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tv   Andrea Mitchell Reports  MSNBC  June 6, 2014 9:00am-10:01am PDT

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[ playing taps ] >> right now on a special edition of "andrea mitchell reports," live from the american cemetery at normandy, band of brothers remembering the heroes who changed the world on this fateful day 70 years ago. >> normandy, this was democracy's beach. these men waged war so we might know peace and sacrificed so that we might be free. they fought if hopes of a day when we would no longer need to fight. we are grateful to them. whenever the world makes you cynical, whenever you doubt that courage and goodness is possible, stop and think of
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these men. >> on these shores nearly 10,000 americans paid the ultimate price for freedom. today surviving members of this greatest generation return to honor their fallen comrades. >> i can still here the first infantry guys moaning oh, my god. >> my family thinks i'm a hero. i'm not a hero. when you go up to the cemetery above those are the heroes. those are my heros. they were just 18 and 19 years old and some younger when they stormed this beach. as they embarked on this mission, they heard these orders from their commander, general dwight d. eisenhower. >> the eyes of the world are upon you, the hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you. i have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. we will accept nothing less than full victory.
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good luck and let us all beseat the blessing of almighty god. >> on these hallowed grounds the american cemetery in normandy, on a day president obama paid tribute, we'll be talking about the president's speech and larger context. but first, word that president obama and vladimir putin did meet informally along the sidelines of the official lunch hosted by francois hollande. in 1984 there was a real cold war when ron ald reagan became the first american president to come to normandy and speak on d-day. >> these are the boys. these are the men who took the cliffs. these are the champions who helped free a continent and
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these are the heroes who helped end a war. >> and today the aging heroes of that invasion heard another president pledge that their sacrifice will not be forgotten. >> america's claim, our commitment to liberty, our claim to equality, our claim to freedom and to the inher ent dignity of every human being, that claim is written in the blood on these beaches. and it will endure for eternity. >> joining me now on this special day, special guest nbc chief white house correspondent chuck todd, host of "the daily rundown" and douglas brinkley, welcome both. chuck, first to the putin/obama meeting. facts are scarce. we haven't heard guidance from either and the president has taken off and will be flying home.
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this was not, we think a substantive meeting. it was a chance to reacquaint and perhaps try to begin setting things right. >> i would argue the more important perhaps run-in today was earlier when putin had his first face to face with poroshenko. president obama had a lot of face time with poroshenko on this trip. and vice president biden -- the air force one and two will almost chris cross because he will be there for the inauguration tomorrow. one assumes or hopes that that was the substance of the conversation between president obama and president putin. we want this crisis to deescalate that everybody seems to want to give him space. so one would assume that this had to be the substance because it was longer than two minutes. it was at least a pull aside of seven or eight or nine minutes. there's a chance there was substance. they've been in their bubble
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because of the ceremony. >> speaking of bubbles, we've been in our bubble but the white house put out a little bit of guidance, chuck, while i weaned you from your phone for just a few moments. they spoke for 15 minutes we're told and your colleagues in the white house are saying that the president reaffirmed is that it is important for russia to reassert the legitimacy of the poroshenko government and to deescalate. that is what we would expect from that but good point, that the poroshenko putin meeting could be first step one hopes. >> to thawing this crisis. >> doug brinkley, this modern drama taking place against the historic setting in normandy and so interesting that president obama spoke to the veterans and tried to connect two generations. he with with him current heroes, soldiers who had be injured in battle and who have come back to
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be stronger and to try to continue to serve their country in other ways. and that is really what the veterans of 1944 have done. >> absolutely. the most moving part of the coverage has been scanning the faces of the survivors of normandy that you've had there, every time you look at their eyes and see their faces, people get emotional that are watching this. you also had ronald reagan coming -- setting this new precedent in 1984 that a president has to go to normandy. a memorial day they put a wreath and say something, we used to celebrate pearl harbor day, but somewhere along the line, ronald reagan, 1984 started realizing d-day is about american victory, liberation of europe. the pearl harbor was a defeat. so hence, now every round number, every ten years this has become one of the most moving
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memorial spectacles in the world. and everybody loves these d-day vets. >> and of course, the frailty of these aging veterans is what makes it ever so much more poignant. chuck, you've had a moment to reflect also on the president's speech. and the high points where he also talked about his own grandfather, serving with general patton, and how coming in for a landing with marine one and seeing normandy, he said to his aides, i've never missed having my grandfather with me more than today. >> look, i thought he did exactly what you would want the american president to do. first of all, a very apolitical speech. the only poke at media a little bit, very apolitical speech. president reagan what doug was talking about, marked 40 and that was when the world war ii generation was retiring.
