Trump’s failure to honour fallen Americans at the Aisne-Marne Cemetery in 2018 speaks volumes.

Trump’s failure to honour fallen Americans at the Aisne-Marne Cemetery in 2018 speaks volumes.

Given his general vileness, it is easy for those of us who loathe and despise Donald Trump to readily believe the allegation that he uttered deeply disparaging remarks about World War I American dead whom he was scheduled to honour at a centennial ceremony on 10 November 2018 at the Aisne-Marne Cemetery and Memorial. Trump, and his flunkies have mounted a furious campaign of denial that he said what has been reported, first by Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic and then confirmed by other media. But rather than argue over what he said, which is a matter of dispute, the focus should surely be on what he did, which is not.

First, some background. More than 2,000 Americans fell at the battle of Belleau Wood in June 1918 and are buried in the cemetery. They were part of a force composed of the 2nd and 3rd United States Infantry Divisions rushed to reinforce French troops on the Marne River front who were fighting desperately to stem a final German offensive to end the war. Belleau Wood became the focus of the German thrust in this sector but they ran smack into the US 4th Marine Brigade, comprised of the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments, part of the 2nd Division. The Marines had arrived just in time to see French troops retreating. When urged by the French to do the same the legendary reply came back from US Marine Captain Lloyd Williams: “Retreat? Hell we just got here!” The Marines dug in and repulsed the German attack. 

From the 3-26 June the ferocious battle raged back and forth until the Germans were finally ejected from the wood. In that time the Marines endured thunderous artillery, devastating machine gun fire as they advanced through open wheat fields, hand-to-hand fighting using bayonets, knives, rifle butts and fists and, perhaps most frightening of all, poison gas. During one gas attack, Gunnery Sergeant Fred W. Stockham gave his gas mask to a wounded Marine whose own had been shot off. He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Some 10,000 Americans were casualties of whom over 1,800 Marines were killed. In their honour the French renamed Belleau Wood “Bois de la Brigade de Marine” or Wood of the Marine Brigade and awarded them the Crois de Guerre.

Against this backdrop and some 100 years later Donald Trump, when confronted with the prospect of a two-hour road trip and a rainy, possibly windy day that would play havoc with his hair, declined to attend the ceremony honouring the American fallen of Belleau Wood. To his chagrin, travel by helicopter had been nixed owing to inclement weather and rather than sucking it up as any other president would have done Trump, true to form, cancelled his appearance and hid behind the fiction that the logistics of moving his motorcade to the cemetery was beyond the organizational ability of his entourage; this despite the fact that several world leaders attended centennial events in the rain that day. There was strong criticism at the time, none more eloquent than this piece from Eliot A. Cohen in The Atlantic.

Not that the day was wasted. Trump apparently shopped for art at the residence of the US Ambassador to Paris and had several works of art shipped back to the White House.

So Trump skipped an event to honour our heroic soldiers and Marines who had given everything they had to give in service to their country to avoid a bad hair day or maybe simply because he couldn’t be bothered. Trump doesn’t need words to show his contempt for those who have served and sacrificed for their country. His actions speak far more loudly than his words. 

In his Atlantic piece, Cohen includes a poem from Alan Seeger as a sort of rebuke to Trump from beyond the grave. Seeger was an American who volunteered with the French Foreign Legion prior to the entry of the US into the Great War. He died of his wounds sustained during the Battle of the Somme on the 4th of July 1916 at the age of 28. I can think of nothing more appropriate:

I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air—
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.

It maybe that he will take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath—
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.

God knows ’twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where Love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear …
But I’ve a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.

2 thoughts on “Trump’s failure to honour fallen Americans at the Aisne-Marne Cemetery in 2018 speaks volumes.

  1. I told everybody I knew 5 years ago that his disrespect for the military would make him unelectable for most republicans. I should have learned my lesson after confidently predicting that Cindy Sheehan (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cindy_Sheehan) would cause a rift that reveals republicans’ hypocrisy on support for vets and gold star families, unravelling the layers of patriotism they’ve always wrapped themselves in.

    Still, I’m stunned to discover that I continue to harbor a belief in a dormant republican strength of character that will activate and push these amoral hypocrites to stand and oppose Trump on all levels, despite the decades of evidence that there is no dormant strength of character and there never has been.

    I felt a part of me die inside that I thought was long buried when I watched this guy talking about his fallen comrades:

    https://youtu.be/FY9OQUTmoxI

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