President Donald Trump on Thursday lauded the heroism of American and Allied service members who participated in the D-Day invasion that changed the fortunes of World War II, saying they “are among the very greatest Americans who will ever live.”
Trump joined other world leaders at Normandy American Cemetery in France to honor those who died and participated in the battle.
The president described the 130,000 service members who fought as the “citizens of free and independent nations, united by their duty to their compatriots and to millions yet unborn.”
Trump also sought to assure allies skittish about relying on the U.S. under his tenure, saying: “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. Our bond is unbreakable.”
He said the abundance of courage showed by D-Day participants came from an abundance of faith.
“The exceptional might came from an exceptional spirit,” Trump said.
Trump was joined by French President Emmanuel Macron, who told American D-Day veterans that “France doesn’t forget” what they sacrificed for his country’s liberty from Nazi Germany.
“We know what we owe to you veterans: our freedom,” Macron said. “On behalf of my nation, I just want to say, thank you.”
Trump, who participated in D-Day commemoration in Portsmouth, England, on Wednesday, said in France that America’s veterans are the pride of the U.S. He shared the personal stories of several American D-Day veterans with the audience. Many veterans wore military uniforms bedecked with medals.
Following the program and gun salute, Trump, Macron and their wives walked to an overlook above Omaha Beach, the scene of the bloodiest fighting. They stood silently as a bugler played “Taps” and surveyed a map of the invasion. They also watched as fighter jets and other aircraft, including some that left trails of red, white and blue smoke, flew overhead. At the cemetery, Melania Trump placed a bouquet of white flowers at the base of a cross-shaped headstone.
Trump and Macron were traveling separately to Caen, France, for a meeting and lunch before Trump returns to his golf course in Ireland.
At the ceremony, Trump said Americans are drawn to the shores of Normandy “as though it were a part of our very soul.” He noted that many of the men who lost their lives here were fathers who would never meet their infant sons and daughters because they had a job to do.
“They came in wave after wave without question, without hesitation and without complaint,” Trump said.
The cemetery contains grave markers for more than 9,300 American servicemen. Trump noted that each marker has been adopted by a French family and that people come from all over France to “look after our boys.”
“They kneel, they cry, they pray, they place flowers and they never forget,” Trump said. “Today America embraces the French people and thanks you for honoring our beloved war dead.”
Associated Press writers Deb Riechmann and Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.