Remarks by National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice at the V-E Day Commemoration - As Prepared for Delivery
National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice
Remarks at the 70th Anniversary of V-E Day Commemoration
World War II Memorial
Friday, May 8, 2015
The message, when it came at last, was simple: “The mission of this Allied Force was fulfilled at 0241, local time, May 7th, 1945.” Signed, Eisenhower.
There was no paean to victory. No exultation. Too much had been lost for that. Too much remained to be done.
When President Truman addressed the nation, even as he proclaimed that “the flags of freedom fly all over Europe,” he reminded all Americans of those priceless lives that were “rendered as a sacrifice to redeem our liberty.”
As the news spread and people poured into the streets to celebrate—in New York, London, Paris—cheers and laughter mixed freely with tears.
And, even in the midst of one triumph, we vowed to fight on and finish the war in the Pacific.
Ladies and gentlemen, 70 years after that great turning point in the history of our world, we remember the sacrifice that was made to preserve freedom—those who laid down their lives for a better future. The Americans who won the beachhead at Normandy, inch by bloody inch.
From Britain, “The Few,” who defied the Luftwaffe. The Free French, who never accepted Nazi occupation. The brave Poles, who fought “for our freedom and yours.” The Canadian regiments, who pushed across France into Northern Germany. The resistance movements in every European country. And, in the East, the people of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and all the former Soviet states, who endured many of the heaviest losses of the war.
But, today, we can also celebrate without reserve the legacy of their accomplishments—a legacy that could not yet be imagined in 1945, with the trauma of war so fresh. Not just a Europe that has known seven decades of peace and growing prosperity. But the way the seed of democracy has flourished around the world. The lasting bonds that unite Europe and the United States. The international institutions that have underwritten peaceful development.
The continual reaffirmation of those basic principles which formed our Alliance—that all men and women of all lands should be able to live free from fear and want.
When American and Soviet troops met in Torgau, Germany in April of 1945, they met not only as victors in war, but as witnesses to some of history’s most unconscionable crimes.
Hardened soldiers were sickened by the horrors of Dachau and Auschwitz. As one world, we proclaimed “never again,” and that legacy continues to drive us to stand against atrocities and acts of mass inhumanity.
On the homefront, the war helped unleash movements toward greater equality for all people as women stepped into factories to keep America’s industries pumping and joined auxiliary services.
Platoons of white and black GIs fought side by side on the fields of Europe, and then black servicemen, like my late father’s Tuskegee airmen, came back here to demand justice in their own land.
We honor all those brave men and women. Those who fell, and those who survived—including the proud veterans who are here with us today.
We owe each of you an unpayable debt. And, on behalf of President Obama, let me reaffirm the enduring gratitude of the American people.
The story of your generation will never be forgotten. We will continue to tell it to children blessedly untouched by war, so that they understand, as this memorial reminds us, “the price of freedom.”
We will continue to mark the passing of anniversaries like this one, so that memory never fades into complacency toward the evils of our world. We will carry on the march toward a world of greater rights and opportunities, so that all men and women can live their lives with the basic human dignity that your generation fought for.
Because, while one mission was fulfilled in 1945, the cause of defending freedom is never finished. As President Truman put it, “We must work to bind up the wounds of a suffering world—to build an abiding peace, a peace rooted in justice and in law.”
That is the pledge we make today and every day. And, no matter how difficult the challenges that lie ahead or what obstacles arise, we will never abandon this struggle. Because, for all that has changed during the past 70 years, one thing never will: the United States of America will always stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of the world on the side of liberty and justice for all.
Thank you so very much.