The desperate battle at Belleau Wood, about 50 miles northeast of Paris, was a major American victory in World War One. After 26 days of savage fighting, a brigade of U.S. Marines helped to stop a major German advance toward Paris. American forces suffered 9,777 casualties, including 1,811 who gave their lives and were laid to rest at the nearby Aisne-Marne American Cemetery.
President Trump was slated to attend a ceremony at Belleau Wood to honor those brave souls on November 10, 2018, but cancelled at the last minute due to rain. According to a well-sourced report, Trump said he did not want to get his hair wet. The rain did not keep other officials from attending. Trump reportedly asked senior staff, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” He also referred to the 1,811 Marines who died as “suckers” for getting killed.
The White House has vigorously disputed the report, but it has been confirmed by a number of reputable news organizations, as well as Jennifer Griffin, the national security correspondent of Fox News. Along the same lines, Griffin’s source also told her that when Trump spoke of the Vietnam War he said, ”Anyone who went was a sucker.”
Trump’s claims of being a strong supporter of U.S. service personnel do not withstand critical scrutiny. He admits never confronting Vladimir Putin about Russia’s offer to pay bounties to the Taliban for killing American soldiers. Trump has claimed the intelligence was not credible, a claim supported by Idaho Senator Jim Risch. Secretary of State Pompeo put the lie to their claims when he disclosed on August 12 that he had given a stern warning to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov about the bounty payments. Pompeo said he told Lavrov, “We won’t brook that; we won’t tolerate that.” Weak intelligence would not justify that kind of warning.
Trump has browbeaten the Afghan government into releasing 5,000 Taliban prisoners as part of a so-called peace deal. Included in the release are four Taliban who carried out insider attacks against American troops. One insider, who killed two American officers, was released on May 29. The three others were among 300 high-value prisoners, the last to be released. France and Australia have strongly opposed the release of insiders who killed their troops, but Trump seems to be alright with releasing those who killed Americans.
Trump has pardoned several individuals for war crimes they committed in Iraq or Afghanistan. This is a great propaganda coup for our adversaries. Enemy combatants use it as a powerful tool to recruit others to kill American troops. It undermines our mission to gain the confidence and support of civilian populations in the war zones, and tarnishes our moral standing across the wider world. It was a devastating blow to soldiers who faithfully obeyed the laws of war and came forward to testify against the criminals, who include Edward Gallagher and Clint Lorance.
Trump was apparently unaware of the popularity of Stars and Stripes newspaper, which is an independent source of news for our troops. He eliminated funding for the paper in his FY21 budget and had the Pentagon issue orders to close it down in September, despite the fact that Congress was on track to restore the funding. I suspect he was angry that the paper did not toe the party line, as he saw it. The immediate and angry outcry from every part of the political spectrum caused Trump to do a swift about face.
The active duty military has sensed Trump’s disdain for the concept of service over self. Consequently, his support in the ranks has been rapidly diminishing. A recent Military Times poll showed Trump running behind Biden 37.4% to 41.3%. Four years ago, Trump led Clinton 54% to 25%. If Trump does not interfere with the right of service personnel to vote by mail, he’ll likely get an unhappy message from the troops on November 3.
Jim Jones volunteered for combat service in Vietnam (July 1968–August 1969).