The Boys of Pointe Du Hoc, Ronald Reagan, 1984
We're here to mark that day in history when the Allied
peoples joined in battle to reclaim this continent to
liberty. For four long years, much of Europe had been
under a terrible shadow. Free nations had fallen, Jews
cried out in the camps, millions cried out for liberation.
Europe was enslaved, and the world prayed for its
rescue. Here in Normandy the rescue began. Here the
Allies stood and fought against tyranny in a giant
undertaking unparalleled in human history.
We stand on a lonely, windswept point on the northern
shore of France. The air is soft, but forty years ago at
this moment, the air was dense with smoke and the
cries of men, and the air was filled with the crack of
rifle fire and the roar of cannon. At dawn, on the
morning of the 6th of June 1944, 225 Rangers jumped
off the British landing craft and ran to the bottom of
these cliffs. Their mission was one of the most difficult
and daring of the invasion: to climb these sheer and
desolate cliffs and take out the enemy guns. The Allies
had been told that some of the mightiest of these guns
were here and they would be trained on the beaches
to stop the Allied advance.
The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers --
at the edge of the cliffs shooting down at them with
machine-guns and throwing grenades. And the
American Rangers began to climb. They shot rope
ladders over the face of these cliffs and began to pull
themselves up. When one Ranger fell, another would
take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would
grab another and begin his climb again. They climbed,
shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the
Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing
the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to
seize back the continent of Europe. Two hundred and
twenty-five came here. After two days of fighting only
ninety could still bear arms.
Behind me is a memorial that symbolizes the Ranger
daggers that were thrust into the top of these cliffs.
And before me are the men who put them there.
These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the
men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who
helped free a continent. These are the heroes who
helped end a war.
Gentlemen, I look at you and I think of the words of
Stephen Spender's poem. You are men who in your
'lives fought for life...and left the vivid air signed with
Forty summers have passed since the battle that you
fought here. You were young the day you took these
cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with
the deepest joys of life before you. Yet you risked
everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What
impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-
preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs?
What inspired all the men of the armies that met
here? We look at you, and somehow we know the
answer. It was faith, and belief; it was loyalty and love.
The men of Normandy had faith that what they were
doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity,
faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this
beachhead or on the next. It was the deep knowledge -
- and pray God we have not lost it -- that there is a
profound moral difference between the use of force
for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You
were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and
those others did not doubt your cause. And you were
right not to doubt.
You all knew that some things are worth dying for.
One's country is worth dying for, and democracy is
worth dying for, because it's the most deeply
honorable form of government ever devised by man.
All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight
tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries
were behind you.
Reagan, Ronald. "The Boys of Pointe Du Hoc." 40th Anniversary of D-day. U.S. Ranger Monument at Pointe Du Hoc, France. 6 June 1984. Historyplace.com. Web. 26 Apr. 2016.
In context, the pronoun “it” (line 62) refers to