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what president obama was trying to do today and i hope he's right, trying to connect the 9/11 generation with the world war ii generation. they have a lot of in common, great depression, great recession. time of war, volunteer war versus drafted war. this new generation will have experienced not the easiest of lives, baby boomers, genx had it easier than this current young generation and the greatest generation. so you do wonder and almost hope that everybody is right, that this 9/11 generation can take the baton and become the next great generation. >> and on the subject of ukraine, i talked earlier today, gentlemen, with general campbell, the commander here in europe and has to be in charge of these deployments to poland to try to show not that we could be taking on russia on russia's
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borders virts you'lly on the border but showing support for poland and other nato expanded countries. this is what general campbell had to say about the importance of what was being said today in the context of europe. >> their training and jumping out of helicopters and airplanes and doing what we can to reassure our allies in poland and europe that nato and the u.s. stand strong together. >> how strong a deter ent is nato when russia takes crimea and doesn't seem to pay a price? >> it's a strong deterrent. if you listen to what the president said and senior leaders at the defense department and others, you are really talking about 28 nations that have come together. while the four companies may not be a large deterrent, the power of nato is he a super b
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deterrent. >> russia has been flexing its muscles and doesn't team to be pulling back but in this conversation today this is what the president was trying to do, saying to putin that you have to start respecting poroshenko's promised reforms and give them a chance in re-ukraine and stop supporting armed separatists. >> and of course, look, when ronald reagan gave a speech in 1984, he was talking about the liberation of europe but only half of it was liberated. there was still half of it behind an iron curtain. today we're at the imagery of seeing putin and obama and tensions between russia and the united states right now where everybody is wondering whether they'll even shake hands, it does kind of ring of cold war bell and talk about the need for the ukraine to be democratic.
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we were -- d-day was about the soldiers of democracy not total air yanism and sadly putin has become -- is returning to old style kgb tactics in the last few years. it's very disconcerning. hopefully something positive came out of that meeting between the president and mr. putin. >> of course, putin came out of the kgb now called the fsb. so that is, you know, the sort of m.o. of vladimir putin certainly in his last couple of years as he's come back to the presidency, i also want to talk about the military issue which has been overshadowing the president's trip all week. that is bowe bergdahl, susan rice, the national security adviser gave an interview on npr and talked about her somewhat controversial sunday talk show appearance where she said he served honorably despite the
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questions raised about how he left his post. >> i'm well aware that there have been those who criticized those comments. what i was saying is that sergeant bergdahl served honorably because he chose to volunteer in a time of war, to serve his country. that in itself is honorable. and you know in this present day and age only 1% of american citizens have volunteered to serve. particularly in wartime. and i think all americans recognize that that is an honorable decision. in terms of his conduct, that will be determined. >> chuck, how do you explain the administration not only the defensiveness but changed the story and zig daged about bowe bergdahl. >> they claim they are only look like they are changing their
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story because they are backfilling as stuff comes out. >> a new explanation as to why they didn't notify congress. >> with congress all of a sudden last night it became tony blinken saying it was january and february they were notified again and we don't have leaders saying about the notification of the deal. this was a deal in the works for years, not months. >> congress during the meetings had said don't do it in a bipartisan way. >> that's what this feels like. you have to ask yourself, the president says it's -- secrecy in speed. but was it also that they knew those guys were against the deal. first time they tried to do this in '11 and '12, panetta was against it and clapper was against it at dni. this time they made hagel, different secretary of defense signed off on it and clapper signed off on it because he said
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they are not going to be returning to a fight that american soldiers were involved in. he melt more comfortable. did they not tell because they were afraid of congress leaking or because they were going to get the same answer? >> i wanted to also share, brian williams sat down with president obama to talk about d-day and a lot of other things. in particular, this excerpt is him talking about what happened here 70 years ago. >> so many of us have in our families these men who were so young when they came here. and showed such extraordinary courage and capacity and change the world and then go back home and settle back down and didn't make a fuss about it. my grandfather passed away over 20 years ago. this is one of those days where
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i thought to myself, it would have been nice to have him here. >> and so that of course a part of the interview. doug brinkley, thank you so much and chuck todd, my friend here. and you can see more of brian williams exclusive interview with the president tonight on nightly news and on prime time special tonight at 8:00, 7:00 central time on nbc. also today, i had the privilege to sit down and speak with former sergeant james hill. 89 years old, a veteran from aurora tennessee, he he landed as a member of the 29th infantry. he has been honored by so many for his bravery but also awarded by france's former president sarkozy on a trip to washington several years ago and proudly wore the medal on his suit and took part in the ceremony joining president obama on stage with his comrades.
