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World Leaders in Paris for Armistice Centennial Ceremony. Aired 5-6a ET
Aired November 11, 2018 - 05:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR: And if you are just joining us, here's what's happening: 70-plus world leaders are gathered in Central Paris to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. It's Armistice Day, the moment when guns, weapons, cannons fell silent and the fighting ended after four years of war and after 10 million soldiers were killed.
So the world leaders currently being brought up the Champs-Elysees. They'll walk the last stretch of this avenue in Central Paris, take their seats under the tents for the commemoration of the 100-year anniversary.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: And we'll be covering it throughout this hour. Many poignant occurrences will happen during this ceremony. As Cyril was saying, yes, dozens and dozens of leaders gathered here, on their way right now to begin this ceremony.
Our international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson is among our reporters who ware here covering this story for us.
We were talking about that issue with President Trump, Nic, and Kaitlin reiterating that he is deeply unpopular in France.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: And other countries around Europe. To that end, as well as the other world leaders that are here, the French put on an additional 10,000 or they were going to have 10,000 police officers on duty.
I can tell you, from several hours ago on the Champs-Elysees, there have been barricades along the side of the road itself. Police every 20 or so meters down the road, it was difficult for us to be allowed even to walk across the road hours and hours before the convoy approached.
The police not only have this sort of barricade, physical barricade; security police officers on duty right on the route that President Trump and other leaders have driven up and right at the place where this protester managed to get through that police barricade.
But there has been additional and we witnessed and experienced it ourselves this morning, additional security before you even arrive at that barricade. The roads are blocked by police vehicles. To even get close to that barrier, close to the road on the Champs-Elysees that President Trump was driving on, it was necessary this morning to be checked by police officers, to open one's jacket, to have one's clothing checked, open one's bag, to have their bags checked, cables checked, all these sorts of things.
So there are several layers of security here. And as Cyril was saying, this would be deeply disappointing to the French authorities. But there was an experience like this in Scotland at President Trump's golf course, when he visited Britain in the summer, where a protester was able to fly a microlight aircraft, very, very close to the president.
President Trump did close enough to take a picture of him standing on his golf course. So protesters are very minded to get close to President Trump with their messages. And he is not the most popular American president in Europe at this time.
ROBERTSON: Not to say other American presidents who've visited here haven't faced protests as well.
ALLEN: Thank you, Nic. We just want to pause for a moment because you're hearing the bells are ring at this time to commemorate the 11th hour on the 11th day, that the end of World War I took place.
We see the buses have arrived with the world leaders, who will be coming in to take their seats to begin. Let's listen, for just a few seconds, to the bells ring.
German chancellor Angela Merkel there with the French president and the first lady of France arriving. Unfortunately, as you can see, a very rainy day.
VANIER: A very rainy day indeed.
And a word of context on these bells. They have historic significance because, at the time when the armistice was signed and the announcement was made and soldiers and officers and civilians were told that the fighting was over, how was it done?
It was done exactly like this. So the bugle sounded on the battlefields and what were killing fields moments before all of a sudden fell silent.
In Paris, the news came at 11:00 am, so exactly 100 years ago because it is 11:00 am local in Paris right now. That's how the news was announced. There was an official announcement in parliament but that only came later in the afternoon on November 11th.
Then it look longer for the news to travel to other cities and villages across France because, at the time, you had to phone the news in to mayors and let them know the armistice has been signed, the fighting is over.
So bells tolled an hour later, two hours later, three hours later in other villages around France as they got the news.
As these bells tolled, people understood that the conflict that had ripped the European --
VANIER: -- continent apart for the last four years was over. I should say maybe not the conflict but the fighting because the conflict would only officially be over with the signing of the Versailles treaty.
ALLEN: It is beautiful to hear now.
Can you imagine 100 years ago, was that music to their ears?
Certainly you can imagine. You mentioned the bugle as well. At the end of this service and this hour, there will be a long bugle that is sounded.
VANIER: That will be part of the ceremony.
Look at this right now. Look at this right now. You are seeing dozens of world leaders, foreign dignitaries, heads of state, government, from all over the world, walking this last stretch up the Champs-Elysees, they're taking a pause right now. You see Emmanuel Macron, the hose, the French president, in the center. But you also see the king of Morocco, European leaders, African leaders.
ALLEN: Moroccan leaders, we see Mr. Trudeau there from Canada. Nic Robertson with us still. You can talk about the significance of the numbers here, the leaders who are walking into the ceremony right now, all together.
ROBERTSON: yes, 72 heads of state total. We were told will be in some form in attendance. If not this event, more than 50 at this event, 72 though coming to the country for this weekend; 98 heads of delegations; of course, 70 international bodies. United Nations represented here by the secretary-general and other -- the International Monetary Fund and other global institutions also represented here.
This is a moment that puts France very much on the world map as being a leader in terms of bringing the world together in reflection and remembrance and commemoration, oof the armistice itself.
But also the position that president Emmanuel Macron likes to hold as being a leader and a leading voice in the issues that he believes can be best addressed by world leaders working together.
