COLLEVILLE-SUR-MER, France -- President Donald Trump traveled to Normandy on Thursday to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day and pay tribute to American and allied forces who led the invasion of Nazi-occupied France that was the turning point in World War II.
"You are among the very greatest Americans who will ever live. You are the pride of our nation. You are the glory of our republic. And we thank you from the bottom of our hearts," the president said, addressing the over 60 veterans in attendance who fought in the consequential battle.
During his remarks, the president singled out and recognized the contributions of some of the veterans in attendance, retelling their stories and joining the audience in applause for their service.
The president and first lady Melania Trump were joined at the commemoration by French President Emanuel Macron and his wife at the American Cemetery in Normandy, where 9,380 American service members lay in final rest. Marcon offered his country’s heartfelt thanks for the sacrifices of allied partners in liberating France, telling the audience, "France has not forgotten those fighters to whom we owe the right to live in freedom."
"On behalf of France, I bow down before their bravery, I bow down before their immense sacrifice of those killed and those missing, who died as heroes in Normandy between June and August 1944 and who for many were to rest there for eternity," said Macron, turning to the remaining veterans and adding: "On behalf of my country, I just want to say, thank you."
When Macron concluded his remarks, Trump embraced the French president on stage with an extended handshake and hug.
Macron then awarded France’s highest award for military merit, the Legion of Honour, to several American veterans onstage.
Trump also extended appreciation on behalf of the American people for the French people's role as caretakers of the American cemetery, with each grave having been adopted by a French family.
"They come from all over France to look over our boys," Trump said. "Today, America embraces the French people and thanks you for honoring our beloved dead. Thank you."
Following the ceremony, there was a 21-gun salute from the beach as the two couples walked down to an overlook of Omaha Beach. They observed a moment of silence looking out over the water before the taps was played, and then a show of French and American military jets flew overhead -- with the final set of jets leaving red, white and blue streaks in the sky.
After the ceremony, President Trump and his wife visited the graves at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.
Trump is just the latest in a long string of U.S. presidents to commemorate the anniversary of the battle Normandy -- a tradition that began with Ronald Reagan on the 40th anniversary.
"These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war," Reagan said in 1984.
President Jimmy Carter visited before Reagan, in 1978, but his visit did not coincide with the anniversary. President Bill Clinton traveled to Normandy for the 50th anniversary, President George W. Bush on the 60th, and President Barack Obama on the 70th.