President Donald Trump visited the American Cemetery in Suresnes, outside Paris, on Nov. 11, to honor the fallen soldiers of World War I on the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended the Great War.
The signing of the armistice is commemorated in the United States on Nov. 11 as Veterans Day.
Trump was joined by U.S. military leaders in the visit to the cemetery, where 1,500 U.S. service members are buried. Among them are U.S. Marines who fought in the Battle of Belleau Wood, where they earned the nickname “Devil Dogs” as they fought against the German Spring Offensive of 1918.
More than 116,000 Americans lost their lives and more than 1 million were wounded in World War I. Trump described the final battle of the war as the single deadliest in U.S. history. More than 26,000 American soldiers perished in that battle and more than 95,000 were wounded.
“Each of these marble crosses and Stars of David marks the life of an American warrior—great, great warriors they are—who gave everything for family, country, God, and freedom,” Trump said.
“Through rain, hail, snow, mud, poisonous gas, bullets, and mortar, they held the line, and pushed onward to victory … never knowing if they would ever again see their families or ever again hold their loved ones.”
The Great War killed 10 million soldiers and left millions of women widowed and children orphaned.
Earlier in the day, Trump attended an emotional ceremony in Paris led by French President Emmanuel Macron to pay tribute to the millions of soldiers killed in World War I.
“The American and French patriots of World War I embody the timeless virtues of our two republics: honor and courage; strength and valor; love and loyalty; grace and glory,” Trump said. “It is our duty to preserve the civilization they defended and to protect the peace they so nobly gave their lives to secure one century ago.”
The president cited a letter written by Sgt. Paul Maynard days before the war’s final battle. Maynard wrote to his mother that if he survived the battle, he would appreciate home more than ever before, because it “will seem like heaven to me to be once more where there is peace and only peace.”
Maynard died in the final hours of the fighting.
Among those present was 13-year-old Matthew Haske, who worked for two years to save money to make the trip to France from the United States.
“He wanted to be here in person to honor the American heroes of World War I. Matthew, thank you. You make us very proud,” Trump said. “You’re way ahead of your time, Matthew.”
Macron led tributes to the millions of soldiers killed in World War I in Armistice Day ceremonies in Paris, attended by scores of world leaders.
Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and dozens of other leaders joined Macron to mark the moment the guns fell silent across Europe a century earlier.
Under gray skies and gently falling rain, many heads of state joined Macron in walking the last stretch of the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe, where the ceremony was held.
In a 20-minute address delivered beside the tomb of the unknown soldier, Macron described the “unimaginable hell” of those who fought in the trenches.
The commemoration marked the centerpiece of tributes to honor those who died during the 1914–1918 war and to commemorate the signing of the armistice that brought the fighting to an end at exactly 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918.
“The lesson of the Great War cannot be that of resentment between peoples, nor should the past be forgotten,” Macron said, alluding to the millions of women widowed and children orphaned by the conflict, as well as the millions of soldiers killed. Around him, sorrow etched on their faces, former French soldiers stood rigidly at attention.
“It is our deeply rooted obligation to think of the future, and to consider what is essential,” Macron said.
The 90-minute commemoration included the reading by children of letters written by German, French, and British soldiers during the war, a recital by cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and a performance of Maurice Ravel’s Bolero.
The Nov. 11 events were the culmination for Macron of a week of commemorations of the war, one of the bloodiest in history and one that reshaped Europe’s politics and demographics.
Reuters contributed to this report.