(Bloomberg) — President Donald Trump spoke at a military cemetery near Paris, a day after drawing sharp criticism for canceling a trip to a separate cemetery during centenary commemorations of the end of World War I.
Trump hailed the end of “one of the bloodiest conflicts in human history” in a speech Sunday at the Suresnes American Cemetery and Memorial. He called out by name veterans of World War II who were in attendance, thanking them personally for their service.
Trump drew a wave of criticism yesterday for canceling his visit to the Belleau Wood cemetery and battlefield, as rainy weather across France prevented the planned helicopter trip to mark one of the deadliest battle sites of the war. U.S. Secret Service typically requires a good level of visibility to transport the president by helicopter, yet the president’s detractors and some in his own party seized on the cancellation to accuse Trump of lacking respect for fallen soldiers and the military.
Standing in a steady rain without an umbrella Sunday, Trump referred in his speech to Belleau Wood, and the U.S. Marines who “fought through hell to turn the tide of the war.” He read from a soldier’s letter, saying that “through their sacrifice, they ascended to peace in heaven.”
“It is our duty to preserve the civilization they defended and protect the peace they so nobly gave their lives to secure one century ago,” Trump said.
He concluded his speech saying, “it has been a wonderful two days we’ve spent in France and this is certainly the highlight of the trip.”
Trump’s remarks followed those of French President Emmanuel Macron, who used a ceremony in central Paris earlier in the day commemorating the 1918 Armistice to attack growing nationalist movements, calling them the “betrayal of patriotism.” Standing before world leaders, including Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Macron called on them to work together to maintain peace.
Macron is hosting a Peace Forum starting Sunday, but Trump is planning to leave for Washington and won’t attend.