President Trump marked the 75th anniversary of D-day Thursday at the American cemetery above Omaha Beach, praising the courage and sacrifice of those who fought here and lauding the alliance that turned the tide of World War II and defeated the Nazis.
“Our bond is unbreakable,” he declared.
“On these shores, on these bluffs, on this day 75 years ago, 10,000 men shed their blood and thousands sacrificed their lives for their brothers, for their countries and for the survival of liberty,” Trump said. “Today we remember those who fell, and we honor all who fought right here in Normandy. They won back this ground for civilization.”
President Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron talk to World War II veterans during a ceremony to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-day June 6 at the American Normandy cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, France.(Alex Brandon / Associated Press)
President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump, with French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte Macron, at the Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer.
(Ian Langsdon / AFP/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump speaks with American Battle of Normandy veterans and family members during the main ceremony to mark the 75th anniversary of the World War II Allied D-Day invasion of Normandy.(Sean Gallup / Getty Images)
Britain’s Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, meet war veterans at the Commonwealth Bayeux War Cemetery in Normandy.(Franck Dubray / Pool Photo)
A Normandy veteran views graves ahead of the Royal British Legion Service of Remembrance at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery at Bayeux, France.(NEIL HALL/EPA)
From Left, First lady Melania Trump, President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and Brigitte Macron, watch a flyover during a ceremony to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day at the American Normandy cemetery, Thursday, June 6, 2019, in Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy.(Alex Brandon / AP)
Veterans observe a two-minute silence at a service attended by Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, England.(Anthony Devlin / Getty Images)
A parade commemorates the 75th anniversary of the Allied landings June 6 in Sainte-Mere-Eglise, France.(Sebastien Nogier / European Pressphoto Agency)
A World War II veteran talks to a soldier at the end of a ceremony to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day at the Bayeux War Cemetery in Bayeux, Normandy.(Francisco Seco / AP)
A spectator shakes the hand of a British veteran at Bayeux Cathedral in Normandy, France, after a ceremony to commemorate the anniversary of D-day.(Francisco Seco / Associated Press)
HMS Belfast fires guns June 6 in London as part of D-day commemorations.(Daniel Leal-Olivas / AFP/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron greet American Battle of Normandy veterans and family members as the two men arrive at the main ceremony to mark the 75th anniversary of the World War II Allied D-Day invasion of Normandy.(Sean Gallup / Getty Images)
Canadian army officers at an international ceremony on Juno Beach in France.
(Guillaume Souvant / AFP/Getty Images)
Cannons are fired at a French-U.S. ceremony in Colleville-sur-Mer, France.
(Ian Langsdon / AFP/Getty Images)
Aircraft fly over after a French-U.S. ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer, France.(Mandel Ngan / AFP/Getty Images)
People walk on the beach of Arromanches on June 6 during D-day commemorations in Normandy, France.(Joel Saget / AFP/Getty Images)
A silhouetted soldier holds a British flag on the beach of Arromanches, France.(Joel Saget / AFP/Getty Images)
President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump watch a flyover during a D-day ceremony in Colleville-sur-Mer with French President Emmanuel Macron and Brigitte Macron.
(Alex Brandon / Associated Press)
Trump’s sentiments resembled those of his predecessors who spoke here on previous anniversaries. Unlike them, however, he has frequently disparaged U.S. alliances and questioned the continued usefulness of the institutions, including NATO and the European Union, that grew out of the World War II victory and have helped give Europe its longest period of peace in centuries.
For the day, however, he and French President Emmanuel Macron, who also spoke, put aside those arguments.
With 35 D-day veterans, now in their 90s, on hand, the two leaders praised the soldiers who stormed the beaches here and expressed, as Trump said, “undying gratitude.”
“You are among the greatest Americans who will ever live,” Trump told the veterans. “You are the glory of our nation, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
Macron, who delivered his speech in French, addressed the veterans in English.
“We know what we owe to you veterans: our freedom,” he said. “On behalf of my nation, I just want to say thank you.”
