Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am honored to join you today for the third time. I am proud to be joined by my wife, our three children, and all three of our grandsons.
I want to thank Senore Ventura and all of our Sicilian friends for the warm hospitality extended to my family and all who celebrate freedom. In our 3 visits to this hallowed ground we have been warmly received and we appreciate the friendship that has not only been developed here but also that exists between our two nations.
I speak to you not only as a former warrior myself, but as the son of a true warrior: LTC Arthur F. Gorham. My father gave his life while leading his paratroopers against a determined foe at the beginning of the effort to rid Italy and Europe of the scourge of Fascism’s two evil dictatorships. I am reminded of a saying I learned while a cadet at West Point that is attributed to General Douglas MacArthur: “There is no substitute for victory.” The brave men and women from many countries who valiantly fought here 75 years ago knew that victory, even in the face of long odds, was the only option.
The Allied invasion of Sicily, codenamed Operation Husky, was a major World War II campaign, in which the Allies liberated Sicily from the Axis. It was a coordinated large scale amphibious and airborne operation, followed by six weeks of intense land combat. Husky set the stage for freeing the rest of Italy and later Europe.
Husky began on the night of July 9,1943. The initial airborne landings took place in extremely strong winds, which made the landings difficult but also ensured the element of surprise. Later, beach landings were made on the southern and eastern coasts of the island, with British forces in the east and Americans towards the west. Spearheading the sledgehammer blow to crack open Hitler’s Festung Europa, for the first time, would be paratroopers of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division and glidermen and parachutists of Britain’s 1st Airborne Division. My father led the 1st Battalion of the 505th. Despite the high winds which scattered the paratroopers into small groups all over the island, the airborne troops took the initiative wreaking havoc on the Axis lines of communications so that the landings could occur on the beaches near Gela uninterrupted by counter attacks. The seizure and holding of the bunkers and top of the hill to your rear was key to this effort.
Strategically, Husky achieved the goals set out for it by Allied planners. The Allies drove Axis air and naval forces from the island; the Mediterranean’s sea lanes were opened and dictator Benito Mussolini and his fascists were later toppled from power. The success of the Allied effort here in Sicily opened the way to the destroying Nazism in Europe.
They fought right here near this monument. My friend, Senore Ventura, on whose farm we are at today, remembers observing as a young boy the fighting and dying that occurred at this place.
Today, we celebrate the feats of those brave warriors and their struggle for freedom. Warfare today is vastly different than what the soldiers who fought here 75 years ago knew. In the current climate, it is unclear what constitutes victory and worse, some refuse to even admit there are enemies whom we must defend against. In some cases, we fight against terrorists who know no rules of war and seek to deny us our freedoms. In other cases, old enemies appear eager to re-fight a war I thought was settled with the fall of the Berlin Wall nearly three decades ago. In this climate, it seems like we need to be reminded of what Winston Churchill said in 1940 before the United States entered World War II: “Victory at all cost. Victory in spite of all terror. Victory no matter how long and how hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival.”
As we contemplate the sacrifices made 75 years ago, let us insure that the warriors who died freeing the world from Facism and later communism will continue to be relevant in our search for freedom. We must remain resilient to the forces who would seek to suppress our individual freedoms to their preferred political or religious views.
Let me close by reassuring those who gave their lives for freedom that we understand their sacrifice by reciting The Absent Legions by – Edgar A. Guest
Somewhere, far away, ‘they heard us
When the word of Victory stirred us.
Safe within God’s Holy keeping,
Heard us cheer and saw us weeping;
Shared in all we did or said-
Freedom’s glorious, youngest dead.
Never doubt it, there was gladness
Where the dead are done with madness,
Hate and hurt, and need for dying.
As they saw our banners flying
On our day of joyous pride,
” ‘Twas for this,” said they,
“We died!” What if tears our eyes had blinded.
As of them we were reminded?
Never doubt it. they were voicing
Somewhere. songs of great rejoicing;
Glad to look on earth and see
Safe our country. still. and free.
Thank you for the warm hospitality extended to my family and all who celebrate freedom.