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we spoke about his role in the invasion seven decades ago. >> the president said that what you did, you and the thousands of brave soldiers who landed on omaha beach, you saved the world for democracy, that it was the beachhead of democracy. >> i think we all knew it. >> did you know it then? >> i still know it. it is. it's come true. yes. it was the beginning of a change of the nation here and in the united states. >> all of these years later, how do you feel about the war and the role you played? >> we changed things for the better. everyone loves freedom. no one wants to be down, pushed
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down. >> the president -- >> it's true, they all believed it. >> those who died, the brave. >> yes. yes. i've got friends out there. >> and it was our own tom brokaw who coined the phrase the greatest generation. tom is reunited with a man of many -- many of his friends who have come back to normandy and shares this story of frank devita to stormed the beach aboard a u.s. coast guard boat. he passes on his memories to four generations of his family. >> all of these people -- what an honor. >> it's an honor for them to have you as a father or grandfather and i think the other important thing is it's an honor for them to come here, that you went back, survived the war and turned out this wonderful family.
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>> yes. >> what's the lesson for these generations of the family to come here and revisit it? >> love your freedom because that's what we fought for. we fought for the freedom. >> now, he feels a duty to honor and speak for those men who died that day. >> these kids were 18, 19 years old. they are never going to see their son play little league baseball and never going to walk their daughter down the aisle. and they're never going to hold a grandchild in their arms. they had their whole life ahead of them. my family thinks i'm a hero. i'm not a hero. when you go up to the cemetery above omaha, those are my heroes. cut! [bell rings]
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simple soldiers, some who traveled here to normandy tonight are here to reremember and honor their comrades. they were willing to sacrifice everything for the greater good of humanity. thank god that they did. >> army chief of staff ray owedier no playing tribute to veterans on the eve of the historic anniversary. i talked to him today about the lasting impact of this day. >> general, thank you so much for being with us. the meaning of d-day is so
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enormous but for you leading the army, what does it mean to you? >> well, i often say it's about standing on the shoulders of those who came before us and no greater show of commitment than the men who came across the beaches 70 years ago. it's important for us in the army to remember what they did so we can continue to build on their successes and what they meant to freedom and liberty in the world. >> is it more meaningful and more poignant this year because it's the 70th anniversary and age of the veteran and for that lesson, to be learned by younger generations? >> i think this really is about education and it's about our generation understanding the sacrifice that occurred so they can live the way they do today. it's unfortunate soon we won't have veterans left who sacrificed so much. it's personal for me because my
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wife's father drove the landing craft on d-day. it's personal and means a lot to be here. >> as a young man, how did what happened at normandy, in any way inspire you to want to enter the service? >> well, i think when you -- i'm inspired by the fact that people stood up for something greater than themselves and that always had an impact on me. it's about doing something for everything, for humanity and greater good. that's always been something that is important to me because for us, that's what it's about, it's about advancing ourselves. these men that sacrifice ed so much changed the course of he history. it inspires you to want to try to do the same thing. >> as a fete of military strategy, could it ever happen today that you could mount an invasion of such scale without the enemy knowing that you were coming? >> no, i don't think so. i think because of the way media
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is today, for example, it's -- the internet and ability for people to communicate so quickly, i think it would be very difficult for us to put such a large deception together. >> and satellite surveillance. >> and all of these other things. it would be difficult to do that. we have to do it in other ways today, it's very different. that's why it's also important for us to understand what it did take for them to be successful and in the military, we try to learn from that and say, okay, how can we use some of these lessons as we look ahead to the future? >> how do you learn from the wisdom, the sacrifice, as we sit here on sacred ground, how does that inform the military going forward? >> well, what i talk about all the time to our young people, i talk about competence, commitment and character. for me, the men who participated in this event are the epitome of