Even in their celebratory remarks, however, current tensions lay just below the surface. Macron made a point of reminding the crowd that French troops also played a role in the invasion and eventual liberation of France from the Nazis.
French fighters, Macron said, “were able to pave the way” for Allied forces.
He reminded Trump that the North Atlantic Treaty and the EU grew out of the Allies’ victory in World War II.
“The lessons of Colleville-sur-Mer are: liberty and democracy are inseparable,” Macron said.
Trump’s nationalist, “America first” approach has tested the strength of the U.S. relationships with NATO and long-standing allies, including Britain and France.
He has withdrawn the U.S. from multilateral agreements, shown a disinclination to stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who seeks to weaken the European bloc, and expressed an affinity for anti-democratic populists and Euro-skeptic Brexiteers in Britain.
But on this sunny Normandy morning, speaking just steps from the graves of nearly 10,000 American servicemen killed in the D-day invasion and subsequent military operations, Trump celebrated the alliance.
“To all 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,” he said. “Our bond is unbreakable.”
Trump concluded his speech by asserting that America is “stronger than ever before” and thanked D-day veterans one final time.
Those who fought, Trump said, “did not just win a war. Those who fought here won a future for our nation.”
Trump and Macron took the stage together, along with their wives, around 11:30 a.m. local time and shook hands with the veterans seated in the first row on the stage. Several shouted words of encouragement to Trump as he made his way down the row.
“I know a lot of people in Pennsylvania who want to vote for you,” one called out loudly enough to be heard by those sitting close to the stage.
Following the ceremony, which included flyovers by U.S. and French planes, Trump flew over historic Pointe du Hoc, where Army Rangers scaled cliffs on D-day to capture German artillery. He and Macron then met in Caen.
When they sat down, both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the alliance and their gratitude for the soldiers who fought in World War II.
Macron said he thought the tribute to D-day veterans was an important reminder to younger generations that might take their freedom for granted.
Trump told reporters that while walking through the cemetery and laying a wreath with Macron, he marveled at the scale of the invasion.
“Waves of people, knowing they were going to be killed — it’s really an amazing thing,” he said.
Asked if he would have made the same decision as then-Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower did to invade France despite the certainty of so many deaths, Trump said he would. “We have what we have today because of things like that,” he said. “It’s very sad, but I would do it again.”
Responding to questions about other subjects, Trump said he would decide in a few weeks whether to impose tariffs on an additional $325 billion worth of Chinese imports. The decision would come after the Group of 20 economic summit in late June, he said, noting that he is scheduled to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the gathering.
Thursday’s events formed the second day of D-day commemorations for Trump, who took part in a ceremony Wednesday at a British naval base in Portsmouth, the point of embarkation for many of the U.S. and British forces that stormed the beaches of northern France.
Even on such a historic, somber occasion, the president’s focus wasn’t completely on the anniversary.
When Marine One touched down on the grounds of the American cemetery, Trump sat down to tape an interview with Fox News host Laura Ingraham. Positioned with a field of crosses behind him, he trashed former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, a decorated combat veteran, who he claimed “made such a fool out of himself” when he publicly commented on his investigation. Mueller noted that the investigation had not cleared Trump of wrongdoing.
He also criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), giving her a nickname, “Nervous Nancy,” which he previously had not done.
Prior to departing Ireland, where Trump chose to spend two nights at a golf resort he owns rather than stay in Normandy, he spoke with reporters on the airport tarmac to attack Democrats on immigration and to threaten Mexico and China with additional tariffs.
“We’re getting 25% on $250 billion,” Trump said, referring to existing tariffs on China. “And I could go up another at least $300 billion, and I’ll do that at the right time.
“But I think China wants to make a deal badly; I think Mexico wants to make a deal badly, and I’m going to Normandy,” he said, walking away and onto Air Force One.
The D-day ceremony marked the last big event of Trump’s five-day European swing, which began Monday in London. The president is scheduled to fly back to Washington on Friday.