Tomorrow, June 6, marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Back in February 2010, the town of Derry came together to honor Walter Borowski, perhaps the last of the heroic D-Day cliff climbers of Pointe du Hoc. A standing room crowd gathered at the Municipal Center to witness the French Council General present Walter with the Legion of Honor; France’s highest military honor. The ceremony took three years of planning and involved perhaps 100 volunteers and a dozen organizations to make it happen.
The tribute opened with the singing of “La Marseillaise” by Rebecca Rutter and Star Spangled Banner” by Julie Huss. This was followed by Elizabeth Ives reading parts of a speech by Ronald Reagan that ends with: “These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent.”
Here is the address I gave that day about the always humble Walter Borowski:
“It is my honor to speak about Walter’s career during the war. Of particular note is how he and the men of Rudder’s Rangers climbed the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc.
“To realize how tough this mission was, imagine that you’re in the parking lot of the Derry Municipal Center and somehow the Sovereign Bank building was put onto the roof of the town hall. You have to scale the building by shooting rocket-propelled grappling hooks up to the roof and then you have to somehow climb up the building like a monkey. And those ropes are slippery with, mud, rain and blood. And while you are climbing -- there are hundreds of Taliban on the roof shooting down at you with rifles, hand grenades and machine guns. That is what Walter had to do that day against the Nazis on June 6, 1944.