President Ronald Reagan stood in front of 62 men “who took the cliffs” at Omaha Beach in Normandy on the 40th anniversary of D-Day, and delivered a riveting speech with highly emotional moments.
Reagan’s voice frequently broke as he addressed the D-Day vets and their families on June 6, 1984, many of them weeping as he spoke.
He highlighted Private First Class Peter Robert Zanatta of the 37th Engineer Combat Battalion, from the first assault wave to hit Omaha Beach. Reagan noted that Zanatta wanted to return to Normandy but died of cancer eight years before. However, Zanatta’s daughter Lisa did make it that day — and she’s seen listening through tears to Reagan reading aloud her promise to her late father:
“I’m going there, Dad. And I’ll see the beaches and the barricades and the monuments. I’ll see the graves, and I’ll put flowers there just like you wanted to do. I’ll feel all the things you made me feel through your stories and your eyes. I’ll never forget what you went through, Dad, nor will I let anyone else forget. And Dad…I’ll always be proud.”
In the clip Reagan also reflected upon his D-Day anniversary experience, asking “Where do we find them? Where do we find such men?” He followed that with “the answer came almost as quickly as I’d asked the question. Where we’ve always found them in this country: On the farms, the shops, the stores, and the offices. They just are the product of the freest society the world has every known.”
You can watch Reagan’s complete speech for D-Day’s 40th anniversary here.
Featured image: The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library/YouTube