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competence of their commitment to the mission and fellow soldiers to their nation and many nations. and then they have the character understanding what they were facing to continue to go through with it. understanding that they were putting their lives on the line and many of them wouldn't come back. they knew that and still did it. >> what is that quality that enables a 19 or 20-year-old out in the stormy seas to know what they are facing and see the blood in the water if they are in the second wave or third wave and still go forward and complete the mission? >> i think it's understanding the importance of it. and i think they all have this deep seated understanding how important this was. they saw the oppression and tyranny going on in europe and threatened the whole world potentially and knew they had to do this. even though they knew it could cost them their lives, they were willing to do it. it's hard -- when i talk to
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young men today who sacrificed so much in the current wars, they do it really for their fellow man, for the comrades and in it together. they are in it to help each other so they can survive together. that's part of what is so strong about the military and part of the lessons we learned from these incredible men who did this on this day 70 years ago. >> it is a band of brothers. >> absolutely. >> and now sisters. and when you see the younger generation though, this country has now gone through more than a decade of war and two wars and only 1% of the country is actually serving in uniform. that's a choice that we've made. but what do we sacrifice by -- what do we lose by not being more engaged in supporting the mission? back in world war ii everyone at home and abroad were all
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together. >> i think back then first of all the size of it was so much greater. millions and upon millions, 18 million people in uniform. that just so much a large percentage of the population. everyone was involved. if you weren't here, you were back home helping in some way. today war fare has changed and it's smaller. what's important is the 1% that do serve, it's important to understand what they are doing and why they are doing it and important for them to understand it. today we have too many people who really don't think about why these men and women are doing what they do and the sacrifice they make. it's important for people to understand that. that these young people today i would argue are just as brave and courageous, going into places where they might sacrifice their lives. that hasn't changed. i'm so proud of this young generation of young men and women we have and what they've done. >> thank you so much, thank you for your service. >> thank you for doing this. i appreciate you being here.
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thank you very much. >> you bet it's an honor. >> the army chief of staff, ten years ago as a nation marked the 60th anniversary of d-day, america was mourning the death of our 40th president and yesterday nancy reagan made a pilgrimage to the library as she does every year on the anniversary of his death. it's hard to believe he is gone for ten years. still feel his presence every day and often find him in my dreams at night. in 1984 he became first commander in chief to visit normandy. joined by army rangers who scaled the cliffs behind him he set the tone for presidents to follow with the most memorable speech ever delivered on these sacred grounds. >> we stand on a lonely wind swept point on the northern shore of france. the air is soft but 40 years ago
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>> as president obama remarked today, the events in normandy are about passing on memories from one generation to the next. herbert anderson was attached to the first division that landed on omaha beach. he returned to normandy with a group of college students with whom he's sharing his legacy and remembering his fallen peers. he spoke with me about his mission. >> as we came down this thing here, we could see all of the fire coming from the beach. i could still hear the first infantry guys moaning, oh, my god. because they had been in africa, they had been to sicily so knew what was all about. we didn't know nothing about it. we're just 20-year-old kids, you know, so -- but the thing is, didn't have no fear because we didn't know -- we weren't supposed to be scare of nothing.
