Pressed by President Trump, the Pentagon is proposing to stage a military parade in November with veterans in historic uniforms and warplanes, but no tanks — a scaled-down version of the grand display of military might the president envisioned, according to a memo released by the Pentagon on Friday.
Veterans in “period uniforms” from past wars would march from the White House to the Capitol on Nov. 11 — Veterans Day — joined by “wheeled vehicles only, no tanks,” to “minimize damage to local infrastructure,” the planning document says.
Trump asked the Defense Department to plan a parade of the U.S. armed forces to celebrate military strength, much like France’s annual Bastille Day parade that he and First Lady Melania Trump attended in July in Paris as the guests of French President Emmanuel Macron.
But Pentagon officials, citing the cost, logistical difficulties and rarity of large-scale military parades in the United States, have sought to shift the focus to celebrating American history and the contributions of veterans, and away from displaying military hardware and row after row of marching troops — a scene more associated with autocratic nations, from Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union to, in the present age, Russia and North Korea.
At the end of the parade, “a heavy air component” of warplanes would conduct flyovers that would include “older aircraft as available,” the document says.
“The parade will focus on the contributions of our veterans throughout the history of the U.S. military, starting from the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 to today, with an emphasis on the price of freedom,” the memo reads.
The event will also “highlight the evolution of women veterans” who served in separate units during World War II but today can serve in combat units, it adds.
Veterans and Medal of Honor recipients would join Trump at a reviewing area at the Capitol.
The memo described the plan as “initial guidance.” It is unclear whether Trump will be satisfied with the Pentagon plan, which one official said was still a work in progress.
The memo, issued by the office of Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis, went to Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“I can confirm that the Joint Staff has received planning guidance for the parade from DOD and that planning is underway,” said a spokesman for Dunford, who spoke on the condition that he not be identified.
The United States traditionally has not embraced showy displays of raw military hardware, such as North Korea's displays of ballistic missiles in its bid for international prestige and influence. Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, estimated last month that the parade could cost as much as $30 million.
U.S. military members commonly participate in parades on the Fourth of July and other holidays to signify appreciation and remembrance of veterans. Yet these events typically do not include military equipment.
Pentagon officials have said privately that bringing tanks, artillery and other weapons to Washington, as well as hundreds of troops to march, would be a massive logistical headache at a time when the military is engaged in combat in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
The memo does not specify how many active-duty or reserve troops would participate in the parade, a question that officials said was still being decided. At least some would likely be required to drive the vehicles and fly the aircraft.
The Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, an Army musical unit that dresses in Revolutionary War uniforms, would participate in the parade, the memo says.
The Pentagon last staged a parade in Washington in 1991 to celebrate victory in the first Persian Gulf War, which saw a vast U.S.-led military coalition push Iraqi troops out of Kuwait.