Among the Great War’s fallen

He, world lead­ers join in mark­ing armistice’s 100th year

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - JILL COLVIN AND DAR­LENE SUPERVILLE In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Jonathan Lemire, Elaine Gan­ley and Raf Casert of The As­so­ci­ated Press.

Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May and French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron pay their re­spects Fri­day at the Thiep­val ceme­tery in north­ern France that com­mem­o­rates more than 72,000 Bri­tish and South African troops who died in the World War I Somme of­fen­sive in 1916. They will be joined by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and other lead­ers this week­end in Paris for an in­ter­na­tional com­mem­o­ra­tion of the 100th an­niver­sary of the end of the war.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is shift­ing his post­elec­tion fo­cus with a week­end trip to Paris, join­ing an in­ter­na­tional com­mem­o­ra­tion of the 100th an­niver­sary of the armistice that ended World War I.

Trump ar­rived in France late Fri­day, days af­ter Amer­i­cans de­liv­ered a split ref­er­en­dum on his pres­i­dency in the midterm con­gres­sional elec­tion, keep­ing the Se­nate in his party’s con­trol but ced­ing the House to op­po­si­tion Democrats.

He planned to meet with French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron to­day for talks on top­ics ex­pected to in­clude Euro­pean se­cu­rity, Syria and Iran. As he ar­rived, Trump tweeted that Macron “has just sug­gested that Eu­rope build its own mil­i­tary in or­der to pro­tect it­self from the U.S., China and Rus­sia. Very in­sult­ing, but per­haps Eu­rope should first pay its fair share of NATO, which the U.S. sub­si­dizes greatly!”

For Sun­day’s an­niver­sary, Trump was to join world lead­ers at a cer­e­mony in the shadow of the Arc de Tri­om­phe.

“It should be a very beau­ti­ful pe­riod of time, the 100th an­niver­sary of the end­ing of World War I. We have many coun­tries — the lead­er­ship from many coun­tries will be there, es­pe­cially since they heard the United States will be there. And we look for­ward to that,” Trump told re­porters Fri­day be­fore leav­ing the White House. “I’ve seen what they have planned, and I think it’s go­ing to be some­thing very, very spe­cial.”

Trump orig­i­nally wanted to cel­e­brate Vet­er­ans Day on Sun­day with a mil­i­tary pa­rade in Wash­ing­ton, as he was in­spired by the tanks and fly­overs he saw dur­ing France’s Bastille Day cel­e­bra­tion when he vis­ited Paris in July last year. Trump or­dered the Pen­tagon to come up with plans for his own ver­sion, but they were even­tu­ally scrapped over con­cerns about costs and the dam­age tanks weigh­ing many tons would do to the streets in Wash­ing­ton.

The pres­i­dent and first lady Me­la­nia Trump were ex­pected to visit sev­eral me­mo­rial sites in France that are ded­i­cated to Amer­i­can ser­vice mem­bers. Not on Trump’s sched­ule, de­spite ear­lier dis­cus­sions about the pos­si­bil­ity, was an ex­tended meet­ing with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin.

“I don’t know that we’re see­ing each other in Paris, but we may,” Trump said. “There may be a lunch for the lead­ers.”

The White House and the Krem­lin had pre­vi­ously con­sid­ered a for­mal meet­ing in Paris. That now seems more likely for later this month, when they at­tend the Group of 20 sum­mit of in­ter­na­tional lead­ers in Ar­gentina.

On Fri­day, some lead­ers be­gan re­mem­brance events in a wide cres­cent of ceme­ter­ies and trench-rut­ted bat­tle­fields north of Paris.

Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May laid wreaths for the first and last Bri­tish sol­dier killed in the fight­ing — the two were buried across from each other near Mons in south­ern Bel­gium. One grave holds the re­mains of Pvt. John Parr, killed Aug. 21, 1914. The other grave is of Pvt. Ge­orge El­li­son, who sur­vived some of the war’s worst bat­tles but was shot on Nov. 11, 1918 — the war’s last day.

Macron vis­ited WWI sites and caught up with May, as the two present-day lead­ers of the Al­lied forces that de­feated Ger­many walked past graves at the Thiep­val me­mo­rial.

“Each ceme­tery and me­mo­rial across the world is a unique and poignant re­minder of the cost of the First World War,” said May.

Sixty-nine heads of state and gov­ern­ment will un­der­score that mes­sage at the Tomb of the Un­known Sol­dier in Paris on Sun­day, mark­ing the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, ex­actly a cen­tury af­ter the armistice.

France, Bri­tain and its empire, Rus­sia and the United States had the main armies op­pos­ing a Ger­man-led coali­tion that also in­cluded the Aus­tro-Hun­gar­ian and Ot­toman em­pires. Nearly 10 mil­lion sol­diers died, of­ten in bru­tal trench war­fare where poi­son gas added a cru­elty in war­fare that the world had never seen.

Hun­dreds of thou­sands from all cor­ners of the world died in Eu­rope, many of them on the Western Front reach­ing from Bel­gium’s Flan­ders Fields al­most up to the Swiss bor­der.

Car­ry­ing the her­itage of de­feated Ger­many, Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel will be vis­it­ing the site in the woods north of Paris where mil­i­tary lead­ers agreed in a train car­riage to the armistice at 5 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918, six hours be­fore it took ef­fect.

On Sun­day, in an­other show of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, Merkel will open an in­ter­na­tional peace fo­rum in Paris with Macron and U.N. Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res.

AP/ELIOT BLON­DET

AP/JAC­QUE­LYN MAR­TIN

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and first lady Me­la­nia Trump board Air Force One on Fri­day at An­drews Air Force Base in Mary­land as they head to Paris, where they will par­tic­i­pate in World War I com­mem­o­ra­tions.

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