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Screening Of "The Shooting War"

Remarks as Delivered By Secretary Of Defense William S. Cohen, The Pentagon, Washington DC, Wednesday, October 4, 2000

Good evening. General [Hugh] Shelton [Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff] and Carolyn, let me say a special word of thanks to you, General Shelton. I know that bright and early tomorrow morning you're leaving for Europe once again. And I know that this is valuable time that you're taking to be here tonight, and you've just come back from a trip to Asia, joined by Carolyn. So we truly appreciate your being here tonight and what it represents and who you are and what you do for our forces. So thank you for being here this evening. [Applause.]

Richard Schickel [Director, The Shooting War], whose remarkable cinematic achievement brings us all here together this evening. Former Assistant Secretary of the Navy Mel Paisley. Secretary Paisley and I go back to days when I was on Capitol Hill, and you are in a major way responsible for our being here tonight because you discovered the archival footage that initiated the effort that became The Shooting War. So, Mel, it's great to see you here this evening.

And I would note, in absentia, Stephen Ambrose, Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, who, I think, individually and collectively, through Saving Private Ryan have contributed so much to our national consciousness about the sacrifices of combat.

Iím not sure if Doug Brinkley [Director, Eisenhower Center] is here tonight, but if you're not, I want to nonetheless express my thanks and congratulations to Doug Brinkley, who invited and hosted me when I came to the Eisenhower Center last year. He was also so instrumental in putting together that wonderful D-Day Museum celebration.

We have my good friend and author Ric Patterson. Richard North Patterson, where are you? Raise your hand. Good to have you here in the audience this evening. [Applause.] Ric should have a new book coming out in late November or early December, called "To Protect and Defend." And I wish you the best of luck in that, Ric.

Fred Bornet [combat cameraman from Second World War II] is here tonight, as is Michael McGovern, representing his uncle Dan, whose bravery behind the camera we're going to see in just a few moments.

We are joined by combat cameramen representing all of those who have risked their lives to document America's wars. We have Norman Hatch from the Second World War. We have General John Tilelli, who is here on behalf of the combat cameramen of Korea, and we welcome you tonight, John. We have Steve Waterman of the Vietnam War, and, Steve, a special welcome to you because you happen to hail from Maine. [Laughter.] Your wife was unlucky enough to have to photograph me back during the days when I was mayor of Bangor. And you also have a new book out, published by Random House, entitled "A Sailor's Story." And we want to welcome you tonight, Steven. We have Master Sergeant Charles Reger of the Gulf War, and Sergeant Stephanie Thomas of Bosnia. I'd like to ask that all of the combat photographers who are here tonight to please stand so we can pay tribute to you. [Applause.]

Janet, let me pay tribute to you as well, because without your initiative, we would not be here having this showing tonight. Janet was with me in New Orleans and was so impressed with "The Shooting War" she said, "We've got to put this on at the Pentagon. We have to pay tribute to the combat cameramen right here at home in the Pentagon." And so, Janet, thank you for doing the work that you've done. [Applause.]

The good news tonight is that I'm not going to give a speech. All I can say is that one of the greatest privileges that we have ever had was to be in New Orleans to stand with the heroes and veterans from World War II forward. President Clinton once said, "These Americans may walk with a little less spring in their step, but let us never forget, when they were young, these men saved the world."

So tonight we want to express our thanks to all of those of you who "caught" the people who helped save the world. These are remarkable images. I won't take the time now to go through them because you'll see them. They are dramatic. This is not something that you're likely to see on HBO. When Steven Spielberg spoke to Richard, he said, "Don't pretty it up." He has not prettied it up. This is not Hollywood. This is real, and you will see scenes that will catch your throat in terms of their emotional impact.

So I want to say that we are truly indebted to the heroism and the courage of these men and women who are armed with only their camera to shoot with. You shot some of the most amazing footage that we will ever see.

The 23 men who are interviewed in this film include Don Honeyman, who was there at the liberation of Manila; Dick Taylor, who was at Omaha Beach on the first day; Norman Hatch, who captured the Marines' triumph atop Mount Suribachi; and Fred Bornet, who honors us with his presence here this evening. Fred, you stand out there. Look for his picture up there. And most well-known was John Ford, the director who joined the likes of Jimmy Stewart in leaving Hollywood to serve his country.

So ladies and gentlemen, tonight we are truly honored to pay tribute to the people who have shown on film what our men and women go through, the sacrifice they make, they're prepared to make, and how we have been enriched by their sacrifice and the tradition that is carried on when we talk about the Greatest Generation. They were. But the people who are now wearing this uniform are also part of this greatest generation, and they've inherited the flag of freedom, they carry it proudly, and we are proud to say thank you to all of you tonight. Thank you. [Applause.]