D-Day 80th Anniversary Biden

POINTE DU HOC, France — President Joe Biden on Friday sought to inspire Americans to defend democracy both at home and abroad, invoking the heroism of Army Rangers who climbed the seaside cliffs of Pointe du Hoc 80 years ago.

The same spot was enshrined in the nation’s political memory in 1984, when President Ronald Reagan honored the “boys of Pointe du Hoc” and equated their incredible feat against the tyranny of Nazi Germany to the Cold War fight against the Soviet Union. Now, Biden aimed to harness both historic moments to advance his own vision for the country’s global role amidst two arduous wars and the persistent influence of former President Trump, who has made threats to abandon U.S. commitments overseas and continues to question the legitimacy of the 2020 election.

“As we gather here today, we do not only honor those who exhibited such remarkable bravery on that day, June 6, 1944,” Biden said. “We listen to the echoes of their voices. To hear them. Because they are calling us. They are asking us what we will do. They are not asking us to climb these cliffs. They are asking us to remain true to what America represents.”

While ostensibly an official speech, given a day after Biden commemorated the Normandy landings with solemn ceremonies alongside allies, Biden’s remarks were laden with political undertones, as his campaign ramps up its efforts to appeal to national security-minded Republican voters who admired Reagan and have never embraced Trump’s “America First” foreign policy.

“They are not asking us to do their job,” Biden said of the “ghosts of Pointe Du Hoc.” “They are asking us to do our job: to safeguard freedom in our time, to defend democracy, to resist aggression both abroad and at home, to be part of something greater than ourselves.”

A day earlier, Biden paid his respects to the D-Day force in an emotional ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery, which was also attended by dozens of veterans in their late 90s and older. As a Navy officer recited “The Watch,” affirming that a new generation was taking up their post in defense of freedom, and a twenty-one gun salute cast an eerie smoke over 9,388 white marble headstones, the president grew heavy-eyed and raised his fist as an F-35 flypast executed a missing-man salute.

Biden, at 81 years old, a mere generation removed from the Normandy soldiers, portrayed himself — and the nation — as their successors in the timeless battle between freedom and tyranny. However, the country’s willingness to assume their mantle is more uncertain than ever due to the possibility of Trump’s return to the White House.

“We are the fortunate heirs of the legacy of these heroes — those who scaled the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc,” Biden said. “We must also be the guardians of their mission … the bearers of the flame of freedom they kept burning brightly.”

This speech coincides with Biden’s efforts to end the conflict between Ukraine and Russia — to free hostages held by the militant group and increase humanitarian aid to civilians — while also attempting to realign U.S. foreign policy to address China’s rising influence in Asia.

“Does anyone doubt they would do everything in their power to vanquish the hateful ideologies of today?” Biden said.

Before departing for Normandy, Biden met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Paris on Friday, where he reaffirmed the U.S.’s commitment to Ukraine amidst Russia’s invasion and, for the first time, provided details for a monthslong congressional delay in American military aid that allowed Moscow to make territorial gains. It was their first encounter since Biden signed the legislation authorizing the additional military assistance. He also announced a new weapons package, including rockets, mortars, artillery shells, and air-defense missiles.

“I apologize for those weeks of uncertainty about funding,” Biden said, but emphasized that the American people remain steadfast in their support of Ukraine for the long haul. “We remain committed. Unconditionally. Fully,” he said.

Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security advisor, informed reporters that Biden’s speech would focus on the sacrifices made by U.S. soldiers during “an existential struggle between dictatorship and freedom.”

“He will discuss the perils of isolationism and how succumbing to dictators and failing to confront them will lead to further aggression, ultimately resulting in a greater cost for America and the world,” Sullivan added.

Pointe du Hoc is situated on the sheer cliffs between Omaha and Utah beaches. Before D-Day, the Nazis were believed to have placed artillery there, which would have enabled them to bombard crucial landing zones for Allied troops.

Army Rangers used ropes, ladders, and their own hands to scale Pointe du Hoc while under fire. Upon reaching the summit, they discovered that the artillery had already been moved elsewhere and only decoys remained. The weapons were located and disabled nearby, and the Americans spent two days fending off Nazi counterattacks.

Reagan commemorated the mission on the 40th anniversary of D-Day in 1984.

“These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc,” he said. “These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped liberate a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.”

Reagan’s speech, delivered while the Cold War with the Soviet Union was still ongoing, also urged the U.S. not to abandon Europe.

“We in America have learned difficult lessons from two World Wars,” he said. “It is better to be here ready to defend peace than to seek refuge across the ocean, rushing to respond only after freedom has been lost. We have learned that isolationism was never and will never be an appropriate response to tyrannical governments with expansionist ambitions.”

This perspective would likely make him incompatible with the modern Republican Party, which has become increasingly skeptical of foreign entanglements under Trump’s leadership.

Biden highlighted this contrast during his State of the Union address this year.

“It wasn’t long ago when a Republican president, Ronald Reagan, thundered, ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,’” a reference to another famous speech in Berlin. “Now, my predecessor, a former Republican president, tells Putin, ‘Do whatever the hell you want.’”

Trump made this remark at a rally in South Carolina in February, warning European allies not to fall behind in their military spending or he would decline to assist them as president.