President Donald Trump saluted U.S. D-Day veterans and offered an unusual affirmation of America’s alliance with Europe to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the invasion that marked the beginning of the end of World War II.
“Our cherished alliance was forged in the heat of battle, tested in the trials of war and proved in the blessings of peace,” Trump said Thursday at the Normandy American Cemetery. “Americans are drawn to this place as though it were part of our very soul.”
In a roughly 26-minute speech, Trump maintained a somber tone as he honored more than 9,000 American soldiers buried at Omaha Beach and about 60 American veterans that he said made the trip for the commemoration.
“The free world salutes you,” Trump told one of several individual American veterans in the audience that he recognized during his speech. He hugged another, who he said was the last surviving member of his unit.
‘Stronger than ever’
“Your spirit – brave, unyielding and true – will never die,” Trump said. “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. Those who fought here won a future for our nation.”
Veterans who won the D-Day battle, Trump said, “were no less extraordinary in peace.”
“They built families, they built industries, they built a national culture that inspired the entire world,” he said. “In the decades that followed, America defeated communism, secured civil rights, revolutionized science, launched a man to the moon and then kept on pushing to new frontiers.”
“Today, America is stronger than ever before,” he said.
After the ceremony, Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron walked with their wives from the cemetery to a bluff overlooking the beach, where they watched cannons fire and planes – both vintage and modern – fly overhead.
The two men initially bonded over French-U.S. military history, and Macron sought to use memories of the world’s oldest military alliance as a stepping stone to curb the U.S. president’s isolationist tendencies. But the relationship has dimmed over disagreements on issues including climate change, arms control and the Iran nuclear deal.
There was no sign of rancor Thursday as Macron and Trump paid tribute to veterans and fallen soldiers, though Macron pleaded in his speech that the U.S. live up to the ideals of the Normandy landings and re-engage with its allies.
Trump thanked French families who have adopted the graves of Americans killed in the invasion.
“They come from all over France to look after our boys,” he said. “Today, America embraces the French people and thanks you for honoring our beloved dead.”
Trump will hold an official meeting with Macron and lunch with the French president after the commemoration in nearby Caen, France.