Biden speaks at France's Pointe du Hoc on 'defending freedom and democracy'

President Joe Biden delivers a speech at Pointe du Hoc, where U.S. Army Rangers scaled cliffs over 100 feet high on D-Day to destroy a heavily fortified German position, on June 7, 2024 at Pointe du Hoc, near Le Bavent, France. (Photo by Win McNamee/

President Joe Biden returned to Normandy Friday for a second day during his trip to France as he gave a speech to rally Americans in defense of democracy from Pointe du Hoc.

"As we gather here today, it’s not just to honor those who showed such remarkable bravery that day June 6, 1944," Biden said. "It’s to listen to the echo of their voices. To hear them. Because they are summoning us. They’re asking us what will we do. They’re not asking us to scale these cliffs. They’re asking us to stay true to what America stands for."

"They’re not asking us to do their job," Biden said of the "ghosts of Pointe Du Hoc." "They’re asking us to do our job: to protect freedom in our time, to defend democracy, to stand up aggression abroad and at home, to be part of something bigger than ourselves."

"We're the fortunate heirs of the legacy of these heroes — those who scaled the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc," Biden said. "We must also be the keepers of their mission ... the bearers of the flame of freedom they kept burning bright."

A day earlier, Biden paid his respects to the D-Day force in an emotional ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery that was also attended by dozens of veterans in their late 90s and older, the Associated Press reported. 

History of Pointe du Hoc

Pointe du Hoc is located nearby, between Omaha and Utah beaches. Before D-Day, the Nazis were believed to have stationed artillery there, which would have allowed them to shell critical landing zones for Allied troops.

According to the Associated Press, Army rangers used ropes and ladders to scale Pointe du Hoc's cliffs while under fire. 

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When the group reached the top, they realized that the artillery had been moved and only decoys remained. The weapons were tracked down nearby and disabled, and the Americans spent two days repelling Nazi counterattacks.

Ronald Reagan’s historic speech at Pointe du Hoc

President Ronald Reagan commemorated the mission on the 40th anniversary of D-Day in 1984.

Reagan made the speech as the Cold War with the Soviet Union continued and was also a call for the U.S. to not turn its back on Europe.

"These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc," Reagan said. "These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war."

"We in America have learned bitter lessons from two World Wars," he said. "It is better to be here ready to protect the peace, than to take blind shelter across the sea, rushing to respond only after freedom is lost. We’ve learned that isolationism never was and never will be an acceptable response to tyrannical governments with an expansionist intent."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.  This story was reported from Washington, D.C.