President Donald Trump and first lady Melania marked the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II Friday by laying a wreath at the national memorial to the fallen.
They traveled to the World War II Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to commemorate the Germany‘s unconditional surrender and were joined – at a distance – by eight veterans of the war.
The youngest 96 and the oldest 100, they had braved the threats of contracting coronavirus to join the president and first lady for the wreath laying ceremony.
Current service members, veterans and the first couple maintained social distancing guidelines at the memorial site, with the president thanking each of the veterans without making physical contact or stepping too close.
No one was wearing a mask during the brief ceremony or any other personal protective equipment.
One of the veterans who joined the president was Gregory Melikian, 97, who sent the coded message to the world that the Germans had surrendered.
Also in attendance were Steven Melnikoff, 100, Guy Whidden, 97, Harold Angle, 97, and Frank Devita, 96, who all took part in the D-Day invasion.
Donald Halverson, 97, fought in Italy; John Coates, 96, fought in the Battle of the Bulge; and Jack Myers, 97, was part of a unit that liberated the Dachau concentration camp – and they all were able to speak with the president briefly at the ceremony.
Each branch present: All branches of the military were represented at the national commemoration of the end of World War II
Stark reminder: 4,000 gold stars at the memorial mark the 400,000 Americans who lost their lives in World War II,m starting with those who died at Pearl Harbor
In the shadow of history: Donald and Melania Trump toured the memorial in the National Mall, which looks towards the Lincoln Memorial
Each state remembered: The World War II memorial has a separate commemoration of each state. The war was the greatest loss of American life since the Civil War
Salute from heroes: Veterans had traveled to be present at the memorial despite the threat of coronavirus. They stood to attention as a bugler played taps
Heroes: The veterans of World War II saluted in memory of their fallen comrades at the national memorial to the fallen
Out of the White House: Donald Trump left the executive mansion for the second time this week while it was Melania Trump’s first official duty outside the White House
Thank you for your service: Veterans of World War II traveled to Washington D.C. to be present as the president saluted the sacrifice of those who served
Dangerous times: Donald and Melania Trump spoke to the veterans who had traveled to be at the memorial
Inspection: Donald and Melania Trump walked through the memorial to World War II after laying a wreath to the fallen
Windy day: Cold and windy weather in the north-east meant both Donald and Melania Trump struggled with the wind
White House officials said the veterans were ‘choosing nation over self’ by joining Trump at the World War II Memorial ceremony.
‘These heroes are living testaments to the American spirit of perseverance and victory, especially in the midst of dark days,’ White House spokesman Judd Deere said.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany reiterated the president is checked regularly for coronavirus when asked why he didn’t wear a mask around one of the most vulnerable populations.
‘This president is regularly tested. This president will make the decision as to whether to wear a mask and not,’ McEnany told the press during a Friday briefing shortly after the ceremony.
‘I can tell you that those veterans are protected, they made the choice to come here because they’ve chosen to put their nation first,’ she asserted. ‘They wanted to be with their commander in chief on this momentous day. And it was their choice to come here.’
‘I can tell you that the president always puts the safety of our veterans first and of the American people first.’
VE Day, or Victory in Europe Day, was initially supposed to be celebrated in Moscow, Russia – but those plans were foiled due to the pandemic.
The veterans were going to travel with the president to Moscow for the commemoration event, but they still traveled in from all over the country to participate in the D.C. ceremony.
Timothy Davis, the director of the Greatest Generations Foundation, which helps veterans return to the countries where they fought, said the veterans came to him and asked about trying to commemorate the day in Washington once Moscow was canceled.
‘Of course, we presented to them the risk we are facing,’ Davis said. ‘They said, ‘It doesn’t matter, Tim.’
He added that the veterans viewed the commemoration as ‘a blessing to all who fought, died and served in World War II.’
Celebration: Celebrations began on May 7 in New York’s Times Square and lasted 24 hours as a relieved American people saw the end of the global conflict in sight, with the end of Nazi Germany
The way it was: Times Square in New York was crowded as Americans reacted to the joyful news that the slaughter in Europe was over. But more bitter struggle lay ahead to end the war with Japan
Faces of joy: This was the scene in Times Square on
Prince Charles leads the salute to Britain’s fallen heroes: Country falls silent to mark 75th anniversary of VE Day and Camilla leaves touching handwritten to her ‘darling father’ Major Bruce Shand
Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall led Britain in a solemn two-minute silence to remember the fallen on the 75th anniversary of VE Day.
