on the Dedication of 5th Marine Division Cemetery
Chaplain Roland B. Gittelsohn
THIS IS PERHAPS THE
GRIMMEST, and surely the holiest, task we have faced since D-Day. Here before
us lie the bodies of comrades and friends. Men who until yesterday or last
week laughed with us, trained with us. Men who were on the same ships with us,
and went over the sides with us, as we prepared to hit the beaches of this
island. Men who fought with us and feared with us. Somewhere in this plot of
ground there may lie the man who could have discovered the cure for cancer.
Under one of these Christian crosses, or beneath a Jewish Star of David, there
may rest now a man who was destined to be a great prophet to find the way,
perhaps, for all to live in plenty, with poverty and hardship for none. Now
they lie here silently in this sacred soil, and we gather to consecrate this
earth in their memory.
IT IS NOT EASY TO DO SO.
Some of us have buried our closest friends here. We saw these men killed
before our very eyes. Any one of us might have died in their places. Indeed,
some of us are alive and breathing at this very moment only because men to lie
here beneath us had the courage and strength to give their lives for ours. To
speak in memory of such men as these is not easy, Of the, too, can it be said
with utter truth: "The
world will little note nor long remember what we say here. It can never forget
what they did here."
No, our poor power of
speech can add nothing to what these men and the other dead of our division
who are not here have already done. All that we can even hope to do is follow
their example. To show the same selfless courage in peace that they did in
war. To swear that, by the grace of God and the stubborn strength and power of
human will, their sons and ours shall never suffer these pains again. These
men have done their job well. They have paid the ghastly price of freedom. If
that freedom be once again lost, as it was after the last war, the
unforgivable blame will be ours, not theirs. So it be the living who are here
to be dedicated and consecrated.
WE DEDICATE OURSELVES,
first, to live together in peace the way they fought and are buried in war.
Here lie men who lived America because their ancestors, generations ago,
helped in her founding, and other men who loved her with equal passion,
because they themselves or their own fathers escaped from oppression to her
blessed shores. Here lie officers and men, Negroes and whites, rich men and
poor . . . together. Here are Protestants, Catholics, and Jews . . . together.
Here no man prefers another because of his faith or despises him because of
his color. Here there are no quotas of how many from each group are admitted
or allowed. Among these men there is no discrimination. No prejudice. No
hatred. Theirs is the highest and purest democracy.
Any man among us, the
living, who fails to understand that, will thereby betray those who lie here
dead. Whoever of us lifts his hand in hate against a brother, or thinks himself
superior to those who happen to be in the minority, makes of this ceremony and
of the bloody sacrifice it commemorates, an empty, hollow mockery. To this,
then, as our solemn, sacred duty, do we the living now dedicate ourselves: to
the right of Protestants, Catholics, and Jews, of white men and Negroes alike,
to enjoy the democracy for which all of them have here paid the price.
TO ONE THING MORE do we
consecrate ourselves in memory of those who sleep beneath these crosses and
stars. We shall not foolishly suppose, as did the last generation of America's
fighting men, that victory on the battlefield will automatically guarantee the
triumph of democracy at home. This
war, with all its frightful heartache and suffering, is but the beginning of our
for democracy. When the last battle has been won, there will be those at home,
as there were last time, who will want us to turn our backs in selfish isolation
on the rest of organized humanity, and thus to sabotage the very peace for which
we fight. We promise you who lie here: we will not do that. We will join hands
with Britain, China, Russia in
peace, even as we have in war, to build the kind of world for which you died.
WHEN THE LAST SHOT has been
fired, there will still be those eyes that are turned backward, not forward, who
will be satisfied with those wide extremes of poverty and wealth in which the
seeds of another war can breed. We promise you, our departed comrades: this,
too, we will not permit. This war has been fought by the common man; its fruits
of peace must be enjoyed by the common man. We promise, by all that is sacred
and holy, that your sons, the sons of miners and millers, the sons of farmers
and workers, will inherit from your death the right to a living that is decent
WHEN THE FINAL CROSS has
been placed in the last cemetery, once again there will be those to whom profit
is more important than peace, who will insist with the voice of sweet
reasonableness and appeasement that it is better to trade with the enemies of
mankind, than, by crushing them, to lose their profit. To you who sleep here
silently, we give our promise: we will not listen. We will not forget that some
of you were burnt with oil that came from American wells, that many of you were
killed by shells fashioned from American steel. We promise that when once again
men seek profit at your expense, we shall remember how you looked when we placed
you reverently, lovingly, in the ground.
THUS DO WE MEMORIALIZE those
who, having ceased living with us, now live within us. Thus do we consecrate
ourselves, the living, to carry on the struggle they began. Too much blood has
gone into this soil for us to let it lie barren. Too much pain and heartache
have fertilized the earth on which we stand. We here solemnly swear: this shall
not be in vain. Out of this, and from the suffering and sorrow of those who
mourn this, will come,
the birth of a new freedom for the sons of men everywhere. AMEN.
for a story about the men who raised the Flag at Iwo Jima click on the following link: