In Portsmouth, England, the 75th Anniversary of D-Day gathered President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump, Theresa May, the Queen, and Prince Charles, Justin Trudeau, Angela Merkel, and Emmanuel Macron to commemorate the sacrifice of soldiers who fought on the beaches that fateful day.
On the 75th anniversary of D-Day, President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrived at Portsmouth for the National Commemoration Ceremony with veterans and other world leaders. On the anniversary, leaders such as Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron, Justin Trudeau, Theresa May, and then The Queen and Prince Charles were also in attendance. After a photo-op, the leaders took their places amongst the others gathered for the commemoration. Other attendees from the United States include Steven Mnuchin, Stephen Miller, John Bolton, Mick Mulvaney, and Ambassador Woody Johnson.
D-Day marks the day that the allies began to push Hitler’s German Army back into Germany and halt the expansion of the empire. On June 6th, 1944, D-Day (The Normandy Invasion) began with a combination of British, United States, and Canadian forces who would liberate France by August. The estimated casualties suggest that over 550,000 soldiers were killed as a result of D-Day, mostly German. Those estimates also include approximately 12,000 French civilians. The commemoration serves as a way to honor those who fell and the sacrifices of those who survived, without who the outcome of World War II would not be what it is.
The tyranny and horror of Hitler’s reign
At an amphitheater near the shore, thousands took their seats in chairs with the veterans at the front and the leaders in a VIP section. The Royal Navy, Army, Air Force, and Welsh Guards made their entrance as a formal procession of the honor guard followed by Queen Elizabeth, who stood next to President Trump. “God Save the Queen” was played as she took her place. Soon after, images and clips of D-Day appeared on the screens to commemorate the events that would end World War II and the tyranny and horror of Hitler’s reign. Many veterans gathered on stage at the slideshow ended, greeted with lengthy applause.
Prime Minister Trudeau took to the stage, speaking in both French and English, to talk about his grandfather James Sinclair who served during World War II. Afterward, President Trump read an excerpt from FDR’s prayer to the nation over the radio the night after the beginning the D-Day operation. A speech that began with “My fellow Americans,” FDR compared the fall of the German empire to the fall of Rome. He then spoke a lengthy prayer, which Trump quoted a part of.
“Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavour, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity. They will need Thy blessings. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph. Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom. And, O Lord, give us Faith. Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade. Thy will be done, Almighty God. Amen.”
Emmanuel Macron spoke as well, saying thanks to the audience in English before switching to French to read a French soldier’s letter to his mother which ended with “Adieu. Vive la France.” Theresa May also read a letter from a British soldier N.W.G. Skinner to his wife timed before he set sail for Normandy which ended “God bless and keep you all safe for me.” Skinner would die in combat.
Actors took to the stage to perform excerpts of “Pressure,” a West End play by David Hare about meteorologist Group Captain James Martin Stagg of the British Royal Air Force who famously convinced Dwight D. Eisenhower to postpone D-Day from June 5th to June 6th.
John Jenkins, a 99-year-old D-Day veteran from Portsmouth, took to the stage to speak. At one point, he said “I was 12 years old when I landed on Gold Beach — sorry, I was 23 years old.” The crowd laughed and applauded him. The Queen then stood to remark about the Greatest Generation, saying that at the 60th anniversary of D-Day many believed it would be the last of its kind. Yet, somehow, the Greatest Generation lives on in 2019, which the Queen remarked that this fact showed that “the wartime generation — my generation — is resilient.”
While Angela Merkel made no remarks, her presence serves to recognize Germany’s role in the atrocities of the Holocaust and World War II.
The formal commemoration concluded with the Royal Navy’s gun salute and the procession of RAF aircrafts over the sky, leaving red, white, and blue contrails. “God Save the Queen,” followed Her Royal Highness as she left the commemoration.
Trump’s Visit In Context
The President is scheduled to make other trips to commemorate the sacrifice soldiers made to secure a victory for the allies amongst other meetings with world leaders. So far during his trip to the UK, the President has met the British Royals and Theresa May. He also sent a series of insulting tweets about London Mayor Sadiq Khan and clarified his remarks about Meghan Markle in which he called her “nasty” but only “about him.”
Looming over his head is the controversy surrounding his opinions on the war in Vietnam and his own supposed deferments from the draft, what some would call “dodging.” The President’s spoken desire to pardon United States military veterans awaiting charges or already charged with war crimes also looms over him on this day. Many see this desire as an insult to the veterans who served with dignity. While this commemoration serves as a way to honor those who sacrificed on D-Day, it also serves as a chance for the allies to catch up and discuss. Today, unlike that fateful day in 1944, the skies were clear and the sun shone brightly for the commemoration.