Published on June 6th in The New York Times
President Trump marked the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion in Normandy at a ceremony at the grave site of more than 9,380 American service members who were killed in the World War II landings and the operations that followed.
“To the men that sit behind me and to the boys that rest in the field before me, your example will never grow old,” Mr. Trump said, with an audience of veterans behind him. “Your legend will never die.”
Mr. Trump and the first lady emerged from the president’s military helicopter just before 11 a.m., their arrival shown on two screens flanking the large stage. Cheers erupted from the audience for Mr. Trump, with some audience members taking off their caps and waving them.
President Emmanuel Macron of France and Mr. Trump greeted the more than 60 aging World War II veterans in attendance as they arrived onstage. Many were bundled with blankets, and at least one American veteran called out to Mr. Trump: “Hey, you’re our president, too. Come on up this way.”
At the ceremony, Mr. Trump shared stories of some of the veterans and families onstage by name and told of their connections to D-Day, as the crowd rose in applause for each of those honored.
The president paused several times, turned to the soldiers and family members onstage, and walked over and shook their hands. In one especially moving moment, Mr. Macron helped one of the men, 94-year-old Russell Pickett, rise to his feet as he momentarily struggled to stand.
Mr. Trump also remembered the lives lost in the operation, and though he has usually been critical of NATO during his time in office, he nodded to the military partnerships between the Allied nations.
Of the nearly 160,000 Allied troops who landed on Omaha, Juno and the other beaches of northern France or parachuted behind German lines, about 73,000 were from the United States. More than two million troops from 12 countries, including soldiers, pilots, medics and other personnel, took part in the battle for western France, called Operation Overlord.
“From across the Earth, Americans are drawn to this place as though it were a part of our very soul,” Mr. Trump said.
“We come not only because of what they did here, we come because of who they were,” the president said. “They were young men with their entire lives before them. They were husbands who said goodbye to their young brides and took their duty as their fate.”
“They came wave after wave without question, without hesitation and without complaint,” Mr. Trump said. “More powerful than the strength of American arms was the strength of American hearts."
President Macron emphasized alliances, and said, ‘We know what we owe America.’
President Emmanuel Macron of France, speaking at the American cemetery, praised those who lost their lives on the beaches of Normandy for their sacrifice and thanked the veterans in attendance, while also making pointed reference to historic alliance between the two nations.
“We know what we owe America,” Mr. Macron said, turning to President Trump, who was sitting behind him. “America, dear President Donald Trump, is never as great as when it fights for the freedom of others.”
After his speech, Mr. Macron decorated several of those veterans, who were seated onstage throughout the ceremony, with the Legion of Honor, France’s highest award.
“To all of our friends and partners — our cherished alliance was forged in the heat of battle, tested in the trials of war and proven in the blessings of peace,” Mr. Trump said. “Our bond is unbreakable.”
Mr. Trump and Mr. Macron were to meet later in Caen, a city that was heavily bombed during the invasion.
President Trump’s D-Day speech honored those who ‘came here and saved freedom.’
President Trump’s speech touched on the sacrifice of the Americans who died in Normandy and honored the legacy of the veterans who survived the Allied operation, dozens of whom sat onstage behind him. Here are some of the highlights:
Mr. Trump began by acknowledging the allied forces that fought together on D-Day, and then turned to the Americans.
“They came from the farms of a vast heartland, the streets of glowing cities and the forges of mighty industrial towns,” he said. “Before the war, many had never ventured beyond their own community. Now, they had come to offer their lives halfway across the world.”
“They came here and saved freedom, and then they went home and showed us what freedom was all about,” Mr. Trump said. “They built a national culture that inspired the entire world.”
“The blood that they spilled, the tears that they shed, the lives that they gave, the sacrifice that they made, did not just win a battle, it did not just win a war,” the president said. “Those who fought here won a future for a nation.”
The president went on to recognize several surviving soldiers by name, including former Army medic Arnold Raymond “Ray” Lambert, 98, and paused his remarks to walk with President Emmanuel Macron of France to shake Mr. Lambert’s hand. He later embraced Russell Pickett, 94, who also stormed Normandy on D-Day.
hese troops, Mr. Macron said, were “thousands of kilometers away from their home, coming to aid to women and men that they didn’t know, to free lands that, for the most part, they had never set foot upon.”
“Today, France does not forget,” Mr. Macron said, adding, in English: “We know what we owe to you veterans: our freedom. On behalf of my nation, I just want to say thank you.”
Mr. Macron said that France and the United States must honor what he called “the Normandy promise,” to never forget that “when free people unite, they can rise to any challenge.”
Mr. Macron went on to mention the United Nations, NATO and the European Union as multilateral institutions that furthered that promise after the war — but that Mr. Trump has expressed repeated skepticism of.
“We must never cease to foster the alliance of free people,” Mr. Macron said.
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