Remarks as delivered by Admiral Gary Roughead
Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet
End of World War II Commemoration Aboard USS Missouri, Pearl Harbor, HI
2 September 2005
Consuls General, Governor Lingle, so many Honored Guests, State and City Officials, fellow Flag Officers, men and women of the Armed Forces, and most especially, Colonel Skardon, Lieutenant Commander Starnes, Mr. Yudelowitz and all veterans of the Second World War…aloha and welcome. What a fine navy day. What a moving setting. And what a noble cause and heroic effort we remember here today.
Thank you very much for being here to celebrate this great day and those who delivered it to us. It is wonderful and inspiring to see so many institutions, organizations and countries represented. And it is particularly special to be joined by so many veterans of the Second World War…I would like to specifically recognize those veterans here today who represent the United States and her close friend and long time ally, Australia.
As I stand here on Admiral “Bull” Halsey’s Flagship, in command of Admiral Chester Nimitz’s Fleet, speaking on the deck where General Douglas MacArthur participated in the World War II surrender ceremony 60 years ago, I am humbled and overcome with the significance of this day and of the people and the events being remembered. It is a great honor – perhaps the greatest of my career - and I treasure this moment.
Abraham Lincoln once said that if you want to test a man’s character, give him power. Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet during most of World War II, possessed more military power than had ever been wielded. Yet he never failed to epitomize the magnificent qualities that make our armed forces and our nation great.
Nimitz was a humble warrior, a devoted family man, a superb strategist and a confident commander. Like General Eisenhower in Europe, he had a gift for unifying allied force and for molding strong-willed leaders into peerless, legendary fighting teams. Dignified in triumph, he visited sick and wounded Japanese soldiers and sailors in hospital after the surrender, and he insisted on the highest standards of conduct by the occupying forces in Japan.
Nimitz’s strength of character and leadership through service were a great part of bringing an end to World War II. A soft-spoken patriot, a noble warrior, and a hardy sailor, he was the perfect choice to sign the instrument of surrender for the United States. He knew well the hell of war and the strength in honor and in service before self. And he knew well the pain and suffering that came to an end with the stroke of his pen. It is entirely fitting that the man who pacified the pacific sealed the end of the war for the United States and set a tone that turned committed adversaries into the most steadfast of allies.
More than 12 million service men and women, from more than two dozen allied nations, died during World War II. As we commemorate the end of a struggle that cost tens of millions of lives in all, we must never forget its staggering cost. And we must never forget the greatness exemplified by men like Nimitz, and by all those who fought with him and for him. Their immense sacrifice and inspiring example are stunning.
In commemorating this great event today, we also celebrate the magnificent service of those who brought it about; of those who fought, suffered, prevailed and died in places like the Coral Sea, Midway, Leyte Gulf, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. These heroes, in the dawn of their lives, were awarded no less than 464 Medals of Honor. They survived unfathomable experiences and they exemplify the greatness we have come to know in and expect from our armed forces. They defeated imperialistic tyranny and fascist hegemony. Thanks to the service of these patriots and heroes, we can today celebrate an outcome to the most destructive and bloody episode in human history. And because of their blood and sweat, we have not revisited a conflict of such magnitude in generations.
We are particularly privileged today to be in the presence of hundreds of those who fought for our nation and her allies, in defense of freedom, more than six decades ago. Their legacy, heroism and patriotism are worthy of celebration and emulation. It is no wonder that their generation who bled and died, who gave us what we have today, is known so majestically and quite simply as “The Greatest.” In the tradition of the first American patriots, they valiantly pledged “their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor”. Their contribution is immeasurable and it hardened the foundation upon which our nation is built.
On behalf of all who stand watch today in defense of our nation and our liberty: thank you for your service and sacrifice. Words cannot adequately express our appreciation and respect.
Perhaps, though, our gratitude for this past example and sacrifice is best reflected in the deeds and devotion of those who now wear our nation’s cloth. Freedom’s latest defenders do battle in a new global war, fought for the same fundamental reasons that all of America’s wars have been fought: they fight in defense of our nation, her people, her interests and the freedom she represents; they fight in defense of the unalienable rights that belong to all. The service of this current band of patriotic warriors is as exemplary as this country has ever seen in its distinguished past. These patriots, also in the dawn of their lives, take the fight to the enemy so that the enemy cannot take it to us. They too have pledged “their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor” in the latest struggle against “the darkness of tyranny and terror.”
Freedom, and its universal applicability, has always been, and will remain, our national cause. And we will continue to fight so that freedom may ring the world over. Just as we did more than 60 years ago, we again wage war against freedom’s enemies and against those who seek to destroy the very fabric of our free society. We wage another global war provoked by direct attack on our nation’s soil and fought in foreign lands, against those who terrorize and murder, against those who threaten freedom and impose tyranny. And we will prevail again. In the words of our commander-in-chief earlier this week, “we will prevail [again] because freedom is defended by the greatest force for liberation that humankind has ever known, the men and women of the United States Armed Forces.”
Pearl Harbor is a hallowed and special place: home to the Arizona and the Missouri, the beginning and the end of World War II. We celebrate that end today and honor those brave men and women who gifted it to us. As the events of World War II pass further into history, the deeds of so many must not fade in the hearts and minds of those who carry on. Our memories must remain a sharp and distinct reminder of what we oppose, of what we cherish, and of the sacrifice that is required to preserve freedom. And that sacrifice will forever inspire an abiding commitment to life, liberty and the principles that enable the betterment of all mankind.