75th Commemoration of the End of World War II
Battleship Missouri Memorial, Joint Base Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
September 2, 2020
Aloha and good morning! I would like to begin by thanking all the members of the 75th World War II Commemoration Committee for safely bringing these phenomenal events together in the COVID environment.
We are honored to have the Secretary of Defense here with us to help commemorate the occasion, as well as his wife, Leah Esper. We are grateful you could both be here today.
I would also like to thank General Milley for joining us virtually and for his moving remarks.
And of course, thank you, Governor Ige, for your inspiring words.
They underscore the significance of the State of Hawaii’s magnificent relationship with our Armed Forces.
As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II and our Allied victory in the Pacific, we remain forever indebted to our World War II veterans, who helped defend the world from tyranny.
We are deeply honored that some of these very veterans could join us today in person, with many more joining us virtually around the globe – and indeed, the rest who are here with us in spirit – on this historic deck of the USS Missouri.
This battleship – both signal of strength and symbol of peace – owes much of its legacy to the 33rd president of the United States, Harry S. Truman.
It was hardly a surprise when President Truman selected the USS Missouri as the formal site to officially end the war.
After all, the proud Missouri-native’s only child (Margaret) served as this ship’s sponsor, and President Truman spoke at this ship’s christening and also attended her commissioning ceremony.
Well, one can only imagine how President Truman hoped the pride and joy of his home state would live on in the hearts and minds of Americans for years to come.
I mention this for two important reasons:
First, to highlight that the Mighty Mo – this iconic American museum – is the epitome of the “Arsenal of Democracy” that willed us to victory.
In part honoring the men and women of our Greatest Generation that supported the war effort in factories and shipyards across the country.
And the second reason is to provide a clear reminder of how the history of September 2nd, 1945, lives on.
September 2nd is the day that the United States and our Allies turned tragedy into triumph, violence into victory, fighting into freedom, loss into liberty, and peril into peace.
A day that marks the very beginning of the rules-based international order – an order responsible for some 75 years of peace, prosperity, and security that helped not only to liberate hundreds of millions, but to lift billions out of poverty, all to a level of prosperity previously unseen in human history.
Certainly, the post-war period of regional peace and stability must not be taken for granted.
Today, the world faces a great challenge. An emboldened Communist Party of China seeks to change the world to one in which Chinese national power is more important than international law.
Beijing is using a whole-of-party approach to coerce, corrupt, and contest the rules-based international order.
Today, as we address the strategic threat of China and the other security challenges throughout the Indo-Pacific region, the memory of our Greatest Generation lives on in our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen.
Each and every day, we remember our World War II heroes, and we pay tribute to them by continuing to defend the values of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific, to keep America, and our allies and partners free from tyranny, and to defend our shared values and our inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
May God bless all the veterans of World War II, the men and women of the Armed Forces, the Great State Hawaii, and, may God bless the United States of America.
Now, as I mentioned before, we are joined today by the Secretary of Defense, Doctor Mark Esper.
Secretary Esper is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, Harvard University, and George Washington University. He is a proud Gulf War veteran and former Army Infantry Officer.
From the moment he assumed office in July of 2019, Secretary Esper has been relentless in implementing our National Defense Strategy, and he remains committed to focusing the Department of Defense on the Indo-Pacific Theater.
He joins us today in the midst of his travels throughout the region to engage with allies and partners, observe high-end military exercises, meet with our service members, and of course, to honor our veterans.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is my honor to introduce our keynote speaker, the 27th Secretary of Defense, the Honorable Doctor Mark T. Esper.