiers like Charlie Wray. Wray's battalion commander ordered him to counterattack the German flank, and Wray personally found and destroyed the German command post in Sainte-Mere-Eglise, and it became the first town in France that the Allies liberated from Nazi occupation.

After the fighting, Wray returned to report with part of his ear sliced off by a German bullet and his own blood caked on his neck and his shoulder. And Wray's commander said, they've been getting kind of close to you, haven't they, Waverly? And Lieutenant Wray grinned and said, not as close as I've been getting to them. That's the spirit that took the beaches. That's the courage that liberated a continent, and that's the valor that swung the hinge of fate from tyranny to freedom.

Since the days of ancient Athens, historians have known that free soldiers will fight more bravely than the armies of tyrants. The men who landed here on D-Day did just that, and they wrote themselves into the pages of history as a grand refutation of Hitler's bile. D-Day reminds us that there is no force multiplier stronger than A just cause. The democratic ideals carried by the troops of Operation Overlord still inspire free people everywhere.

Ladies and gentlemen, it was one of the great honors of my life to serve some 50 years after D-Day as the commander of the 2nd Battalion 505th Parachute Infantry. In fact, I jumped into Normandy with elements of my battalion for the 50th anniversary of D-Day. With pride, we shouldered the legacy of liberty passed down by Charlie Wray and his brothers in arms.

And it is all of our duty to defend with undimmed vigor the principles for which the Allies fought. We still seek a world where aggression is a sin, where human rights are sacred, where those who preach hatred and tyranny and genocide are cast out. We seek a world where civilians are safe from the ravages of war, where sovereignty and territorial integrity are respected. And we seek a world where all states and all peoples can pursue their own destinies and freedom.

Ladies and gentlemen, today's open world of rules and rights was built on the shoulders of those who took the beaches code named Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword. Today's rules-based international order is the legacy of those who won the bloodiest war in history, and it is our task to carry forward their mighty work.

For most of us, the demands of democratic citizenship are far less stern than they were in 1944, but we must meet today's challenges with our full strength, soldier and civilian alike. If the troops of the world's democracy could risk their lives for freedom then, surely the citizens of the world's democracy can risk our comfort for freedom now.

And some of our friends no longer have that choice. On a recent trip to a US training post in a free Germany, I met brave young men and women from Ukraine who were learning how to fight for their lives and for their country. And today I am more determined than ever to stand by them for as long as it takes.

In our unsettled times, we are again-- we again hear some sneer that tyranny is the future and that people long for strongman rule and that the unity of free people will shatter and that the hour of democracy has passed. They are wrong. And every D-Day, citizen by citizen, we remember that we each have the ability and the responsibility to fight for the principles that drove the Allied armies forward.

79 years ago, General Eisenhower told the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines of the Allied Expeditionary Force, quote, "The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you." The eyes of the world are still upon the heroes of D-Day. They are upon us as well, and we will not let the torch of freedom go out.

Every time a veteran of D-Day is gathered to his maker in the fullness of time after a long life lived in freedom, he wins a final victory over Hitler. To the veterans of World War II, we salute you. You saved the world. We must merely defend it.

So may God bless the American and Allied troops who fought and fell some 79 years ago. May God bless United States of America, and may God continue to bless all those who still fight for freedom. Thank you very much.