Charles, 71, and Camilla, 72, known as the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay in Scotland, each laid a floral tribute at a war memorial at Balmoral Castle, Aberdeenshire, before falling silent in memory of the heroes of the Second World War.
The moment held added poignancy for Camilla, who left a touching handwritten note to her ‘darling father’ Major Bruce Shand, a decorated officer who fought with the 12th Lancers.
The royals and politicians today lead the nation in remembrance after large scale commemorative events were cancelled due to the coronavirus crisis.
This morning the Red Arrows performed a spectacular flypast over London and at 9pm the Queen will address the nation in a special broadcast from Windsor Castle.
Camilla joined her husband Prince Charles, 71, to lay flowers at the war memorial at Balmoral Castle, Aberdeenshire, before leading the nation in a solemn two-minute silence to remember to fallen and those who fought in the Second World War
Prince Charles looked solemn as he laid a wreath at the memorial and led the nation in a two-minute silence today
Tied to the stems of Camilla’s bouquet was a monogrammed note card with a message that remembered the service of Major Shand and the 12th Lancers, pictured
The Red Arrows carried out a spectacular flypast over London, and Buckingham Palace, this morning
Royal Air Force Red Arrows flying past the Runnymede Memorial in Egham, Surrey
Force Red Arrows flying past the statue of former prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill in Parliament Square
A stunning photo captures the Red Arrows in flight over London this morning as part of VE Day commemorations
The Houses of Parliament fell silent for two minutes this morning to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day
At Balmoral, Charles wore Highland Day Dress – a Hunting Stewart kilt with a Gordon Highlanders tie and lapel badge – as well as wearing medals and neck order.
Camilla, her 4 Rifles dress, because she is Royal Colonel of the regiment, and her 12th Royal Lancers regimental brooch, looked sombre as she laid the flowers at Balmoral, where she and Prince Charles have been in isolation for several weeks. The bouquet was handpicked by the Duchess from the grounds of Birkhall.
Tied to the stems of Camilla’s bouquet was a monogrammed note card with a message that read: ‘In memory of my darling father, and all the officers and men of the 12th Lancers, who fought so bravely to give us peace. Camilla.’
She took a moment to remember her father, Major Bruce Shand, who joined the army in 1937 as a cavalry officer with the 12th Lancers and went onto become a decorated war hero, as she laid her flowers. She enjoyed a close relationship with her father until his death in 2006 at the age of 89.
Charles’ handwritten message with his floral tribute read: ‘In everlasting remembrance’.
The Queen will address the country from Windsor Castle at 9pm this evening and afterwards, Britons will be invited to join in with a singalong to Vera Lynn’s wartime classic, We’ll Meet Again.
Charles and Camilla led the way as the UK fell silent to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day
The Duke and Duchess of Rothesay are photographed walking towards the Balmoral War Memorial this morning
The Duke and Duchess of Rothesay both donned military outfits for the occasion, pictured
The Duke and Duchess of Rothesay looked sombre as they marked VE Day together in Balmoral, Aberdeenshire, today
The royals observing a two minute silence to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day at the Balmoral War Memorial
The Duke of Rothesay lays a wreath after observing a two minute silence to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day
Prince Charles was watched by his wife as he lay the wreath on the war memorial at Balmoral today, pictured
Prince Charles, who has been in joint isolation with Camilla since March, looked sombre as he lay the wreath this morning
Charles’ handwritten message with his floral tribute read: ‘In everlasting remembrance’, pictured
The poignant moment was led by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, who each laid a wreath at a memorial near Balmoral
Charles and Camilla left handwritten notes, with Camilla using hers to pay tribute to her father, Major Bruce Shand
The Duchess of Cornwall placed spring flowers on the memorial, which were picked personally by Her Royal Highness from the garden at Birkhall
The engagement today is the first time the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay have been seen outside in weeks
Charles wore Highland Day Dress – a Hunting Stewart kilt with a Gordon Highlanders tie and lapel badge – as well as wearing medals and neck order
How Camilla’s ‘darling father’ Major Shand became a Second World War hero – and survived a PoW camp
The Duchess’ father, Major Bruce Shand, joined the army in 1937 as a cavalry officer with the 12th Lancers and went onto become a decorated war hero
The Duchess’ father, Major Bruce Shand, joined the army in 1937 as a cavalry officer with the 12th Lancers and went onto become a decorated war hero.
