Ladies and Gentlemen;
All who have served our nations, most especially our Marines;
It is an honor to be here to celebrate the 240th birthday of the United States Marine Corps.
For over two centuries, the United States Marines have been an integral part of our history as a nation. Today, Marines are also an important piece of our close alliance with Australia. U.S. Marines have fought side by side with Australians – in every significant battle during the 20th and now 21st centuries – so that we all may enjoy peace, prosperity, and freedom.
The men and women of the U.S. Marine Corps know that true democracy, real prosperity, and lasting security are not given to us as gifts. They must be earned. They must be carefully nurtured by each generation. They must be defended – at times by those who are willing to lay down their lives to ensure that future generations will enjoy the benefits.
Here in Australia, the U.S. Marines are helping to carry out an important piece of the U.S. rebalance to Asia. It has now been four years since President Obama came to Darwin to announce that the United States would send up to 2,500 Marines to northern Australia to work with our allies and help represent American interests across Asia. The success to date of our Force Posture Initiatives is a true testament to the professionalism and expertise of our Marine Corps.
Between April and October of this year, over 1100 U.S. Marines rotated through Darwin to train with their Australian “mates,” engage with regional partners, and to respond when needed in the Indo-Pacific. In July, our two forces engaged in the sixth Talisman Saber training exercise, the largest such exercise to date.
On their way home to Darwin from Talisman Saber, a group of U.S. Marines saw smoke rising from a camper trailer on the road. What did they do? They turned around and doused the fire – transforming a vehicle from their convoy into a makeshift fire truck in the process. It took over two hours to contain and put out that fire, and two Marines sustained first-degree burns in the process. When asked why they did it, the answer was “It was the right thing to do.”
This response was completely in character for U.S. Marines. Our Marines in Darwin are volunteering in the community, visiting local community centers and schools, and mentoring school kids. During their six-month rotations, they participate in events, such as a “fun run” marking the Lone Pine Centenary and a 9-11 commemorative rugby match. First and foremost, a Marine is a role model and a good citizen – both at home and abroad.
To “our” Marines – those in our Marine Security Guard Detachment here at the Embassy, to those who rotated out of Darwin last month, and to those newly arrived, not only do I say thank you, Australia says thank you.
Like Marines, Australia and the United States are good global citizens. In the Asia-Pacific, more than six decades of U.S.-Australia cooperation has served as the bedrock for unprecedented stability and economic prosperity. We have built valuable relationships and mutual understanding via our cultural, economic, scientific, and educational exchanges. We have demonstrated through our leadership and example that disputes can be resolved peacefully, without the use of force or coercion.
Last year shortly after the Marine Corps Ball, I was extremely touched when our MSG Detachment here at the Embassy decided to dedicate the local “tavern” of our Marine House to my father, U.S. Marine Morrell “Moe” Berry. Thank you, Gunny Trevino, for that wonderful gesture.
As we enjoy our close alliance with Australia today, we must always remember and honor where our alliance, and before that, our friendship, began. It started with people like my father, and like Mr. Gordon Johnson – a World War II veteran who I am very proud to have as my guest here this evening.
During World War II, my Dad fought in the Battle of Guadalcanal with the First Marine Division. This year marks the 73rd anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal, along with the 70th anniversary of Victory in the Pacific.
Without Guadalcanal, that victory may never have come.
Recently, Mr. Johnson, a veteran of the Battle of the Coral Sea gave me wartime footage he captured when he served as a telegraph operator aboard the HMAS Hobart. His video, shown here, depicts Australian navy ships escorting the First Marine Division to Guadalcanal in preparation for the coming battle.
It also shows the Australian sailors and U.S. Marines exchanging cigarettes, uniforms, souvenirs – tokens of mateship – between the ships during a refueling. Americans and Australians were mates long before becoming allies.
Mr. Johnson’s images are rare treasures. They bring to life the birth of the alliance between the United States and Australia. They will teach future generations about the sacrifices made to secure our freedom. Thank you, Gordon, for your service, for being here tonight, for sharing with us these memories – and for safely landing my Dad and his division on Guadalcanal!
My father told me about the fighting on Guadalcanal. About shortages of food and ammunition. About the mud, the rain, and the heat. About some of the heaviest and repeated naval barrages of the war. Through it all, those Marines never gave up. They never lost hope. They held that rock. And, in doing so, they helped turn the tide of the war – and of history.
After six months of hard fighting, the Marines – my father among them – were lucky enough to come to Australia to rest their minds and bodies and regenerate their spirits.
After the hell of Guadalcanal, Australia must have seemed like a paradise.
In Melbourne harbor, they were greeted by a military band playing “Waltzing Matilda.” According to the history books, Marine Commander General Vandegrift, remarked that it was the sweetest sound he had ever heard. And, my dad would add – though no one would admit it – there wasn’t a dry eye on that ship. So important was this event, that since that time, for 73 years – wherever and whenever the First Marine Division ships out, anywhere in the world – they do so to the strains of Waltzing Matilda. It is their battle song. It is and always will be the sound of liberty and freedom.
To today’s Marines and all those who have come before:
We admire you for your leadership and courage. We honor you for your endurance. And we thank you for your 240 years of service.
May God continue to bless Australia and the United States of America. And God bless our U.S. Marines!