Peace does not come just because we wish for it. Peace must be fought for. It must be built stone by stone.
In the first half of this century we learned that there can be no peace if might makes right — if force used by one nation against a weaker nation is ever permitted to succeed. We have learned that the time to stop aggression is when it first begins. And that is one reason we are in South Vietnam today. …
For the American interest will be well served if our children grow up in a world of independent nations capable of assuming collective responsibility for the peace. Our interest — and the interest of world peace — will not be served if nations continue to violate the independence of other nations.
So, as our men and our allies today fight in Southeast Asia, we are working on many fronts to build a mosaic of peace and human progress.
We are working to strengthen the Atlantic world and, from that firm base, to build bridges of cooperation to the East. We are trying to assist the governments and peoples of Latin America, Asia and Africa to work together to lift the burdens of poverty and ignorance and disease. We ache to turn all our energies — more of our resources — and all our talents to building that kind of world community. But there will be no community to build if aggression achieves in Vietnam what it has been denied from Greece to Korea to Berlin. …
I know of no time in our history when our brave men in arms have performed with greater skill or courage than they have performed in Vietnam. They went into combat in a difficult climate, against a thoroughly professional enemy, in an unfamiliar kind of war. From the first day of combat they have not failed us once. …
I pledge to those who have died there, and to those who have been wounded there — to those who are now fighting there, and to those who may yet fight there, that we shall help the people of South Vietnam see this through.
On this Memorial Day, it is right for us to remember the living and the dead for whom the call of their country has meant much pain and sacrifice.
And so today I remind all of my fellow countrymen that a grateful nation is deeply in their debt.
The cost of America’s wars
Battle deaths: 4,435.
War of 1812
Battle deaths: 2,260.
Battle deaths (estimate): 1,000.
Battle deaths: 1,733.
Other deaths: 11,550.
Battle deaths: 625,000.
(Includes Union and Confederate deaths.)
Battle deaths: 385.
Other deaths: 2,061.
World War I
Battle deaths: 53,402.
Other deaths: 63,114.
World War II
Battle deaths: 291,557.
Other deaths: 113,842.
Battle deaths: 33,739.
Other deaths: 2,835.
Battle deaths: 47,434.
Other deaths: 10,786.
Battle deaths: 148.
Other deaths: 235.
Battle deaths: 3,542.
Other deaths: 935.
Battle deaths: 1,539.
Other deaths: 312.
Notes: Many historians believe the Revolutionary War’s total (for all war-related deaths) is approximately 20,000. The total is widely debated.
Sources: Department of Veterans Affairs, Associated Press, Department of Defense, New York Times.