So there is a lot of symbolism that goes beyond just the armistice. But, of course, this commemoration today is all about that; the leaders here will be hearing readings from students, high school students. They will hear readings from notes written by or diaries kept by frontline soldiers in the days leading up to November 11th.
A poignant note coming from one British officer we're expecting to be read this morning, where he talks about how the shells were still flying on the 7th of November, you know, days away. There had been a rumor that perhaps peace was coming but he found no indication of it.
Yet, 9:30 in the morning on the 11th of November, 100 years ago today, he said he got word that the cease-fire was coming. And given just 10 minutes, that's how quickly it came, 10 minutes to find -- to put together enough soldiers to go to a celebration march, where he found village people in France celebrating as well.
But a half-hour before he might have been just as likely to receive a call to put together a number of soldiers to come out of their trench and go and fight. So many soldiers killed, more than 8 million, more than 7 million civilians.
Pausing there; that was an overflight by the --
VANIER: Nic, you just got the jets.
ROBERTSON: -- over the Arc de Triomphe.
Well, they flew by and didn't they make a roar. That's a modern army. That is -- it's beautiful but it's poignant. Let's remember that World War I was trench warfare. It was begun on horseback. It was the end of that era of warfare but the beginning of a real mechanized, heavy artillery warfare.
Tanks came into play. If there is a metaphor that those planes remind everyone gathered there today, that a modern war would be so much -- potentially more brutal and different from that war 100 years ago, that killed so many people and devastated the global economy as well.
And it was the economy that began to underpin the ill will that led to World War II. So there are many things that are poignant and worth remembering and talking about today, as you can be sure those leaders will.
VANIER: Nic Robertson is just now minutes past 11:00 am local time in Paris.
Nic Robertson, who's just down the road fro this picture you're seeing. He's on the Champs-Elysees. He'll be with us over the course of this commemoration.
ALLEN: Our Kaitlan Collins is there as well. She's been covering President Trump's trip to Paris.
Interesting, Kaitlan; as we saw all of these --
ALLEN: -- world leaders, walking together slowly to get that moment, President Trump was not there.
Why did he decide to come and -- (CROSSTALK)
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, because so this morning you saw a lot of the world leaders arriving to meet with President Macron before they arrived at this ceremony today. President Trump was not one of those world leaders.
Instead, he came directly here to the Champs-Elysees from the ambassador's residence, where he's been staying while he's here in Paris. Instead, opted to come in his motorcade.
As we saw when the protester approached his motorcade, the beast as they refer to it in America, you saw she got very close and somehow got through the barricades lining the street and been lining the street for hours now before being apprehended by three French security officials.
You saw President Trump come before the buses of the other dozens of leaders. So President Trump was not a part of that walk up to the beginning of this ceremony.
As Nic pointed out, this comes as President Macron is really trying to cement his place on the world stage and France's place as well. But it was striking to see those leaders all coming forward, this very solemn moment as the planes flew overhead, as the bells tolled.
But there was not President Trump in that procession. He's likely already on stage, already part -- we don't see him seated there, actually. It's not clear where President Trump is.
But it was striking to see the German chancellor, Angela Merkel; President Macron, all of these other world leaders approaching this. But no President Trump in that line. There could be symbolic of a larger role that President Trump has or has not played in this ceremony since he's been here in Paris to mark the commemoration of the 100 years since the end of World War I.
VANIER: Kaitlin, Cyril speaking here. I wonder if you could talk about the nature of the ceremony and the fact that it wasn't what Donald Trump had advertised. When he first said he came to Paris a while ago, he had wanted to see a military parade. That's not what's happening today.
COLLINS: That's actually a great point. President Trump had this idea after he visited Paris last year for Bastille Day and saw this grand military procession right here on this street that we're standing near now.
That inspired President Trump to have one of his own in Washington. This is something he prompted the Pentagon to start doing. They had a price tag. So many aspects and planning went into this.
But when the price tag was so high, President Trump tweeted that he would no longer have that parade. Hopefully, the cost could go down next year, though he didn't explain why he believed that would be the case, since he was the one ordering up the military parade. But he said instead, he would come to France to this military parade
instead on Veterans Day. Of course, there is no military parade here today. It is a very somber ceremony that we're about to witness here.
As you see, the world leaders all approaching, pretty quietly standing there now. As you can see them getting lined up. But not the military parade that President Trump saw last year and not the military parade that President Trump was expecting.
Now he faced some healthy criticism back home in Washington and in America overall when he did suggest this idea of a military parade because even former military officials said they didn't feel that was something America needed. They didn't need to parade tanks up and down Pennsylvania Avenue to show America's military strength. That was already evident in the world.
But President Trump wanted this parade and he ordered the Pentagon to start planning one. Then when the price tag came in at an exorbitant price, frankly, that is when the White House shifted its plans and instead having Vice President Mike Pence come, they had President Trump attend this ceremony instead.