In 1942, already decorated with the Military Cross and bar from the early campaign in France, but by then serving in North Africa, he was praised by Churchill during a surprise morale-boosting visit by the Prime Minister.
Churchill spotted his medals and remarked: ‘You’re a very young man [to have won two medals]. How splendid. But you look so thin.’
Soon after, he was posted to the Libyan desert to face the might of Rommel’s tanks in the battle of El Alamein. Later, he described an encounter with the Germans in which his sergeant and the driver of their armoured car were both killed.
Himself already wounded, he managed to jump on to another scout car, but was once again hit.
He recalled in his memoirs, Previous Engagements: ‘Something like whiplash stung my cheek and Sergeant Francis beside me slumped to the bottom of the car with a large hole in his chest, killed instantly…
‘I do not remember hitting the ground. A buzz of German voices greeted my return to consciousness.’
Shand spent the rest of the war at Spangenburg PoW camp: ‘It wasn’t Claridge’s, but at least the reception was warming,’ he recalled. In fact, the regime was grim and the wait for release long and demoralising, though Shand sat it out with his usual stoic charm.
Major Shand seated in front of Camilla’s children, Laura and Tom Parker-Bowles, and with Prince Harry, Prince William, Prince Philip and the Queen, and the wedding of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall in April 2005
Major Shand was daughter Camilla’s ‘rock’ during turbulent periods in her life. Pictured, father and daughter leaving the Ritz Hotel in London in 1995
Europe commemorates VE Day in the midst of a new war: Parades and parties to mark WWII anniversary are scaled back as the continent focuses on winning its newest battle – against Covid-19
Parades and public celebrations have been scaled back or cancelled altogether on a continent that has borne the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic, with 1.6million cases and more than 150,000 deaths reported there.
French President Emmanuel Macron led the celebrations in Paris by laying a wreath in front of a statue of General Charles de Gaulle before making his way to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier underneath the Arc du Triomphe.
Accompanied by former presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande, alongside military leaders and other politicians who kept their distance from each-other, he listened to an acapella version of La Marseillaise before laying a tricolore wreath.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel took part in a wreath-laying ceremony in Berlin today – after the city’s residents were given an unprecedented public holiday to mark the occasion.
FRANCE: Emmanuel Macron led a toned-down ceremony marking VE-Day in Paris on Friday, first by laying a wreath at a statue of General Charles de Gaulle and then another at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider at the Arc du Triomphe (pictured)
Macron looks up at a statue of wartime General Charles de Gaulle after laying a wreath in front of it in Paris
Macron was accompanied by former presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande along with other politicians and military figures during the ceremonies, after large parades were cancelled
Macron addresses former Presidents Sarkozy and Hollande among other prominent politicians as they keep their distance during VE-Day celebrations in Paris
GERMANY: Angela Merkel lays a wreath at the Neue Wache Memorial in Berlin after the city was granted an unprecedented public holiday to mark the end of Nazism and Germany’s return to democracy
Merkel and other prominent politicians lay wreaths in front of an enlarged replica of Käthe Kollwitz’s sculpture Mother with her Dead Son at the monument to the victims of war and dictatorship in Berlin, Germany, on VE-Day
BELGIUM: King Philippe and Queen Mathilde (centre), lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Brussels to commemorate the end of the Second World War in Europe
As with most other European countries, Belgium’s commemorations were closed to the public to prevent the spread of coronavirus (pictured)
POLAND: A Polish veteran attends a wreath-laying ceremony to mark victory over Nazi Germany at the Monument of the Unknown Soldier in Lublin, eastern Poland
RUSSIA: Officials take part in a wreath-laying ceremony at a monument to Field Marshal Gregory Zhukov, who led the Red Army during the Second World War, in the city of Yekaterinburg, Russia
Germany does not typically celebrate May 8 – which marks the unconditional surrender of Hitler’s forces – but this year decided on a public holiday in Berlin to mark the country’s liberation from Nazism and return to democracy.
Merkel will join President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in laying wreaths at Neue Wache – the country’s main memorial to the victims of war and dictatorship, followed by a speech by the president.
Macron had earlier urged the French public not to attend public celebrations but instead to put up flags and decorate their windows and balconies in tribute instead.
Large-scale parades across Europe have been scrapped, drastically downsized or moved online, as the continent grapples with its biggest crisis since World War II – this time an invisible enemy that has sickened more than 3.7 million worldwide.
