President Donald Trump and other world leaders attended a D-Day commemoration event in England on June 5, each speaking to the assembled crowd.
Trump read a portion of a prayer that President Franklin D. Roosevelt read over the radio on June 6, 1944, during World War II.
“Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity,” Trump read.
“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.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shared the story of his grandfather who served in the war; French President Emmanuel Macron read a letter from a French soldier to his mother; British Prime Minister Theresa May read a letter from a British soldier to his wife.
John Jenkins, a 99-year-old D-Day veteran from Portsmouth, also spoke to the crowd. He was followed by the queen, who said that when she attended the 60th anniversary of D-Day, many believed it would be the last such commemoration for those that were there.
“But the wartime generation—my generation—is resilient,” declared the 93-year-old. “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.”
In the early hours of June 6, 1944, more than 150,000 allied troops set off from Portsmouth and the surrounding area to begin the air, sea, and land assault on Normandy that ultimately led to the liberation of western Europe from the Nazi regime in Germany.
By the time of the Normandy landings, Soviet forces had been fighting Germany in the east for almost three years and communist dictator 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 U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, remains the largest amphibious assault in history and involved almost 7,000 ships and landing craft along a 50-mile (80-km) 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. 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 honor 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 Jenkins, who landed at Gold Beach. “You never forget your comrades because we were all in it together.”
The ceremony started with a procession of honor guards from the Royal Navy, Army, Air Force and Welsh Guards before Queen Elizabeth entered and stood next to Trump. Black and white images of D-Day were then shown on a large screen before interviews with veterans of D-Day. Afterwards, a group of veterans appeared on stage, some with canes.
The ceremony was held near the coast at Portsmouth.
Trump’s coterie included Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, and top adviser Stephen Miller.
After the ceremony, Trump and First Lady Melania Trump met with American D-Day veterans, thanking them and posing for pictures. He also met with the queen and Prince Charles before bidding farewell to them.
“It was a great honor to be with you,” Trump told the queen. “Great woman. Great, great woman,” he told reporters.
Trump later spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“President Trump and Chancellor Merkel had a pull aside meeting for about 10 minutes. The two leaders discussed the current situation in Libya and the deteriorating conditions in West Africa. They agreed to discuss further at the G20,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
The president and the first lady were scheduled to depart Portsmouth and make their way to Ireland later in the day, where they would meet with the Prime Minister of Ireland.
Reuters contributed to this report.