A cen­tury af­ter fight­ing for Paris, lead­ers mark ar­mistice

The Detroit News - - News - BY RAF CASERT As­so­ci­ated Press

Paris – 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 1914-1918 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.

Alan Seeger, the Amer­i­can poet that Macron lauded in his speech to the U.S. Congress last year, al­ready cap­tured the seeds of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion in 1916 when he wrote, as a sol­dier in the French For­eign Le­gion, that “I never took arms out of any ha­tred against Ger­many or the Ger­mans, but purely out of love for France.”

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.

Like other lead­ers vis­it­ing na­tional ceme­ter­ies dot­ted around north­ern France, Trump will visit two burial sites that high­light how the United States came of age as a mil­i­tary power af­ter it joined the war in 1917 and set it up to be­come a dom­i­nat­ing force for the next cen­tury.

Trump ar­rived in France late Fri­day. He planned to meet with Macron on Sat­ur­day for talks on top­ics ex­pected to in­clude Euro­pean se­cu­rity, Syria and Iran. For Sun­day’s an­niver­sary, Trump was to join lead­ers at a cer­e­mony in the shadow of the Arc de Tri­om­phe.

Eliot Blon­det / AP

Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May and French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron visit the Thiep­val ceme­tery on Fri­day as part of cer­e­monies to mark the cen­te­nary of the 1918 Ar­mistice, in Thiep­val, north­ern France.

Matt Cardy / Getty Images

Dig­ni­taries at­tend the of­fi­cial open­ing of the Field of Re­mem­brance at Royal Woot­ton Bas­sett, in the grounds of Ly­di­ard House and Park near Swin­don on Fri­day in Wilt­shire, United King­dom.

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