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we were just kids. >> how scary was it? >> it was -- it really was. i can still remember the first night i prayed i hope i would see dawn. >> when you see the kids now, they are the same age you were when you took the beach. >> all around me, yes. the sad part about it is, our generation, it was so different that they are no idea what we went through. we came out of depression and had nothing and then we came into the war and i mean, it was a total war. everybody did everything. somebody was involved one way or the other. everybody. they can't live my generation. i can't live theirs. they can't get the picture. and they shouldn't. really, they really shouldn't. they are going to have their own battle to fight in life. >> but you're helping them understand. >> i hope so because really, the
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thing you get out of it, you don't give up. >> matt fender is one of the students from the college of the o zark traveling with andy anderson to get a firsthand history lesson. i spoke to him about his inval uable learning experience in normandy. >> i read the books and watched the movies and read the articles about it, but it's not the same. you don't get the same visual experience as when you stand here and have mr. anderson point and say that's where i came up and that's the bunker i took over there. that's awesome. >> you're 20 years old. andy was the same age when he did these extraordinary things. >> somebody my age going over, they don't know if they are coming back. we're safe over here. these guys were running head strong into fire. i couldn't put myself in his shoes and couldn't really imagine what it was like to go
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off to war. i'm very thankful that we still have our soldiers that are doing that today. they are young too. >> it's pretty incredible. >> it is. >> on june 6th, 1944, army private first class jim martin, a member of the 101st airborne division, parachuting into enemy lines before dawn. yesterday at the age of 93, he did it again, making his first parachute jump in 70 years. >> what made me do it today? >> yeah. >> a little bit of ego but i'm 93 and i can still do it. and also, i just wanted to show all of the people that you don't have to sit and die because you get old. keep doing things. this is interesting. it says here that a woman's sex drive
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these are the men who took the cliffs. these are the champions who helped free a continent. these are the heroes who helped end a war. >> many of them are here among us. let us never forget when they were young, these men saved the world. >> we think of men not far from boys who found the courage to charge toward death and think of men in the promised years of life, loved and mourned and missed to this day. >> you, the veterans, are why we still remember what happened on d-day. you're why we keep coming back. >> starting with president reagan, american presidents have come here to commemorate d-day and its importance in world history. presidential historian michael
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beschloss joins me from washington. thank you so much for helping us understand the significance of what happened here and why -- from ronald reagan on down have tried to become a part of it and tried to expand and perhaps extend the message, the lessons. >> you know, you're absolutely right. reagan made it hard for everyone because that speech was so i am perishable it will be hard to improve on it or equal it. one thing none of the presidents said that occurred to me when i heard you and chuck todd talking with those d-day heroes, and that is this. that those heroes did so well, they were talking about on those beaches and on the day of d-day, one reason is because they grew up and functioned in a free society. even in the army and navy, they were encouraged to think for themselves and have ideas and fighting against nazi germans
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who had function in an awe thor tear yan society. our guys were able to do it and the other side was a lot less functional. >> that's a really interesting insight, michael, something i had never thought of before. and the man who of course or chekes straighted this and let the commanders proceed and because it was such a challenge was dwight eisenhower. you know a lot more than any of us about eisenhower. one of the things that's so striking is that he could have had any opportunity to come back, certainly 1954, tenth anniversary, he was president and chose to go to camp david. this was not wanting to brag about the achievement. is that the right context? >> he was the epitome of tom brokaw has rightly come to call the greatest generation.
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among other things about the heroism, they didn't like to talk about it. and especially the supreme commander, you have the first big anniversary of d-day with a round number and he's president of the united states, all sorts of pressure, let's have a ceremony, maybe you should fly to france. i said i won't do any of that and spent the weekend with his family at camp david. didn't let himself be seen and issued one little 300 word statement, he didn't want it to be about him. >> and then lbj did not want to travel ten years later because it was within the year of the assassination of jfk. >> indeed. >> he didn't want to leave the country. then watergate consumed nixon in '74. that left it to ron ald reagan. and that speech that peggy noonan crafted for him. i remember standing on the cliffs and watching him deliver it myself. that's part of what drew me to
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this place initially and to better understand world war ii. it's continuing significance for all of us. >> that's why it's so important. we've heard a lot of this today, many people would say, here we are in 2014 and it's a nacisse cystic society we have that's not prone to make sacrifice. that's not me saying it, other people saying it. these people in here rows in 1944, came out of society feef years earlier thought world war i was a mistaked and suspicious of getting involved in a war beyond our borders. america can rise to the occasion and it takes a moment like d-day to do it. >> another elderly representative of that generation who was here today was queen elizabeth. she does not travel very much any longer. and nor does prince phillip who
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is ailing, he's 92. it was very important for her to be here today. this war was so much part of her life. her father, of course, had -- was the king when the war began and she then i guess succeeded to the throne after it. >> indeed. i got a lump in my throat by watching her there. because i remember that just a couple of weeks before d-day, 1944, she was only 18 years old. she was a princess but went with her mother then the queen and they met with british pair troopers in full battle makeup and all sorts of camouflage on them, knowing that many of the people they were shaking hands with would die a couple of weeks later. what a gift it is to all of us to have her still there, 7 70 years later to testify about that experience. >> michael beschloss, speaking of gifts, thank you so much. much more ahead on this special edition of "andrea mitchell
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reports." next the big story behind the famous snapshots of history that were nearly lost forever. first, this is a very important day for great britain and canada as well. right now prince william and kate are attending a ceremony at gold beach where the english forces stormed the shore to honor their veterans. >> it is vital that the sacrifice and reasons for that sacrifice are never forgotten by our generation and generations to come. wethey were a littlehorizons to mbit, what they do actually is rocket science. but at ge capital we also bring expertise from across ge, like lean process engineers we asked who does what, when, where, and why that step first? ideas for improvement started pouring out. with a little help from us, they actually doubled their output speed.
