Trump And French President Macron Commemorate 75th Anniversary Of D-Day

Jun 6, 2019
Originally published on June 6, 2019 8:28 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Seventy-five years ago, Allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy. This morning at the American cemetery above Omaha Beach, President Trump joined French President Emmanuel Macron to pay tribute to the sacrifice. The two leaders set aside their policy differences and were united today in their praise of the American troops who fought and died in Normandy. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley was there and sends this report.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: High on the verdant bluff above Omaha Beach, the birds sang, and a bright sun reflected off the calm sea. It couldn't have been more different than the bloody, stormy morning 75 years ago, when young Americans sought to take this beach and get a foothold in France and drive the Nazis out.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) Who's brought stripes and bright stars...

BEARDSLEY: The emotional ceremony included music, prayers and a flyover of fighter jets in the missing man formation.

(SOUNDBITE OF FIGHTER JETS FLYING OVERHEAD)

BEARDSLEY: As thousands of spectators looked, on the two presidents paid tribute to 35 D-Day soldiers, now in their 90s, sitting on the stage. Trump singled out some of them.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: He had been on the beach for hours, bleeding and saving lives, when he finally lost consciousness.

BEARDSLEY: Macron also praised their valor and awarded several vets the French Legion of Honor. At one point, he switched to English.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON: We know what we owe to you veterans - our freedom. On behalf of my nation, I just want to say thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

BEARDSLEY: President Trump also praised the vets' post-war contributions.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: They came here and saved freedom. And then they went home and showed us all what freedom is all about.

BEARDSLEY: America, he said, went home to defeat communism, secure civil rights and put a man on the moon. Today, the president said, America is stronger than ever before. Macron said the victory over barbarity would not have been possible without America. But he also stressed the effort involved many nations.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MACRON: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: "It's because the RAF lent a helping hand to the Canadians. And the French Resistance opened up roads for the Americans." Macron went on to say the Australians, Dutch and Poles all made a difference.

Following the ceremony, Bruce Sutherland from Michigan said he thought Macron hit the right themes. He said Trump was good when he praised the veterans, but D-Day is bigger.

BRUCE SUTHERLAND: I was a little disappointed that he didn't bring it back toward the Allies and the importance of that effort. Obviously, you know, commemorating the 75th anniversary of D-Day, that's a perfect example of that.

BEARDSLEY: After the ceremony, the two presidents met for lunch and discussions of key issues like trade, climate change and Iran. Even though the U.S. has pulled out of the Iran nuclear accord that France and Europe support, Trump downplayed disagreements.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: Well, I don't think we have differences over Iran. I don't think that the president wants to see nuclear weapons and neither do I. And that's what it's all about.

BEARDSLEY: Macron's office said the atmosphere of the meeting was positive and constructive. The last two years of policy differences and Trump's tweets have taken a toll on their relationship. Today's ceremony seemed to rekindle some of that bonhomie from times past. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Omaha Beach, Normandy. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.