President Cuts San Diego Trip Short

Bush Leaves To Deal With Hurricane Damage

President George W. Bush cut short his visit to San Diego Tuesday to deal with the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, shortly after marking the 60th anniversary of V-J Day at Naval Air Station North Island.

The president also visited wounded Marines at Naval Medical Center San Diego but, according to broadcast reports, left quickly after receiving a briefing on storm damage in three southern states.

Air Force One took off at about 11:45 a.m., about one hour earlier than originally planned.

In his speech, the president vowed that the United States would triumph over terrorism, just as it triumphed over imperial Japan in World War II.

"In war, America called you from your farms and your schools and your factories to defeat two of the most ruthless armies the world has known," Bush said in thanking World War II veterans in a 34-minute speech at Naval Air Station North Island.

"In victory, America counted on you to extend a helping hand to lift up a defeated foe. In the lasting peace that has been your greatest legacy, America confirmed the power of freedom to transform the bitterest of enemies into the closest of friends," Bush said.

The speech commemorated the formal Japanese surrender to Allied forces on Sept. 2, 1945, during a ceremony aboard the USS Missouri while the battleship was anchored in Tokyo Bay.

Fighting in the Pacific region against the Japanese in World War II halted on Aug. 15, 1945, but the war's end was not official until the formal signing ceremony, presided over by Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

The president likened the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor that ushered America's entry into the war with the terror strikes of Sept. 11, 2001.

"As we mark this anniversary, we are again a nation at war," Bush said. "Once again, war came to our shores in a surprise attack that killed thousands in cold blood. Once again, we face determined enemies who follow a ruthless ideology that despises everything America stands for. Once again, America and her allies are waging a global campaign with forces deployed on virtually every continent. And once again, we will not rest until victory is America's, and our freedom is secure."

A crowd of about 1,000 sailors and officers lined the docks in anticipation of the president's arrival at the base this morning. They were joined by five Medal of Honor recipients, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif.

Also on hand was Sybil Stockdale, widow of Adm. James Stockdale, a Coronado resident and Medal of Honor winner who was held as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for 7½ years.

About 150 anti-war demonstrators were on hand along the road leading to the base.

Monday night, more than 600 people who oppose the war in Iraq had a candlelight vigil along Ocean Avenue.

The U.S. Coast Guard set up a temporary security zone in the waters surrounding the base, officials said.

The zone extended 1,000 yards in all directions from the Juliet Pier at the base. Coast Guard vessels maintained watch to make sure civilian boaters complied with the security restrictions, officials said.

The president also expressed support for residents of states hit hard by Hurricane Katrina. Federal agencies have been ordered into action, he said.

"We have a lot of work to do," Bush said. "The good folks in Louisiana and Mississippi and Alabama and other affected areas are going to need the help and compassion and prayers of our fellow citizens."

The president said people who wanted to help can contact the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army or call 1-800-HELP-NOW.

The president was scheduled to visit the Naval Medical Center San Diego in Balboa Park before leaving town, White House officials said.

The president and First Lady Laura Bush arrived at the Coronado base aboard Air Force One about 4:30 p.m. Monday following brief stops earlier in the day in Arizona and Ontario, Calif.

The first couple spent the night at the Hotel Del Coronado.

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