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The President. Mr. Prime Minister, may I thank you, sir, for setting the arrangements for this ceremony. And I am very pleased to mark this visit by honoring one of Her Majesty's finest, Sir Peter de la Billiere.
My pronunciation is horrible; my respect knows no bounds. We do this for his many contributions to the coalition victory in the Gulf.
And, General, under your leadership, sir, in the midst of the most daunting task, never once did your country hesitate or waver. Always Britain was there, steadfast and strong. So, let me say to you, sir -- to you and also to the forces under your command: America is honored to be your ally. In recognition of your courage and accomplishment, it is a privilege and a pleasure to present you with the Legion of Merit, Degree of Chief Commander.
And now I'd ask Commander Justice to read the citation.
Commander Justice. The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Legion of Merit, Degree of Chief Commander, to Sir Peter de la Billiere, General, British Armed Forces, for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service as the commander of British forces, Middle East, during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
General de la Billiere assembled and commanded over 43,500 of Britain's best soldiers and airmen, a contingent of the largest military coalition in modern history. General de la Billiere's ability to foster a cohesive and cooperative spirit between all of the nations resulted in a successful execution of hostilities against one of the world's largest land armies, employment of history's most extensive and impressive air campaign, and the world's first offense against ballistic missiles.
His air force closed 16 airfields and flew over 5,500 sorties that were instrumental in neutralizing or reducing a significant number of enemy capabilities, particularly, the Iraq command and control infrastructure and their ability to conduct counterattacks. His army attacked through some of the thickest offenses in theater, covering over 260 kilometers in less than 72 hours.
Throughout Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, General de la Billiere led his forces magnificently and displayed the leadership, vision, wisdom, and perseverance required to ensure the victory of coalition forces over Iraq.
Note: The President spoke at 8:50 p.m. in the Pilliared Room of No. 10 Downing Street, the residence and office of Prime Minister John Major of the United Kingdom. LCDR Wayne Justice was Coast Guard Aide to the President. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.