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Bush Salutes Sacrifice of WWII Soldiers - 2002-05-27

U.S. President George W. Bush is paying tribute to America's war dead on this Memorial Day holiday. When the day dawned in the United States, Mr. Bush was in northwestern France, visiting the graves of American soldiers killed in the 1944 D-Day invasion that changed the course of World War II.

The president stood uncovered in the rain, looking out at endless rows of graves, all facing west toward America. "From a distance, surveying row after row of markers, we see the scale and heroism and sacrifice of the young," said Mr. Bush. "We think of units sustaining massive casualties, men cut down crossing a beach, or taking a hill, or securing a bridge."

More than 9,300 Americans are buried on the cliffs overlooking Omaha Beach, where the first waves of soldiers came ashore at dawn on D-Day. It was the largest amphibious landing in history and ultimately led to the liberation of France and the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Mr. Bush told the stories of some of the fallen and of those they left behind. He said words can not capture the grief and sense of loss felt by the families of all who served and died, then and now.

"For some military families in America and in Europe, the grief is recent, with the losses we have suffered in Afghanistan," noted the American president. "They can know, however, that the cause is just and, like other generations, these sacrifices have spared many others from tyranny and sorrow."

His tone was somber. Earlier, Mr. Bush attended a church service in the first French town to be liberated on D-Day.

The presidents of the United States and France were among the worshippers in the gray stone church in Sainte-Mere-Eglise. After the service, they went to a small white stage to address the crowd that had formed in the churchyard. President Jacques Chirac said the French people will never forget those who died in the D-Day invasion, calling Normandy a "land of memory and emotion."