After his visit to France to mark 100 years since the end of World War I in 2018, US President Donald Trump defended his decision to not visit the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery situated at the foot of the hill where the Battle of Belleau Wood, one of the first major engagements of the US with WWI, was fought in 1918.
Now, on Thursday, a report published in The Atlantic has alleged that on the morning of the scheduled visit in 2018, Trump said, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.”
What has the report alleged?
The report goes on to mention that in a separate conversation during the same trip, Trump referred to the over 1,800 marines who lost their lives during the Battle of Belleau Wood as “suckers” for getting killed. The article cites that this information was received from four people who have first-hand knowledge about the discussion that happened on the day of Trump’s scheduled visit to the cemetery.
The article has also made a reference to Trump’s contempt for late senator John McCain, a Vietnam War Hero about whom Trump said in 2015, “He’s not a war hero”.
What was the Battle of Belleau Wood?
The Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial located in France contains the graves of more than 2,200 war dead, most of whom fought in the vicinity of and in the Marne Valley in the summer of 1918. Over 1060 are considered to be missing in action. The battle, considered to be the bloodiest marine conflict in US history up until World War II, was a significant event of the First World War. In the battle, which lasted over 20 days, over 8,000 US Marines and hundreds of soldiers from the US Army fought the battle to prolong Imperial Germany’s advances towards Paris.
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What was the strategic importance of the battle?
The battle began on June 6, 1918 with more than 1,000 wounded on the first day of fighting. However, Ryan Reft, a historian in the Manuscript Division of the US Library of Congress, notes in a 2018 article that historians have overplayed the strategic importance of the battle, with some claiming that it was the most important battle fought by the US troops during the war’s entirety and others such as historian Edward G. Lengel disputing such conclusions and criticising US battlefield decision making. Even so, Reft notes, “…Lengel and others acknowledge the battle did inject critically important vigour and enthusiasm into the Allied cause while also elevating the place of the Marines in the popular consciousness.”
What could the report mean for Trump?
Trump has denied the allegations and said on Twitter, “…I never called our great fallen soldiers anything other than HEROES. This is more made up Fake News given by disgusting & jealous failures in a disgraceful attempt to influence the 2020 Election!”
The New York Times said the report could be problematic for Trump since he is counting on strong support among the military for his re-election during the upcoming elections, hardly two months away.
On the other hand, Joe Biden, who is the Democratic Presidential candidate for the 2020 elections, tweeted, “Here’s my promise to you: If I have the honor of serving as the next commander in chief, I will ensure that our American heroes know that I will have their back and honor their sacrifice. Always.”
Significantly, a recent poll taken by The Military Times says that there has been a continuous decline in active-duty service members’ views of Trump and notes a “slight but significant” preference for former vice-president Biden. The results of the poll, which was taken before the political conventions happened in August, run counter to Trump’s claims about strong support for him among the military members due to big defense budget increases and promises of drawing upon troops from overseas conflict zones.
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