[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1995, Book II)]
[September 2, 1995]
[Pages 1284-1286]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at a Wreath-Laying Ceremony Aboard the U.S.S. Carl Vinson in 
Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
September 2, 1995

    Thank you very much. Thank you, Admiral Fluckey, for your kind words 
and far more for your astonishing service to our country. Secretary 
Dalton, Secretary Perry, Secretary Brown, Admiral Boorda, Admiral Macke, 
Admiral Zlatoper, Admiral Moorer, Admiral Moore, Cap-

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tain Baucom, to all the distinguished veterans who are here from the 
United States Navy, the Marine Corps, the Coast Guard, and the merchant 
marine; to the crew of the U.S.S. Carl Vinson: It's good to be back. I 
was on board in San Francisco in August of 1993, and now I have two of 
these caps which I can proudly wear around the United States.
    Fifty years ago today, on the other side of this Pacific Ocean, the 
war ended. It was a war that erupted in smoke and horror aboard the 
battleship Arizona and concluded with peace and honor aboard the 
battleship Missouri. Today we gather to offer a commemoration and to 
renew a commitment. We commemorate the men and women of the Navy, the 
Marine Corps, and their sister services who gave everything they had to 
the cause of freedom. And we commit ourselves to their legacy by meeting 
the great demands of this age with the same determination and fortitude.
    More than 2,000 years ago, Pericles gave a funeral oration in which 
he said it was the actions of his fallen soldiers and not his own words 
that would stand as their memorial. Today we say the same about our own 
beloved war dead, and you, their brothers and sisters still living who 
served alongside them. Your deeds in the Pacific will forever remain the 
greatest tribute to the American naval services.
    Millions of sailors, aviators, submariners, and marines joined in 
the effort against Japan. They steered and stoked and flew and fought 
aboard thousands of ships and planes and boats. They were transported 
ashore by the Coast Guard, sustained by the merchant marine, supported 
by the WAVE's, and healed by the Medical Corps. You who served lived in 
a world of gray steel and saltwater, coarse sand and endless skies, 
violent rain and hard wind, white coral and precious red blood. Long 
days and endless nights passed between hard battles. But the frontline 
was usually no further away than the bow of your ship.
    The Pacific journey started where we stand today in Pearl Harbor, 
our darkest dawn. Here in the span of an hour, as they put out fires and 
struggled to save their ship, farm boys became sailors and teenagers 
grew into men. They fought in a war unlike any previous war, waged in 
places most Americans had never heard of, in disease-filled jungles and 
on an ocean we once thought too huge to fight across.
    It was a war of battles dominated by aircraft carriers, first at 
Coral Sea, then at Midway when a superior Japanese force was undone by 
American code-breaking and the courage of our pilots who dove into 
impossible odds to sink the enemy carriers.
    It was a war where, for the very first time, sailors, soldiers, 
aviators, and leathernecks all worked together. At Guadalcanal, the 
Navy, the Marines, and the Army began to turn the tide in freedom's 
favor. Before they were done, sunken ships had transformed the sea floor 
into a steel carpet. The surrounding waters actually were renamed ``Iron 
Bottom Sound.'' In the Gilberts, the Marshalls, the Marianas, the 
Carolines, amphibious forces shot to shore with a prayer and the cover 
of their comrades in the air and at sea.
    It was a war that required unparalleled courage: at Leyte, where PT 
boats took on cruisers, where battleships damaged at Pearl Harbor 
returned to break the back of the Japanese fleet; at Iwo Jima, where 
more than 6,800 marines gave their lives to have our flag snap in the 
wind atop Mount Suribachi; and finally, on Okinawa, the war's final and 
bloodiest struggle.
    In the Pacific, no two battles were the same, but each was fought 
for freedom. In the Pacific, our leaders were colorful and could not 
have been less alike, but they all shared a certain American greatness: 
Nimitz and Halsey, Spruance and Holland Smith, and Admiral Arleigh 
Burke, who honored me with his presence at dinner in Washington just a 
few weeks ago. And of course, behind them all was President Roosevelt, 
who had been Assistant Secretary of the Navy in World War I and who 
remained the guardian and inspiration to the Navy from his first day to 
his last as President.
    In the Pacific, each ship was an outpost of liberty. In the Pacific, 
every American demonstrated that, as Admiral Nimitz said, they had 
uncommon valor as a common virtue.
    In the Pacific, we won a war we had to win, but at a terrible cost 
of tens of thousands of lives never lived fully out. That sacrifice 
touches all of us today. But those of you here, more than anyone, who 
lost a shipmate or a friend, someone with whom you refueled a plane or 
scraped a railing or reloaded an overheated 40-millimeter gun, you 
endured. And the basic American values of courage, optimism, 
responsibility, and freedom all triumphed. And all of us are in your 

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    I would like to ask all the veterans of the Pacific war who are here 
to stand or, if you cannot stand, to wave your hand and be recognized. 
Please stand up. [Applause]
    We also owe you a very great deal because of what you did with your 
remarkable victory. You did not leave your ideals at the war's edge; you 
brought them home. You carried them to college on the GI bill and into 
work. And together, you created the most prosperous nation on Earth. You 
extended our vision across the globe to rebuild our allies and our 
former adversaries, to win the cold war, to advance the cause of peace 
and freedom.
    So to all of you who brought us from the Arizona to the Missouri, 
all of us who followed will always remember your commitment, your deeds, 
and your sacrifice. They are as constant as the tides and as vast as 
this great Pacific Ocean.
    May God bless you, and God bless America.

Note: The President spoke at 11:30 a.m. on the flight deck. In his 
remarks, he referred to Rear Adm. Eugene Fluckey, USN (Ret.), 
Congressional Medal of Honor recipient; Adm. Jeremy M. Boorda, USN, 
Chief of Naval Operations; Adm. Ronald J. Zlatoper, USN, Commander in 
Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet; Adm. Thomas H. Moorer, USN (Ret.), former 
Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; Rear Adm. Edward Moore, Jr., USN, 
Commander, Cruiser Destroyer Group Three; and Capt. Larry C. Baucom, 
USN, Commanding Officer, U.S.S. Carl Vinson.