Music & the Spoken Word: Remembering Pointe du Hoc

Editor’s note: “The Spoken Word” is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square broadcast. This is an encore performance of “Music & the Spoken Word” with a new “Spoken Word” selected and recorded while the choir is practicing social distancing. This will be given Sunday, July 4, 2021.

I am standing today at the World War II memorial at Pointe du Hoc on the northern coast of France. In the early hours of June 6, 1944 — better known to us as D-Day — American Rangers scaled these 100-foot sheer cliffs. Their mission was to seize German artillery to clear the way for the invasion later that day of the Normandy beaches below. It was a key element of the strategy to liberate Europe after four years of Nazi occupation.

The soldiers — dubbed Rudder’s Rangers after their commander, Lt. Col. James E. Rudder — had trained for this dangerous mission for weeks on the cliffs along the British Isle of Wight. Despite their preparation, however, it seemed like a suicide mission. After reaching the shore amid a flurry of enemy gunfire and grenades, the rangers raced across the beach, shot rope ladders over the cliff top, and began to climb. Of the 225 rangers who came ashore, only 90 were still able to fight by the end of the day.

Soldiers from the U.S. 75th Ranger Regiment, in period dress, climb the cliff of Pointe-du-Hoc in Cricqueville-en-Bessin, Normandy, France, Wednesday, June 5, 2019. During the American assault of Omaha and Utah beaches on June 6, 1944, U.S. Army Rangers scaled the 100-foot cliffs to seize German artillery pieces that could have fired on the American landing troops.
Soldiers from the U.S. 75th Ranger Regiment, in period dress, climb the cliff of Pointe-du-Hoc in Cricqueville-en-Bessin, Normandy, France, Wednesday, June 5, 2019. During the American assault of Omaha and Utah beaches on June 6, 1944, U.S. Army Rangers scaled the 100-foot cliffs to seize German artillery pieces that could have fired on the American landing troops. Credit: Thibault Camus, Associated Press

In 1984, United States President Ronald Reagan spoke from this site to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Normandy invasion. Also present were 62 of those courageous rangers. “You risked everything here,” Reagan said to them. “Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? … Somehow we know the answer. It was faith and belief; it was loyalty and love.”

Our national character is made of these qualities, and because of what happened on this spot in 1944, we might say that these qualities helped preserve our nation. We owe much to the faith, belief, loyalty and love that have inspired heroic acts throughout our history.

Just a few miles from this sacred place is the Normandy American Cemetery. It features more than 9,000 graves and a wall inscribed with the names of 1,557 missing soldiers, most of whom came ashore on D-Day. The site is a solemn reminder that heroic acts come at a heavy price — something to remember when we fly our flag, march in our parades and pursue our dreams in this land of liberty.

Tuning in …

The “Music & the Spoken Word” broadcast is available on KSL-TV, KSL Radio 1160AM/102.7FM, ksl.com, BYUtv, BYUradio, Dish and DirectTV, SiriusXM Radio (Ch. 143), the tabernaclechoir.org, youtube.com/TheTabernacleChoiratTempleSquare and Amazon Alexa (must enable skill). The program is aired live on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. on many of these outlets. Look up broadcast information by state and city at musicandthespokenword.com/viewers-listeners/airing-schedules.

See the Church News’ archive of ‘Spoken Word’ messages