Portsmouth, ENGLAND – On the final leg of his three-day state visit to Britain, President Donald Trump will join Queen Elizabeth II and leaders here from around the world in paying respect to Allied service members who 75 years ago took part in the D-Day landings that helped liberate Europe from Nazi Germany’s military occupation.
The Normandy landings on June 6, 1994, were the largest land, air and sea invasion in history and Portsmouth Naval Base, near where the commemorations are taking place Wednesday, served as a key launch pad for those forces.
In addition to Trump, Prime Minister Theresa May is hosting 14 other leaders in Portsmouth, including France’s Emmanuel Macron, Germany’s Angela Merkel and Canada’s Justin Trudeau. Prince Charles was also attending, along with representatives from every country that participated in the storming of the beaches along France’s northwestern coast in a surprise attack involving 5,000 ships, 11,000 airplanes and 150,000 soldiers. More than 4,000 Allied service members – more than half of them American – died in the assault credited with changing the course of the war.
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“At this time of reflection for veterans of the conflict and their families, I am sure that these commemorations will provide an opportunity to honor those who made extraordinary sacrifices to secure freedom in Europe. They must never be forgotten,” the queen said in a special message to mark the occasion.
In a news conference on Tuesday with May, Tump said he was grateful for the warm welcome he has received from the royal family and the prime minister during his visit to Britain. “The bonds of friendship forged here and sealed in blood on those hallowed beaches will endure forever,” Trump said at the news conference.
He said the D-Day landings “may have been the greatest battle ever in history.”
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Ahead of the commemorations, the countries taking part issued a joint statement pledging to make sure the “unimaginable horror” of World War II did not happen again.
In Portsmouth, the story of the build-up to the invasion will told through live music, performances and readings. A Royal Navy ship will fire a gun salute and there will a flypast of historic aircraft including British Red Arrows and Spitfire.
Later Wednesday, Trump will make his first visit as president to Ireland, where he will hold meetings with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar at Shannon Airport, before spending the night at the Trump golf club in Doonbeg. He will then travel to France for further D-Day commemorations focused on honoring Americans killed in the fighting.
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Prior to the ceremonies, Trump took part in a broadcast interview with “Good Morning Britain,” telling host Piers Morgan that he meant no harm when he used the term “nasty” in discussing the American-born Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle. The phrase generated a lot of media coverage and Trump sought to clarify that he was speaking specifically on her comments about him, not about her.
“She was nasty to me. And that’s okay for her to be nasty, it’s not good for me to be nasty to her and I wasn’t,” Trump said in the interview, which he also used to play down an earlier comment that any trade deal between the U.S. and Britain after the latter leaves the European Union could involve Britain’s National Health Service, a prospect that has alarmed many Britons and politicians were at pains to rule out.
In a series of tweets at about 1 a.m local time Wednesday, Trump also unleashed attacks on Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, former Vice President Joe Biden and even actress and singer Bette Midler.