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World Leaders, Including Trump, Mark D-Day Anniversary In Normandy


On Normandy Beach today, world leaders are sitting alongside World War II veterans. They're marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the battle that changed the course of the Second World War.


KING: President Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron are honoring Allied troops and remembering those who died.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Today America embraces the French people and thanks you for honoring our beloved dead.

KING: NPR's Eleanor Beardsley is at the site of today's commemoration in Normandy. So we heard from President Trump there. He delivered a speech about bravery and freedom. He hugged a veteran afterward. How were his remarks received by people there?

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: His remarks were very well-received. He got applause a lot. What he did is he talked about the individual men who were there - the D-Day veterans - and he told their stories. So it's something President Trump does very well; he plays up a hero. And he got a lot of applause for it. He didn't talk a lot about Allies. What you usually hear at this D-Day ceremony is how the Allies worked together. He did not really talk about that, and President Macron did. President Macron also praised the American troops. But he really talked about the Franco-American alliance and standing together in the face of tyranny. I talked to a couple people afterwards, and they said that they noticed that and that Macron talked about alliances and Trump did not. But both spoke very well.

KING: Let's hear a bit of Macron's speech.


PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON: We know what we owe to you veterans - our freedom. On behalf of my nation, I just want to say thank you.

KING: Eleanor, you've covered this commemoration before. This particular anniversary is a big one. It's 75 years. Is it different from previous ones?

BEARDSLEY: It does feel a little different. It feels very poignant, and it feels very urgent. People felt a need to come this year because it really may be the last big anniversary with the D-Day veterans themselves. Today there were 35 American veterans there. These men are very old now. They're all in their 90s. You recognize them immediately. They are the heroes of this whole weekend. And hundreds of thousands of people from around Europe want to meet them. When you see a veteran, they usually have their uniform and medals. And they're surrounded by French people wanting to shake their hands, thank you - say thank you and get their pictures with them. But you feel that people wanted to come back and see these men for a last time.

KING: President Macron and President Trump have not been on the best terms lately, especially when you consider where they were two years ago - around two years ago. When President Trump visited, they were very friendly, had a lot of nice words for each other. After this ceremony ends today, are they going to go their separate ways, or do they have more on the agenda?

BEARDSLEY: They will probably go their separate ways. I've read in the French press that the next time they'll probably meet is at a G20 - not a personal invitation, such as when Macron invited Trump to Paris to see a military parade. But I will say they had a very amicable relationship today. They shook hands. They smiled. They seemed happy to be with each other. But they no longer called each other Donald and Emmanuel. President Macron said, Cher Donald Trump - Dear Donald Trump - no longer just Dear Donald.

So yes, Macron did try to cultivate President Trump for a long time. He tried to, as he said, bring him in the system of nations. But everything he tried - he wanted to keep him with the Iran deal. He wanted to keep him in the climate accord - and none of that worked. The two men are fundamentally very different, and their relationship has kind of flopped. But still, Macron is the, you know, the biggest Europe - Western European leader to have any kind of relationship with President Trump. He can actually work with him, which you can't say about President Merkel of Germany or Theresa May of Britain.

KING: NPR's Eleanor Beardsley on the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

Eleanor, thank you so much.

BEARDSLEY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.