Queen Elizabeth and Donald Trump mark 75th anniversary of D-Day
US president clarifies comments on Meghan Markle on last day of his state visit to Britain
Prince Charles, Queen Elizabeth, US president Donald Trump and Melania Trump during commemorations for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, in Portsmouth, England. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire
Queen Elizabeth was joined by world leaders including Donald Trump and Angela Merkel to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day on Wednesday, paying personal tribute to the veterans of the largest seaborne invasion in history, which helped bring the second World War to an end.
The queen, Prince Charles, presidents and prime ministers rose to applaud veterans, their coats heavy with medals, as they stood on a giant stage beside a guard of honour after a film of the Normandy landings was shown.
“The wartime generation – my generation – is resilient, and I am delighted to be with you in Portsmouth today,” the 93-year-old queen said.
“The heroism, courage and sacrifice of those who lost their lives will never be forgotten. It is with humility and pleasure, on behalf of the entire country – indeed the whole free world – that I say to you all: thank you.”
British prime minister Theresa May was joined for the commemorative events in Portsmouth by US president Trump, who is on the final day of a state visit to Britain, and his wife Melania.
Mr Trump read a prayer given by Franklin D Roosevelt in 1944: “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.”
French president Emmanuel Macron, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, Australian prime minister Scott Morrison, German chancellor Merkel, and leaders and senior figures from 10 other countries also attended.
In the early hours of June 6th, 1944, more than 150,000 Allied troops set off from Portsmouth and the surrounding area to begin the air, sea and land attack on Normandy that ultimately led to the liberation of western Europe from the Nazi regime.
By the time of the Normandy landings, Soviet forces had been fighting Germany in the east for almost three years. Kremlin chief Josef Stalin had urged British prime minister Winston Churchill to open a second front as far back as August 1942.
The invasion, codenamed Operation Overlord and commanded by US general Dwight D Eisenhower, remains the largest amphibious assault in history and involved almost 7,000 ships and landing craft along an 80km stretch of the French coast.
Shortly after midnight, thousands of paratroopers were dropped. Then came the naval bombardment of German positions overlooking the shore. Then the infantry arrived on the beaches.
The Allied troops, mostly American, British and Canadian men, some just boys, waded ashore as German soldiers tried to kill them with machine guns and artillery. Survivors say the sea was red with blood and the air boiling with the thunder of explosions.
Thousands were killed on both sides. Line upon line of white crosses honour the dead in cemeteries across northern France. Even the codenames of the sectors of the invasion – Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword – can draw tears from veterans.
“I was terrified. I think everyone was,” said John Jenkins (99), a veteran who landed at Gold Beach. “You never forget your comrades because we were all in it together.”
The commemorations featured an hour-long performance recounting the wartime events and a flypast by historic, military aircraft. Afterwards, world leaders met veterans of the landings.
The queen, Mr Trump, Melania Trump and Prince Charles shook hands with half a dozen veterans who were waiting for them, exchanging a few words and asking them about their stories from D-Day.
“Congratulations. Thank you very much,” Mr Trump could be heard telling one of them.
Sixteen countries attended the commemorations: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Poland, Slovakia, the UK and the US.
They agreed a proclamation to “ensure that the unimaginable horror of these years is never repeated”.
On Wednesday evening, some 300 veterans who took part on D-Day, all now older than 90, will leave Portsmouth on a specially commissioned ship, MV Boudicca, and retrace their 1944 journey across the English Channel, accompanied by Royal Navy vessels and a lone wartime Spitfire fighter plane.
In Normandy, British air assault troops, French army paratroopers and D-Day veterans will recreate the airborne landings. There will be further D-Day memorial events on Thursday in northern France.
Meanwhile, Mr Trump has said Britain’s Prince Harry is a terrific guy and denied casting his American-born wife, Meghan, as a nasty person, claiming media had distorted his words as he actually felt she was very nice.
He also said he had a long discussion about climate change with Prince Charles, although Mr Trump suggested he personally did not believe the Earth is getting hotter, but that “it changes both ways”.
Mr Trump has been feted by the royal family and Britain’s political elite during his pomp-laden state visit to Britain. He was treated to a banquet at Buckingham Palace on Monday.
Hollywood actor Meghan Markle, now the Duchess of Sussex, married Charles’s younger son Harry last year and gave birth to their first child, Archie, last month. She criticised Mr Trump during his 2016 election campaign as misogynistic and divisive.
Before arriving in Britain, Mr Trump, on being told of Meghan’s criticism of him by The Sun newspaper, said: “I didn’t know that. What can I say? I didn’t know that she was nasty.” But he also wished her well in her new life as a British royal.
Speaking to ITV in an interview aired on Wednesday, Mr Trump clarified the comments.
“I said: ‘Well I didn’t know she was nasty’ – I wasn’t referring to she’s nasty, I said: ‘She was nasty about me,’” Mr Trump told ITV. “And essentially, I didn’t know she was nasty about me. So I said: ‘But you know what: she’s doing a good job – I hope she enjoys her life.’
“I think she is very nice. Honestly I don’t know her. So I have to be honest – I don’t know her,” Mr Trump told ITV. “She was nasty to me. And that’s OK for her to be nasty. It’s not good for me to be nasty to her and I wasn’t.”
Mr Trump said that he had met Prince Harry during the visit: “I did. I did. I congratulated him and I think he’s a terrific guy. The royal family is really nice.”
During the visit, Mr Trump had tea with Charles, who has campaigned for years to raise awareness about the destruction of the environment and the impact of climate change.
“We were going to have a 15-minute chat and it turned out to be an hour-and-a-half and he did most of the talking – and he is really into climate change and I think that’s great,” Mr Trump said. “I totally listened to him. And he also talked about architecture.
“He wants to make sure future generations have climate that is good climate as opposed to a disaster – and I agree. I did mention a couple of things: I did say, well, the United States right now has among the cleanest climates there are based [on] all the statistics, and it’s even getting better.
“I agree with that: I want the best water, the cleanest water, crystal clean,” he said.
When asked if he believed in climate change, Mr Trump said: “I believe that there is a change in weather and I think it changes both ways. Don’t forget it used to be called global warming, that wasn’t working, then it was called climate change and now it is actually called extreme weather – because with extreme weather you can’t miss.” – Reuters