A century after battle for Paris, leaders mark WWI armistice
Paris, the City of Light, always was the grandest prize of World War I, either to conquer or defend.
So it is only fitting that when victors and vanquished meet to mark the centennial of the armistice this weekend, the biggest ceremony should be on the famed Champs-Elysees at the Arc de Triomphe.
On Friday, some leaders began remembrance events in a wide crescent of cemeteries and trenchrutted battlefields north of the capital.
British Prime Minister Theresa May laid wreaths for the first and last British soldier killed in the fighting – the two were buried across one another 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.
French President Emmanuel Macron continued his pilgrimage of 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 the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month on Sunday, exactly a century after the armistice.
Such was the symbolic importance of the French capital that victorious U.S. Gen. John J. Pershing said it was his “desire that every man in the American Expeditionary Forces should be given the opportunity to visit Paris before returning to the United States.”
Far from every surviving U.S. soldier from the 19141918 war made it to the French capital, but on Sunday, President Donald Trump will join his French counterpart and host, Emmanuel Macron, and others to remember the millions who died during the first global conflict.
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.
French President Emmanuel Macron talks to Edmond Salata Friday at the Museum of the Great War 1914-1918 in Peronne, northern France.