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Congressional Record  

United States of America
Vol.147 WASHINGTON, FRIDAY, JULY 20, 2001 No.102


Mr. President, I rise today to recognize the bravery and fortitude of the Sixth Naval Beach Battalion, many of whom gave their lives for their country on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Recently, a small group of the living members of the Battalion gathered in Normandy, France to unveil a commemorative plaque dedicated to their fellow sailors who paid the ultimate price for the defense of liberty. This memorial will serve as a small reminder of the tremendous sacrifice that these men made in order to secure the freedoms that we, as a nation, now enjoy.

Unfortunately, for many years, the Sixth Naval Beach Battalion was known as the "Forgotten Sailors." While many of its members were individually recognized for their bravery, the Battalion as a whole had never been recognized. However, thanks to the persistent efforts of its living members, the Battalion was finally honored last year with the Presidential Unit Citation. This great honor was presented to the Battalion at its annual reunion last year, and I am proud that the valiance of these men has finally been recognized.

The World War II generation is frequently referred to as America's "Greatest Generation," and this is no more true of the Sixth Naval Beach Battalion. They landed on Omaha Beach early in the morning of June 6 and faced extraordinary peril on that historic day. Yet, the Battalion demonstrated its courage and fought gallantly despite overwhelming odds. We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to all of the members of the Battalion, both living and deceased, for the hard-fought victory over tyranny that was achieved on that day.

Mr. President, I would like to share my gratitude for the bravery and selflessness of the Sixth Naval Beach Battalion. I would hope that America never forgets the great sacrifice that the Battalion's members made in the defense of our liberty. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the speech given by Lieutenant Commander Joseph Vaghi at the unveiling of the commemorative plaque be printed in the Record following my remarks.


By LCDR Joseph P. Vaghi, USNR (Ret.)

We are here today this 5th day of June 2001, to unveil a plaque dedicated in memory of the men of the 6th Naval Beach Battalion who gave their lives on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

A small remnant of living members of our Battalion is also here today to pay tribute to their comrades, who have fallen and paid the ultimate price by giving their lives.

Each and every person here for this unveiling shares in the victory of freedom over tyranny by the selfless action which took place 57 years ago on this sacred soil of Omaha Beach.

You will remember that for four long years the fate of freedom flickered in the shadow of the world's aggressions.

We watched as the war in Europe spread across the English Channel to Britain. Then came Pearl Harbor. We as a nation were at war.

It was on these beaches of Normandy that the 6th Naval Beach Battalion made its contribution in the fight for liberty and against tyranny. This became the greatest military operation in all of history.

The men of the 6th Naval Beach Battalion had great faith that what was ahead of us was right and just. We knew what we were doing had to be done.

It made little difference if we were 18 or 38 years of age. We knew that what we were about to do was in some manner exactly what God wanted us to do.

The men of the 6th Naval Beach Battalion prepared for D-Day at Camp Bradford, VA., and Fort Pierce, FL., on the beaches of Slapton Sands, England, and in training with the 5th Engineer Special Brigade in Swansea, Wales.

At each step, we became more aware of the responsibility we would be asked to assume as we landed on the shores of France.

Elements of our battalion who were part of the Underwater Demolition Team at H-Hour (6:30 in the morning) with the main body of the battalion coming ashore an hour and five minutes after H-Hour at 7:35 a.m.

Of the thousands of men who came ashore that day, 9386 are at rest in the cemetery above the cliffs behind us.

This plaque we dedicate today is in memory of our comrades, and in extension is in memory of all who were laid to rest in the hallowed ground of the Normandy Cemetery. The plaque will be a personal reminder of the sacrifices made here on this beach, not only the 6th Naval Beach Battalion but the Coast Guard and Army too.

Last year at the 12th annual reunion of our battalion we were presented with the Presidential Unit Citation. It had been recommended by the Joint Command of Operation Overlord, which was the code name for the invasion of France, both the Army and Navy issued approval and recommendations that the 6th Naval Beach Battalion be honored with the citation.

When inquires were made by some of our men, the Defense Department began looking into the situation and in September of last year there followed a full ceremony for the presentation of the award.

For 56 years we of the 6th Naval Beach Battalion were known by writers as the "Forgotten Sailors." Many of the officers and men of the Battalion had been recognized for individual heroism but not the Battalion as a unit.

Our being here today is the cap-stone of our reson d'etre, the 6th Naval Beach Battalion stands with all the great body of men who have been immortalized here on these beaches. Permit me to close by quoting President Roosevelt, "The quality of our American fighting men is not all a mater of training, or equipment, or organization. It is essentially a matter of Spirit. That Spirit is expressed in their faith in America!"

That was the faith we had then and the faith we have today. Thank you, may God bless America.

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