WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger, in a Veterans Day address today, summoned the lessons of past world wars to criticize "apostles of appeasement" whose shortsightedness endangers military preparedness in favor of spending on domestic programs.
Weinberger, commemorating the 33rd annual Veterans Day under a cold drizzle at Arlington National Cemetery, made his remarks after laying the presidential wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns.
The defense secretary, President Reagan's point man in the annual battle with Congress to carry out his ambitious defense program, reiterated an often-expressed theme that war has been the price for lack of military preparedness. Reagan did not attend the ceremony.
"The 1930s hue and cry against building sufficient aircraft and ships finds a parallel today in those who would grasp every excuse for weakening America's defenses," the Pentagon chief said.
His apparent reference was to congressional cuts in Pentagon budgets of the last two years.
Weinberger recalled the isolationist sentiment in the United States before America joined in the war against Nazi Germany and Japan in 1941.
"By refusing to bolster our old allies, Britain and France, we lent unwitting encouragement to the apostles of appeasement, both abroad and at home," he said.
Referring to today's Congress, Weinberger said: "There are still those who want an adequate defense to take a back seat to what they term fiscal and political 'realities.' All these rationalizations for shortchanging America's security have been heard before and proven false."
Weinberger's address was the centerpiece of Washington's observance of Veterans Day, which was marked by parades and ceremonies in cities across the country.
In New York, hundreds of veterans, including members of the American Legion and gay veterans, marched in a cold driving rain with the widow of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the honorary grand marshal. The crowd of spectators was sparse.
At the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, an American flag made of red, white and blue flowers--one for each of the 58,200 names of war dead inscribed on the memorial's black wall--was unveiled this morning.
"The Moving Wall," a 250-foot-long, half-scale replica of the Washington memorial, was on display in Westlake Village, Calif., and another replica was erected at the Michigan State Fairgrounds Coliseum in Detroit.
Plans were advanced this week for new Vietnam veteran memorials in Illinois, West Virginia and New Jersey.