[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1995, Book II)]
[September 2, 1995]
[Pages 1280-1283]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu
September 2, 1995

    Thank you very much, General Wilson, for your outstanding remarks, 
and even more for your service to our country. Reverend Perkins, Rabbi 
Goldfarb, Reverend Fujitani, Secretary Brown, General Shalikashvili, 
Secretary Perry, Members of Congress, Governor, Mayor, representatives 
of the Allied Nations who are here, and most of all, to the honored 
veterans of World War II: Today we commemorate this day 50 years ago, 
when the most destructive conflict in all human history came to an end. 
On this island, where America's peace was first shattered and then 
restored, we commemorate the triumph of freedom over tyranny. We 
remember the extraordinary sacrifice that victory required. We honor the 
extraordinary generation of Americans who came together to meet the 
challenge of war and then, as General Wilson has said, worked together 
to seize the promise of peace.
    World War II lasted 2,194 days. It stretched from Pearl Harbor to 
St. Petersburg, from the beaches of Normandy to the shores of Iwo Jima. 
It destroyed whole cities. It ravaged countrysides. It cost in total the 
lives of 55 million people: soldiers killed in battle, civilians and 
prisoners felled by disease and starvation, chil-

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dren buried in the rubble of bombed buildings, millions wiped out in the 
gas chambers. It cost the lives of all kinds of people.
    And victory was won by the courage and character of citizen 
soldiers, citizens we remember for their bravery from Britain to Russia, 
from all the islands in the Pacific, island by island, and the battles 
that were won.
    We remember all these Medal of Honor winners who are here among us 
today and humbly express to them our profound gratitude. We know that 
the heroism of millions of other men and women in uniform was never 
adequately recognized. We know that things happened here in the Pacific 
which bred a certain spirit and character and determination which 
infused the lives of those who served us when they came back home.
    The war in the Pacific enjoyed the service, among others, of five 
men who became President of the United States, from the extraordinary 
heroism of President Kennedy and the legendary PT-109 to President Bush 
who was shot down and rescued over the Pacific 51 years ago this very 
    We must never forget both the tragedy and the triumph of that time 
because it holds lessons for all time. We learned in World War II the 
forces of darkness give no quarter; they must be confronted and 
defeated. We learned that the blessings of freedom are never easy or 
free, they must always be defended.
    We learned, too, something remarkable about America. This century, 
marked by so much progress and too much bloodshed, witnessed humanity's 
capacity for the best and the worst in life, is now known as the 
American Century.
    For America, World War II was the pivot point of that century, the 
moment when we understood more than at any other time the core of the 
American spirit, the ties that bind us together, and the duty we owe to 
one another. Americans found in World War II unity in a shared mission, 
strength in a common purpose. More than ever, in World War II, our 
United States were truly united.
    On December 7, 1941, James Daniels, the young Navy pilot born and 
raised on a farm in Missouri, was stationed aboard the U.S.S. 
Enterprise. As the ship steamed back toward Pearl Harbor, a general 
alarm sounded. He ran to his plane. He took to the skies to fly what 
would be the very first American combat mission of the war, because of 
what had happened at Pearl Harbor. On that first mission, he searched in 
vain for the enemy fleet. He said, ``I had no briefing, no map. I didn't 
know what the heck was going on.'' At nightfall, all he saw were the 
remains of our sinking fleet.
    At that time, things looked pretty bleak for the United States, and 
a lot of people doubted that our democracy was up to the job. We had a 
standing Army of less than 200,000 men. Seventeen countries had larger 
armies than the United States on December 7, 1941. Our soldiers, believe 
it or not, trained with wooden rifles.
    But our enemies sold short the strength and will of the American 
people, the grocery clerks and farmers, the students and salesmen, the 
short-order cooks and the factory workers, the whites, the blacks, the 
Hispanics, the Asian-Americans who served, including Japanese-Americans, 
the Native Americans, including the famous Navajo code-talkers. Most of 
them didn't know a lot about each other and even less of the world 
beyond our borders. But they had a core of shared traits bred in the 
American bone, determination, optimism, an unshakable dedication to 
freedom, and a faith that right would prevail. They merged their 
disparate voices into a harmonious chorus of defiance. President 
Roosevelt called them the incalculable force of American democracy, a 
free people united by a common purpose.
    At home, they built democracy's arsenal, hundreds of thousands of 
planes, ships, tanks, and trucks. They planted the victory gardens. They 
collected scrap metal. They bought the war bonds. They rationed the gas. 
They learned to do with less in every part of their lives so those in 
uniform could conduct the war. And abroad, in the rain-drenched jungles 
and on rocky ridges, under the seas, over the waves, in the clouds, 
Americans fought on the frontlines of fear.
    We know, and others have said today, that tens of thousands lost 
their lives, leaving their loved ones with only memories: parents who 
would never again see the pride of their lives, wives who would never 
again embrace their husbands, children whose fathers would never again 
take them swimming or see them graduate or know the adults they would 
    Here, in the peace of these sacred grounds where thousands of these 
brave Americans lie at rest, let us now join briefly in a moment

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of silence for those who gave their dreams for our freedom.

[At this point, a moment of silence was observed.]

