27/11/2011

Ambassador Madeleine Albright : Statement / 50th Anniversary / Battle of the Bulge - Bastogne, Dec. 16, 1994

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STATEMENT 0F

AMBASSADOR MADELEINE ALBRIGHT

50TH ANNIVERSARY

BATTLE 0F THE BULGE

BASTOGNE, BELGIUM - DECEMBER 16, 1994

Your Royal Highness, Mr. Prime Minister, Ministère, our own Ambassadors Blinken, Hunter and Eisenstat, Secretary of thé Army West, Excellencies, Mr. Mayor, Ladies and Gentlemen and, above ail, vétérans of thé Battle of thé Bulge, Good Morning.

On behalf of ail Americans, I am honored to convey to you thé greetings and best wishes of thé Président of thé United States. It is a privilège to participate in this day of proud memory and shared résolve.

I begin with a word of personal gratitude. For when Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia, my family sought and found refuge in England. Europe was our world and thé war a battle for its survival. When we were not in thé bomb shelter, we were glued to thé radio. We wondered whether we would ever be able to return to our homes.

Through thé darkness, we were sustained by thé inspiring words of Roosevelt and Churchill, and by thé courage of allied soldiers and résistance fighters. I was just a little girl, but in my heart, even then, I developed an abiding respect forthose willing to fight for freedom, and I fell in love with Ameri­cans in uniform.

For thé people of Belgium and Luxembourg and elsewhere in occupied Europe, this was a time of suffering, constant sorrow and quiet heroism. Between blitzkrieg and Normandy, five long years elapsed. Then, thé struggle for Europe, and for mankind's soûl, was finally and fully joined.

Fifty years ago, Hitler launched his last offensive. Striking where thé lines were weakest, gam-bling on surprise, hoping poorweather would hamperthe response, underthedelusionthatavictory would sever an unseverable Western Alliance, thé Nazis drove forward, at terrible cost, through thé forests and fields of thé Ardennes.

Hère, thé American Army faced, and met, its sternest test. Hère, men marched and artillery roared through thé fog, mud and night. U.S. Forces, undermanned, under-equipped, fought back, with help from thé British and thé brave people of thé Ardennes.

For hère, thé world watched again as ordinary soldiers -- not grand stratégies or sophisticated weapons -- determined thé outcome of a war. Twenty-four German divisions assaulted. They were opposed fiercely by each and every one of thé units whose colors are honored hère today; opposed by thé V Corps at Elsenborn Ridge, thé 7th Armored Division at St. Vith, thé "Damned Engineers" of thé 291stat thé Bridge over thé Salm, and thé 30th Infantry Division atStoumont.

 

 

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Despite bitter weather and relentless attack, thé Americans would not yield. Finally, thé 101 st Airborne division and éléments of thé 9th and 10th Armored Divisions were encircled hère at Bastogne.

This is when and where thé tide of thé battle turned. Asked to surrender, General Anthony McAuliffe said in one word what thé world had been waiting to tell Hitler for Years, "NUTS". The German commander asker: "Should this be interpreted as a positive or a négative response?" The answer: "Négative, and it means go to hell."

With thé clearing of thé skies on December 23rd, came parachuted supplies to beleaguered Bastogne and air attacks on German armor. But thé battle raged on until Patton's 4th Armored Division broke thé encirclement. Then, thé German attack stalled and retreat began. Although thé war did not end hère, thé battle for Europe was truly won hère. For thé backbone of thé Nazi military was broken and thé allied victory became only a matter of time.

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Later today, this historié event will be celebrated with parades and pageantry. But for thé vétérans of thé Battle of thé Ardennes, and for thé Belgians who survived thé war, spectacle will only reinforce private reflection, quiet pride, silent grief. None among us can recapture youth; none can re-claim those who were taken from us too young. Seventy-six thousand Americans were killed, captured or imprisoned during thé battles waged hère; thé number of civilians killed is not known.

If anniversaries are a time for recollection; they also are a time for re-dedication. You, thé vétérans of this conflict, may hâve felt you were fighting only for yourselves, for your buddies, for your unit, for your family. When thé scourge of war is visited upon us, it is not countries that fought, it is people. The émotions of conflict are intensely personal.

But your skills, courage and sacrifice were enriched and ennobled by thé cause for which you fought. Let us never forget why this war began, how this war was won or what this war was about. Let us not forget thé lessons of this battle and this war.

Weakness in thé face of aggression and evil invites more of both. The forces of freedom must remain strong and resolute. Victory dépends not on thé excitions of any single nation -- however gréât --but on thé will of proud-hearted peoples everywhere to ally themselves in défense of liberty.

History did not end hère in thèse fabled woods; it did not end with thé Nazi surrender or with thé fal! of thé Berlin wall. Each génération is tested; each must choose; résistance or appeasement; tolérance or intolérance; thé rule of law or no law at ail.

The vétérans of thé Ardennes, and their compatriots from Iwo Jima to Inchon to thé Persian Gulf, hâve bequeathed to us a legacy of principle backed by power. The guns hère hâve long since fallen silent. German and Italy hâve become our allies. Now, even thé elusive dream of an integrated and fully démocratie Europe is within our grasp.

From those who fought hère, living or dead, thé torch of liberty has passed to our hands. To-gether, we must nurture and sustain it. Fascism must never again arise. Nationalism must receive its outlet in thé célébration of culture and accomplishment, not aggression or persécution towards others. We know that freedom still has its enemies on this continent and elsewhere.

But as I look around hère today, I know that it has vigorous and determined friends. And make no mistake, thé Alliance between Europe and America that was forged hère 50 years ago remains strong; like thé friendship between thé United States and Belgium, it will endure; it will flourish.

 

 

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Let us, then, in thé spirit of this occasion, affirm that although there is no glory inhérent in war itself, there is dignity without measure in thé memories we share hère, thé sacrifices we recall hère, thé prayers we offer hère and thé principles fought and died for hère.

May our vétérans be forever honored, for we can never fully thank them. May our honored dead rest in peace, for we will never forget them.

And we may ail prove worthy of freedom, which in their name and with God's help we now hold in sacred and solemn trust.

Thankyou.    '  • '

 

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