Today we mark the 69th Kwajalein Commemoration Day. Looking at this young and beautiful audience, I can’t see anyone who could possibly be 69 years old, but if so, we pay special tribute to you.
It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to pay tribute and honor the memory of who fought here, and lived here in the early days of February 1944. Their sacrifices still pay dividends today.
Mayor Lemari’s invitation invited us to celebrate the legendary events of 69 years ago. And that’s what it is all about. The stories of war.
We know the military story. After Tarawa, the US adapted. Kwajalein endured the heaviest shelling of the Pacific campaign and 36,000 shells fell on February 1. The battle here demonstrated the capability of US amphibious forces. Frogmen, the precursors of today’s SEALS, were employed for the first time. A radio announcer at the time said, “The formula for victory is now set.” The Japanese also adapted and built defenses in depth, and not just shoreline defense. It was never easy…
Every family here has a story. I’ve heard some of them. Brave Marshallese who told American troops where the Japanese were hiding. At great risk to themselves.
We know the stories of the five Congressional Medal of Honor winners who died here.
We know Louis Zamperini’s story and how he survived Kwajalein and an ordeal at sea.
But there are many stories we don’t know.
Kathy’s grandfather fought in the Pacific. My wife’s family is from Maryland. One day on the back porch, while he was smoking a cigar, I asked him his story during the war. He just said, “It was terrible.” End of story. Three words. Characteristic of that generation.
World War Two came uninvited to the Marshalls. Most soldiers were not planning for war. They were farmers, fishermen, factory workers. And today, we don’t choose our challenges. We have a new world and new battles.
Drought, tsunamis, typhoons… some come out of the blue, but we have emergency plans, and we we can deal with whatever comes our way.
We are working together now on UXO disposal. A team will be here this spring to identify and destroy WWII ordnance.
The Embassy and USAKA are proud to be partners working on health and education. We brought NBA Coach Tom Newell here to Ebeye, to work on exercise and nutrition. The Flying Doctors of America came here to Ebeye and to Jaluit, Arno and Majuro. Pacific Partnership is coming this summer, with military engineers and more medical professionals.
The military plan to take the Marshalls from the Japanese dates back to 1923. Likewise, we can plan now for longrange issues like global climate change, sustainable development, and providing more opportunities for these tremendous young people.
We can’t plan for everything. As Woody Allen says, “If you want to make God laugh, just tell him your plan.”
But we can have faith in our capabilities and our strengths and our ability to work together to solve problems together. To ensure we create a better future for our children. We write our own story today — let’s write a good one!