    Fifty years ago today, on the deck of the aircraft carrier Missouri 
in Tokyo Bay, freedom finally prevailed. On this anniversary of V-J Day, 
we celebrate the end of the war but also the beginning of a new American 
era of peace and progress. At the end of the war, there were 12 million 
Americans in uniform, and 7 million were still overseas. We brought them 
home where they applied the lessons learned in war to the promise of 
peace. In peace, as in war, they understood that developing and uniting 
the energy and genius of every American is the best way to fulfill our 
country's potential.
    Before the war, in the darkness of the Great Depression, millions of 
you veterans who are here today and your family members could only have 
dreamed of going on to college, could only have dreamed of building a 
better life than your parents had and of passing an even better one on 
to your children. But after the war, you seized the opportunities a 
grateful nation offered. You took advantage of the GI bill of rights. 
You became graduates. You bought your first home. And we know by the 
lives you've lived and the hopes you've passed on you took 
responsibility to make real your American dreams.
    From Pearl Harbor to V-J Day, 16 million American women worked 
assembly lines; 300,000 more wore uniforms, drove trucks in combat 
zones, trained troops, nursed them back to health. After the war, 
America would begin to integrate this extraordinary force into the 
economy and into our Nation's military and change the face of America 
    From Pearl Harbor to V-J Day, thousands of African-Americans 
distinguished themselves in military service, as Tuskegee Airmen and 
Triple Nickel paratroopers, Sherman tank drivers, and Navy Seabees. And 
slowly, after the war, America would begin to act on a truth so long 
denied, that if people of different races could serve as brothers abroad 
in uniform, they could surely live as neighbors at home.
    In peace, the World War II generation gave America the security, the 
prosperity, and the progress the rest of us have known and cherished for 
half a century. You understood that you could together make the world a 
better place and that you could not permit America again to withdraw 
from the world, from former enemies and allies who were in ruins, from 
the looming threat of the cold war.
    You gave us the Marshall plan. You chose reconciliation over revenge 
and helped to turn former enemies into close allies today. When the 
terrible new tyranny of communism arose, you held it in check until the 
power of democracy, the failure of repression, and the heroic 
determination of people to be free won the cold war. The seeds of 
democracy you planted and nurtured flower today in every corner of the 
    From the cliffs of Normandy to the beautiful waters of Hawaii, we 
have celebrated over the last year and a half the extraordinary 
achievements of the generation that brought us victory in World War II. 
It is only fitting that here, in the middle of the ocean whose name 
means peace, the place where World War II began and ended for America, 
that we mark the war's end and honor the men and women who saved our 
    We owe it to the World War II generation to remember, but we owe 
them more. For just as freedom has its price, it also has its purpose, 
to enable all people to live up to their God-given potential and to 
continue the march of human progress. We, who are the heirs of their 
legacy, must always be the guardian of their dreams.
    It falls now to us to stand against those who sow the seeds of war 
and to stand with those who take the risks of peace; to create a new 
prosperity for ourselves and for others; to help our people to prepare 
for the challenges of a new century; to strengthen our families, our 
faith, our communities; to give all Americans the opportunity to make 
the most of their lives.
    In order to succeed, we must remain true to the spirit of that 
brilliant time. A time when our people cared for each other and 
sacrificed for others, when our Nation stood united in purpose and 
mighty in spirit as never before, a time when Americans forged the 
strength of their diversity into a community for victory and progress.
    I told you earlier about Jim Daniels, who flew that first flight 
after Pearl Harbor. After Pearl Harbor, Jim took command of a 37-plane 
squadron. He logged 55 combat missions in the Pacific. The pilots under 
his wing came from

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as many different backgrounds as there are States in the Union, country 
boys who'd never seen a paved road, city dwellers who couldn't swim, 
well-to-do's and ne'er-do-well's. The only thing they had in common was 
that when they started flight school, they all didn't know how to fly. 
Jim Daniels remembers that, and I quote, ``It didn't matter. We had a 
job to do, and we had to do it together.''
    On August 15th, 1945, the very last day of World War II, Jim Daniels 
was in the air again. It was a picture-perfect South Pacific morning. 
Then the word crackled over the radio: The enemy had surrendered; come 
on down. And so Jim Daniels, the American who flew on the first day and 
on the last day of our Nation's war, turned toward home. Today, Jim 
Daniels and his wife of 55 years, Helen, are here with us today. I'd 
like to ask them to stand. Mr. and Mrs. Daniels. [Applause] Bless you.
    And I would like to ask all the veterans of World War II who are 
here today to stand and be recognized or to wave and be recognized. 
Please stand up. [Applause]
    On August 15th, 1945, when Jim Daniels brought his plane down he 
descended through the clouds, along with all the other Americans in 
uniform, not toward a dark night of uncertainty but toward a bright 
future of hope, blessed by peace, graced by prosperity, a future in 
which more Americans than ever before would have the opportunity to live 
the lives God meant for them to have. It was a future won by a 
remarkable generation who found unity in war and built us a half century 
of progress in peace.
    Now, my fellow Americans, we stand at the dawn of a new century, and 
their challenge has become ours. Their spirit must be ours as well. We 
pledge to carry on their work. And we vow to remember Jim Daniels' 
words, ``We have a job to do, and we have to do it together.'' For us, 
as for them, the future depends upon it.
    May God bless the Americans who brought us to this day, and may God 
bless America. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 9:21 a.m. In his remarks, he referred to 
Gen. Lewis H. Wilson, USMC (Ret.), former Commandant of the U.S. Marine 
Corps; and Rev. Kenneth D. Perkins, Rabbi Morris Goldfarb, and Rev. 
Yoshiaki Fujitani, who gave the invocations.