Thirty-four years and 200 yards from the time and place where the liberation of France began, President Carter stood at the edge of an American cemetery near here today and pledged that "Europe's freedom will never again be endangered."
Carter and French President Valery Giscard d'Estating flew by helicopter to France's Normandy coast where they each laid a wreath at a memorial to the 9,385 American soldiers and sailors who lie beneath long vows of white marble crosses in the cemetery.
The site is on a cliff 200 yards from Omaha Beach, where on June 6, 1944, American forces fought the bloodiest of the D-Day invasion battles against the occupying German army.
The event was meant to symbolize French-American ties and both presidents used the occasion to emphasize the need to defend democracy.
"We are determined, with our noble allies here, that Europe's freedom will never again be endangered," Carter said. "We now have about 200,000 Americans, fighting men, in Europe to make sure that this threat is never before us again."
Giscard said France and the United States share a "deep-lying will for peace but also [a] dedication to liberty - that liberty which, for us, is the most precious of all possessions, which we will never renounce and which would justify, if by misfortune it became necessary, the greatest of all sacrifices."
Giscard spoke first in Frenf and then in English, which American officials said was an unusually friendly gesture toward Carter and the United States.
The wreath-laying at the Omaha Beach memorial was a fitting way for the president to spend his second day in France. It was the ultimate media event on Carter's journey to seven nations which ends Friday and which has been built around attempts to display the President favorably on television.
Today's activities later took on the flavor of an American political compaign when the two presidents drove to nearby Bayeux - the first French city freed by the Allied armies on June, 1944 - to appear together before a large and friendly crowd in one of the city's main squares.
Carter had made a similar appearance, to campaign in effect, last spring in England for British Prime Minister James Callaghan. It was then that Giscard, now barely two months from France's spring elections, invited the President here to do the same for him.
Carter and Giscard flew here in a helicopter from Paris this morning, passing over still green, rolling countryside in cool and overcast weather.
In Bayeux, tiny French and American flagv were perched on fences outside of some houses for the occasion, the first time an American President has visited this region of France.
The memorial is a 22-foot bronze statue entitied "The Spirit of American Youth Rising From the Waves." It is centered in an open arc, facing out toward a reflecting pool and, beyond that, the long rowns of white crosses.
On one wall of the arc, there is a map of Normandy and the beach areas where the allies came ashore. On the other wall, there is a map of Europe, showing the route of the Allied troops from Normandy to Berlin.
Everything about the ceremonies today was designed to dramatize French-American links. The two presidents approached the memorial along a path that was lined with French and American soldiers.There were two honor guards at the memorial - American soldiers in combat helmets holding M-16 rifles, and French soldiers in berets holding submachine guns.
Beneath the motto inscribed on the arc - "This embattled shore, portal of freedom, is forever hallowed by the ideals, the valor and the sacrifices of our fellow countrymen" - the wreaths were laid. There were three volleys of rifle fire, a soft roll of drums and finally a mournful "Taps" froma lone bugle.
Carter was the center of attention, but the eloquence belonged to Giscard as he recalled his feelings as a young man in Paris upon hearing of the invasion.
"You can imagine our impatience and our pride," he said. "The fight was a harsh one. Here at Omaha, Gen. Bradley's First American Army lost 3,000 men in the first few hours. It was only after eight hours struggle that veteran of the first American division managed to reach the top of the cliff."
"Everyone knows Col. Taylor's command - 'The only people on this beach are those who are dead and those who are about to die. We must move.'
"All this France remembers."
From the memorial, the two men walked to the edge of the cliff and stood for several minutes together viewing the beach and the ocean beyond.
In the cemetery, the President knelt for a moment by one grave and appeared to be praying. He also signed the cemetery guest book, writing, "To the heroism of those who fought and died here for the freedom of us all."
At Bayeux, the scene might have been in an American city at campaign time. Carter and Giscard, moving along a path between a crush of people, reached out to shake the hands that reached for them. In the square, in front of the hotel de ville (town hall), Carter was given a bouquet of flowers by a small girl. He picked her up and kissed her.
"In the American cemeteries in Europe," he told the crowd, a hundred thousand bodies lie, a symbol of our mutual dedication to the principles which have bound us together for more than two centuries."
These public events took much of the day, while substantive discussions between Carter and Giscard were put off until a two-hour, 45-minute train ride from Bayeux to Paris. Aboard the elegant train, during and after a lavish meal, the two presidents discussed developments in the Middle East and Africa, Strategic Arms Limitation Africa, strategic arms limitation talks and nuclear nonproliferation issues.
White House officials provided only sketchy details about the talks.
On Friday, the President will meet here with French Socialist leader Francois Mitterrand before flying on to Brussels for his last stop on this tour.
Gaullist leader Jacques Chirac, who is expected to challenged Giscard in the Presidential election, apparently was miffed when U.S. officials failed to respond to a suggestion that Carter meet with Chirac, now mayor of Paris. Chirac announced that he would not attend any of the ceremonies for Carter.
The President is due back of in Washington Friday night.