With veterans already at an advanced age, organizers of marches had deemed it too risky for them to attend events even in countries which have begun to ease lockdown measures.
Russia had originally planned a huge military display on its May 9 Victory Day, with world leaders including France’s President Emmanuel Macron on the guest list.
But now only a flypast will take place over the Red Square, as the country becomes Europe’s new hotspot of coronavirus infections.
Two people walk among the headstones of some 8,000 American troops who died fighting in Europe at Belgium’s Henri Chapelle World War II cemetery on VE Day
Servicemen during a flower laying ceremony at a monument to Soviet Marshal Georgy Zhukov to mark VE-Day in Yakerterinburg, Russia
Vehicles heading to a flower laying ceremony at a monument to Soviet Marshal Georgy Zhukov in Yekaterinburg
The honour guard as Polish veterans lay flowers at the Monument of the Unknown Soldier in Lithuanian Square, east Poland
Veteran Anatoly Dikovich, 94, is serenaded outside his house during a performance by members of the 120th Rogachev Guards Mechanized Brigade of the Belarusian Armed Forces as part of VE Day celebrations
Veterans hold the French national flag as they take part in the ceremony for the 75th anniversary of World War II victory in Europe at the Monument to the Dead in the French Riviera city of Nice
Mayor of Nice Christian Estrosi delivers a speech during the ceremony for the 75th anniversary of World War II victory in Europe at the Monument to the Dead
Russian orthodox priests gather at a Soviet war memorial in a park in Berlin, Germany, during a scaled-back ceremony to mark VE Day, or 75 years since the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany to the Allies
Two women hold carnations before laying them at the Soviet war memorial in Berlin, which commemorates thousands of Red Army troops who were killed liberating the city from the Nazis in 1945
An American flag is positioned next to the French tricolore on a bullet-damaged statue in the village of Bennwhir, eastern France, which was liberated by the US Army in December 1944
Belarusian servicemen drive tanks along the street in a rehearsal for the Victory Day parade in Minsk, celebrated a day later on May 9
Veterans salute at a memorial to those killed during the Second World War in Lille, northern France, on VE-Day
Graves of French soldiers killed during the Second World War are seen at a military cemetery in Sigolshiem, eastern France
A worker washes a monument to Russian soldiers killed fighting in the Second World War in Vladivostok, far eastern Russia, on VE Day. Russia traditionally marks the victory a day later, on May 9
The Belarusian air force leads Aero L-39 Albatros jets during a military parade rehearsal ahead of Victory Day in Minsk, which is celebrated on May 9
Russia typically sees one of the largest parades in Europe on Victory Day – its own day of celebration on May 9 – but that has been postponed due to coronavirus (pictured, a worker washes a memorial in Vladivostok)
President Vladimir Putin will lay flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier memorial, before making a TV address which will not only touch on the war, but is also expected to chart out the country’s next steps on battling the virus.
Elsewhere, COVID-19 continues to make its presence felt.
In the US, President Donald Trump and his wife Melania will join a wreath-laying ceremony at the World War II memorial in Washington, DC.
The US Department of Defense will hold an online commemoration thank WWII veterans that will be streamed on Facebook and Twitter.
In the Czech Republic, where a lockdown has been completely lifted, politicians will be arriving at 10-minute intervals to lay wreaths on Prague’s Vitkov Hill, to minimize contact.
Ceremonies across France have been drastically scaled down, although Macron will still be attending an event on the Champs-Elysees.
In Britain, street parades by veterans have been cancelled.
Queen Elizabeth II will make a televised address to the nation at 9:00 pm (2000 GMT), the same time that her father, king George VI, gave a radio address marking VE day in 1945.
Her son and heir, Prince Charles, will also read an extract from the king’s diary from the day, which covers the royal family’s appearances on the balcony of Buckingham Palace as massive crowds celebrated in the streets below.
That evening, the future queen – then known as Princess Elizabeth – and her sister Margaret were given permission to leave the palace and join the festivities.
Members of the armed forces are seen saluting during a service at the Cenotaph on Whitehall in London as the UK marks VE-Day with toned-down parades
The Royal Air Force Red Arrows pass over the Horseguards Parade outside Buckingham Palace during a flypast in central London to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day.
The French national flag decorates the Eiffel Tower as part of the VE Day ceremonies in Paris
Credit — dailymail.co.uk