President Bush has marked the anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe with a visit to an American cemetery in the Netherlands.
More than eight-thousand Americans are buried here under curving rows of white crosses and Stars of David, with small American and Dutch flags flying before each grave. A large stone tower stands before a bronze sculpture of a mother grieving for her lost son with the inscription: New Life From War's Destruction Proclaims Man's Immortality and Hope for Peace. Some of those buried here were killed during the liberation of this southern region of the Netherlands late in 1944 when American, British, and Polish troops fought to capture crucial bridges across the Rhine. Others died fighting inside Germany during the Allies' final push against the Nazis President Bush met with U.S. and Dutch veterans of that combat during his visit, paying tribute to their courage and the sacrifice of their fallen comrades. He said, "On this day we celebrate the victory that they won. And we recommit ourselves to the great truth that they defended that freedom is the birthright of all mankind. Because of their sacrifice and the help of brave allies that truth prevailed at the close of the 20th Century. As the 21st Century unfolds before us Americans and Europeans are continuing to work together and are bringing hope and freedom to places where it has long been denied, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Lebanon and across the broader Middle East."
The reverence of this somber ceremony at the Netherlands American cemetery contrasts with plans for a triumphant military parade in Moscow Monday when Russian President Vladimir Putin hosts some 50 heads of state celebrating the 60th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany. During his visit to the Netherlands, President Bush also met with Prime Minister Jan Pieter Balkenende and Queen Beatrix.