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it back to the home front from the invasion. believe it or not, these pictures came close to never seeing light of day. this week i spoke to john morris, cappa's picture editor at "life" about how history was nearly lost and a lot was lost. >> d-day was tuesday, june 6th, lousy day in london. i woke when i heard the bbc bulletin that the invasion was on, i simply went to the london office at time life on dean street and waited for film. i waited all day without hearing a word from the other side of the channel. and i waited -- i slept there that night and wednesday again wapt waited all day until wednesday evening a messenger came with a packet from cappa. >> we know that eight or ten photos survived but so many of them were lost. what happened to the other
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images? >> bob said that all of the action was in the four roles of 35 millimeter. we were under terrible deadline pressure and ordered the dark room to give me contact prints for editing as fast as possible. a few minutes later a dark room boy came running to my office saying, john, the films are ruined. you were in such a hurry, i put them in the drying cabinet and closed the doors, which was not normal. and there was too much heat and the emotion ran. my god, no. i ran back to the dark room with him and held up the rolls one at a time and on the first three, there was nothing. but on the fourth roll, there were 11 frames that could be -- that had images and we printed all of them. >> just imagine the first sight for many in england and united states of the horror of that day nearly erased forever. for his work throughout the war
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and service, robert capa received the medal of freedom in 1947 presented by dwight d eisenhower. many more coming up on this special edition of "andrea mitchell reports" live from normandy as we mark the 70th anniversary of the d-day invasion. stay with us. what does an apron have to do with car insurance? an apron is hard work. an apron is pride in what you do. an apron is not quitting until you've made something a little better. what does an apron have to do with car insurance? for us, everything.
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as with the six-hour time difference, the day draws to a close here at the american cemetery. we're reminded of all of those who rest in the sacred ground, all of the fathers and sons and brothers and husbands and friends who made the ultimate sacrifice. to our parents and grandparents who gave so much, both the men who fought so bravely and the women who worked so hard back home, we say thank you. thank you and we will always remember. that does it for this very special edition of "andrea mitchell reports." remember, follow the show online
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on facebook and twitter. "ronan farrow daily" is next. i'm meteorologist bill karins, we're watching a severe weather threat through the weekend in the middle of the country. showers and thunderstorms will be widespread from kansas to oklahoma to texas. we need the rain but don't want severe storms that come along with it and even the southeast and into sunday we'll continue to deal with afternoon strong storms. have a great day. and personal victories. we grow new beginnings, and better endings. grand gestures, happier happy hours. so let's gro something greater with miracle-gro. what will you grow? when jake and i first set out on we ate anything. but in time you realize the better you eat, the better you feel. these days we both eat smarter.
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america's bravest gave everything. if it weren't for that we might all be living in a very different america. >> our claim to equality, our claim to freedom and to the inherent dignity of every human being, that claim is written in the blood of these beaches and it will endure for eternity. >> shots fired and multiple victims down, an armed suspect moving through campus at seattle pacific university. >> today a 19-year-old male student is dead and two others hospitalized. >> clinton writes about meeting with barack obama before the 2008 democratic convention. >> we stared at each other like two teenagers on an awkward first date taking sips of