of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
Message to US Forces
September 12, 2001
RUMSFELD: Great crises are marked by their memorable moments. At the height
of peril to his own nation, Winston Churchill spoke of their finest hour. Yesterday,
America and the cause of human freedom came under attack, and the first great
crisis of America's 21st century was suddenly upon us.
And we saw the memorable moments. Who will ever forget the display of national
unity on the steps of the Capitol Building? People will long remember seeing
and hearing the members of Congress spontaneously breaking out into "God
Bless America." What a wonderful thing for the world to see, and what pride
we can take in that moment.
So, too, President Bush's address to the nation will live in memory. He spoke
for all of us when he showed his compassion and concern but also noted a quiet,
unyielding anger among the American people. He offered a clear-sighted view
of what needs to be done to prepare for the future.
As one of those working with him on his national security team, I can report
that throughout the crisis, the president has been as commanding and impressive
in person as he has been in his public addresses. As Americans, we can be
proud of our president, our vice president and our leaders in Congress.
But I'm speaking to you now a little more than 24 hours after yesterday's
attack. I must add that one of the finest hours of this crisis was here at
For a long time to come, Americans will take pride and feel gratitude for
how nobly and professionally our military and civilian personnel have responded
here at the Department of Defense. I left my office here in the Pentagon and
went to the site of the attack minutes after it occurred. The scene was appalling,
and even as I speak to you now, the human toll of this tragedy is being counted.
Most in this building have lost friends and colleagues. We're doing all we
can for the families of those who were killed or hurt. Our grief is beyond
description, and our condolences go out to all of those who have lost a loved
But we have pride, too; pride in their service to country and to us all,
and pride that in the morning, the flag was still there; the Stars and Stripes
was over the wreckage to mark their place of honor.
Our gratitude is also all but indescribable for the firefighters and the
police and the personnel from so many local, county, and state, as well as
federal agencies who have assisted us. Their work and commitment have been
an inspiration to me and to us all.
But in addition to telling you of America's pride in Defense Department personnel
during the last 24 hours, it is my duty, as head of this department, to tell
you that more, much more, will be asked of you in the weeks and months ahead.
This is especially true of those who are in the field. We face powerful and
terrible enemies, enemies we intend to vanquish, so that moments of horror,
like yesterday, will be stopped.
The task of vanquishing these terrible enemies and in protecting the American
people and the cause of human freedom will fall to you, the men and women
in the Department of Defense. I know we are ready. I know America can continue
to count on your selflessness and courage and dedication to duty.
Let us never forget what this great institution is about. With its hallways
filled with the pictures of Medal of Honor recipients and our country's great
military leaders, this building is a place dedicated to the ethos of heroism.
Heroes have gone before us. Here at the Pentagon yesterday, heroes were here
I know I am speaking to many now, especially those of you in the field, those
of you who wear the uniform of our country, who will in the days ahead also
be called heroes. I salute each of you for your conduct and commitment. And
without hesitation, I ask you now to stay the course in the challenging days
ahead. A nation stands behind you.
I've been in public life for a long time, and if there's one lesson I have
learned from it, it is this: Believe in the American people.
Believe in them especially when trouble starts, when the crisis comes. Believe
in them to act worthy of their past, to act worthy of the future of peace
and freedom they want for their children. Most of all, as you set about your
dangerous work, believe in them to give you every support and give you their
hearts and their prayers.
We extend our condolences, and ask God's tender mercies on our fallen comrades
and their loved ones, and we ask His blessing and guidance as we turn to the
work of defending this nation and preserving human freedom.