President Bush's speech
at the 50th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack:
Mrs. Rickert, thank you for that wonderful tale of how it was
at Hospital Point. Thank you for that warm and generous introduction. And now I
have a favor to ask of you. I hope you and everyone else will take a deep breath
for me too, please. [Laughter] You didn't need it, but I might; this is a very
I would like to salute the members of my Cabinet that are here
today, particularly Dick Cheney, our able Secretary of Defense who's done so
much for the military, so much in terms of leadership for our Nation. I want to
salute General Powell, the Chairman of our Joint Chiefs of Staff, and again take
this opportunity on this historic day to thank him for his leadership, his
inspirational leadership, for all the men and women that serve in the Armed
Forces. I want to thank the commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet, Admiral
Larson. And I especially want to single out all the fellow veterans here,
particularly those who are the survivors, the survivors of this historic day.
expect if we went around the room, all of us would remember. I remember exactly
when I first heard the news about Pearl Harbor. I was 17 years old, walking
across the green at school. And my thoughts in those days didn't run to world
events, but mainly to simpler things, more mundane things like making the
basketball team or entering college. And that walk across the campus marked an
end of innocence for me.
Americans heard the news, they froze in shock. But just as quickly we came
together. Like all American kids back then, I was swept up in it. I decided that
very day to go into the Navy to become a Navy pilot. And so, on my 18th birthday
— June 12, 1942 — I was sworn into the Navy as a Seaman Second Class.
I was shocked — I was shocked at my first sight of Pearl Harbor several months
later — April of '44. We came into port on the carrier San Jacinto. Nearby,
the Utah was still on her side, parts of the Arizona still stood silent in the
water. Everywhere the skeletons of ships reached out as if to demand remembrance
and warn us of our own mortality.
2,000 men died in a matter of minutes on this site, a half century ago. Many
more died that same day as Japanese forces assaulted the Philippines and Guam
and Wake Island, Midway, Malaya, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong. On that day of
infamy, Pearl Harbor propelled each of us into a titanic contest for mankind's
future. It galvanized the American spirit as never before into a single-minded
resolve that could produce only one thing — victory . . .
triumphed, despite the fact that the American people did not want to be drawn
into the conflict — "the unsought war," it's been called.
Ironically, isolationists gathered together at what was known in those days as
an "America First" rally in Pittsburgh — at precisely the moment the
first Americans met early, violent deaths right here at Pearl Harbor. The
isolationists failed to see that the seeds of Pearl Harbor were sown back in
1919, when a victorious America decided that in the absence of a threatening
enemy abroad, we should turn all of our energies inward. That notion flew escort
for the very bombers that attacked our men 50 years ago . . .
remembering, it is important to come to grips with the past. No nation can fully
understand itself or find its place in the world if it does not look with clear
eyes at all the glories and disgraces, too, of the past. We in the United States
acknowledge such an injustice in our own history: The internment of Americans of
Japanese ancestry was a great injustice, and it will never be repeated.
values we hold dear as a nation — equality of opportunity, freedom of religion
and speech and assembly, free and vigorous elections — are now revered by many
nations. Our greatest victory in World War II took place not on the field of
battle, but in nations we once counted as foes. The ideals of democracy and
liberty have triumphed in a world once threatened with conquest by tyranny and
despotism . . .
a letter arrived from the son of a Pearl harbor survivor, a Navy man named Bill
Leu, who is with us here today. His son writes from his home, now in Tokyo,
saying: "A half century ago, my father's thoughts were on surviving the
attack and winning the war. He could not have envisioned a future where his son
would study and work in Japan. But he recognizes that the world has changed,
that America's challenges are different. My father's attitude represents that of
the United States: Do your duty, and raise the next generation to do its."
can understand Bill's feelings. I wondered how I'd feel being with you, the
veterans of Pearl Harbor — the survivors — on this very special day. And I
wondered if I would feel that intense hatred that all of us felt for the enemy
50 years ago. As I thought back to that day of infamy and the loss of friends, I
wondered: What will my reaction be when I go back to Pearl Harbor?
let me tell you how I feel. I have no rancor in my heart toward Germany or Japan
— none at all. And I hope, in spite of the loss, that you have none in yours.
This is no time for recrimination.
War II is over. It is history. We won. We crushed totalitarianism — and when
that was done, we helped our enemies give birth to democracies. We made our
enemies our friends . . .
just speaking for one guy, I have no rancor in my heart. I can still see the
faces of fallen comrades, and I'll bet you can still see the faces, too . . .
But don't you think they're saying 50 years have passed, and we are at peace?
Don't you think each one is saying: "I did not die in vain"?
May God bless each of you who sacrificed and served. And may
God grant His loving protection to this, the greatest country on the face of the
Earth, the United States of America.
Thank you all, and God bless you. Thank you very much.