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Trump Honors D-Day Soldiers on 75th Anniversary: Live Updates

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.

“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 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.

These 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.

Mr. Macron and Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain visited a new British war memorial at Ver-sur-Mer, a small coastal town in Normandy, on Thursday for a ceremony on the anniversary of D-Day.

Mr. Macron said that the monument, which is under construction, would be a “powerful symbol of the ties uniting our two nations” and a fitting tribute to the 22,000 soldiers under British command who died in the battle for Normandy.

“Nothing will ever erase these ties made of shed blood and shared values,” Mr. Macron said, adding, in an apparent reference to Britain’s drawn-out and bitter withdrawal from the European Union, that “the debates of the present take nothing away — on the contrary — from the strength of our shared history and our common future.”

“Whatever it takes, we will always stand together, because this is our common destiny,” Mr. Macron said, also expressing his “friendship” toward Mrs. May, who will soon step down as prime minister. Mrs. May also spoke, praising the soldiers not only for their military actions, but for what they represented.

“These young men belonged to a very special generation, the greatest generation, a generation whose unconquerable spirit shaped the postwar world,” she said. “They didn’t boast. They didn’t fuss. They served. And they laid down their lives so that we might have a better life and build a better world.”

Later on Thursday, Mr. Macron met in Bayeux with two French veterans, Léon Gautier and Jacques Lewis, both of whom took part in the D-Day landings. About 3,000 French troops took part in the Overlord operation, including 177 Marines who landed on the beaches.

Nearly 3,000 French civilians in Normandy were killed on D-Day, almost as many as the number of Allied troops who died that day.

Shortly before leaving Ireland for the D-Day commemoration in Normandy, Mr. Trump tweeted about a matter of utmost importance to him — his media coverage.

A short time later, he followed with, “A big and beautiful day today!” And then a post on Twitter about D-Day, quoting himself discussing the anniversary, apparently from remarks he plans to give.

The trifecta of tweets was in keeping with the split-screen rendition of the presidency that Mr. Trump delivered during the first three days of his European trip. He toggled back and forth between insulting a celebrity and a senator on Twitter and offering warm words of appreciation to some of the few remaining veterans of World War II and mingling with the British royal family.

As he prepared to board the plane for France on Thursday morning, Mr. Trump stopped to discuss tariffs on Mexican and Chinese imports, and to bash Democrats over immigration laws.

“Mexico was in yesterday. They’re coming back this morning,” said Mr. Trump, who has threatened to impose a 5 percent tariff on Mexican imports starting Monday in a bid to force the neighboring country to take additional measures to curb the flow of Central American migrants crossing the United States’ southwestern border.

“They have to step up to the plate — and perhaps they will,” he said. Mr. Trump also said that was prepared to impose “at least $ 300 billion” in additional tariffs on goods from China, “and I’ll do that at the right time.”

He said that Democrats in Congress had been “a disaster,” adding, “They want free immigration. They want immigration to pour into our country.”

Then he turned to leave, saying: “I think China wants to make a deal badly. I think Mexico wants to make a deal badly. And I’m going to Normandy.”

John Kerry, the former secretary of state and Vietnam veteran, was among the dignitaries who arrived before the ceremony began in Normandy.

Mr. Trump has previously said that Mr. Kerry — who was a key negotiator in the Iran nuclear deal — should be prosecuted for discussions with Iranian officials after he left office. But Mr. Kerry waved away questions about politics when asked about the president on Thursday.

“This is not a place to talk about Democrat or Republican or anything political,” Mr. Kerry told a small group of reporters near the security tent.

“We have a challenging world and this place, to me at least, is a statement about sacrifice and commitment” to solve those problems, he said.

Mr. Kerry laid out what was on the line during the Normandy invasion.

“It’s about the bigger issue of what was at stake in that moment when tyranny, fascism, a lack of tolerance” were “being used to separate people, to kill people and to divide a world in a very different way than the way people in democracies have grown up feeling is a better approach,” Mr. Kerry said.

Mark Landler, Maggie Haberman, Aurelien Breeden, Michael Wolgelenter, Megan Specia and Alan Yuhas contributed reporting.

Source: NYT > World

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