Of course you can see why those White House the officials want President Trump to be here because every other world leaders on the main stage is here today. It would have been striking if President Trump was not here. So that is a great point. No military parade for President Trump as he was expecting.
ALLEN: Kaitlan, thank you.
We want to go now to CNN's Jim Acosta, he is there at the ceremony.
And, Jim, we still haven't seen the president arrive here with the other dignitaries.
What do you know?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, we just saw a large group of foreign leaders arrive here on the site. I don't know for sure whether or not President Trump was in that group. I did spot the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau; the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.
We assume the president, if he's not here now --
ALLEN: I think we're seeing him right now, Jim.
ACOSTA: I see that as well. You're exactly right. He's arriving as we speak. We're maybe 50 yards from where these world leaders will be seated under the Arc de Triomphe. Paris just puts on a spectacular --
ACOSTA: -- show when it comes to the pomp and circumstance of this sort of thing. And this is definitely no exception. The Champs- Elysees, the famous boulevard that runs right through the heart of Paris, has been completely shut down for several hours now.
You can see dignitaries from across the world all gathered around the Arc as they mark this incredible moment. I will tell you, since there's been so much talk about the weather over the last 24 hours, we do have a pretty steady downpour in Paris. I would hazard to say that it is a little bit rainier this morning than yesterday when the president decided not to go out to the U.S. military cemetery and decided instead to stay indoors, the White House saying because of logistics of getting him out there without using Marine One, the helicopter that the president uses.
But this is a somber occasion, this is obviously a moment where a lot of politics can be put aside because --
ACOSTA: -- recognize that sort of --
ACOSTA: -- you can see the president now, I believe, Natalie. In some of the pictures that are being beamed out by French television, wearing his red tie. He's got an umbrella over his head as he joins the world leaders here on the scene.
You know, I think this is an incredible moment for the world to watch; 100 years since the end of World War I. Obviously, anybody who understands their history knows what followed in the years after that.
The world was not able to stop the rise of fascism, as it fanned across Europe and led the world into another world war. And it's interesting this week; the president came to see this military commemoration of the end of World War I. But he's not staying for a peace forum that's taking place after all of these events are over, that is being hosted by Emmanuel Macron, the French president.
And a lot of folks are wondering if the president perhaps should have been staying for that peace forum. And much of the activity going on at that peace forum is really in response to some of the concerns that the president has raised across the world.
Folks are worried about the rise of nationalism in the United States, the rise of nationalism in various states across Europe. The peace forum is designed in part to discuss some of those issues.
But putting all of that aside, it is just an amazing thing to watch, to see the world come together and mark the end of what was the Great War, the war we thought that was supposed to end all wars. But of course --
ALLEN: Right, and, Jim, we just saw President Trump take his place. He's next to the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and President Macron. But he did arrive separately from everyone else.
Do we know why they made that decision?
ACOSTA: We don't know why they made that decision. We do know that it seems, over the last 24 hours, ever since he arrived in Paris, there have been some real logistical concerns about moving him around. We haven't gotten a clear answer on that.
We didn't really get a clear answer yesterday as to why he skipped the military cemetery event that was to take place yesterday; they blamed it on the rain. Yes, they thought they could fly his helicopter out there.
But as you saw the chief of staff, John Kelly, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joseph Dunford, they were both able to make it to that ceremony. The president was not. And it just raised a lot of questions back in the U.S. because you had administration officials from past administrations saying, no, no, no. When a president goes to a foreign country and there are events like this, there's always a plan B if there's --
VANIER: Jim, this is Cyril speaking here. Let me break in for a second because we're seeing the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, who is now walking up to the tent where all the world leaders are assembled and he's going to be, no doubt, taking his place among that group.
So what we're seeing here is everyone came in together. But there were two leaders, -- and frankly, I'm not surprised by this -- but there were two leaders that did things a little differently and there are obviously security concerns as regards them.
One was the U.S. leader, Donald Trump. He's now seated next to Angela Merkel, screen left, if you can catch a glimpse of him.
And the other, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, who is now walking -- about to walk right past Donald Trump. Let's see where he's going to be seated.
They're shaking hands.
ACOSTA: I saw him shaking hands with the president, Cyril. You know, it's possible -- we'll have to find out whether or not this is the case later -- since these two leaders kind of came in last there, whether or not there might have been a brief interaction between the two leaders as they were coming in.
Perhaps there was a brief discussion and that might explain why they came in later than everybody else. Don't know that for sure but it's certainly worth checking into. I'll have to check into that.
Obviously a lot of people are wondering, putting everything aside, all the different things that the president was sort of getting into from a domestic political standpoint and foreign policy standpoint in the days leading up to this.
But one of the other big storylines out here was whether or not the president would have some time to talk with Vladimir Putin. So that will be very interesting to find out if that was the case.
VANIER: I want to keep looking at the pictures --
VANIER: -- we're seeing. All right. Now we're going to get the very opening stages of the ceremony. Emmanuel Macron will be solo for the next 10 minutes or so. He's going to do a review of the troops. He has left the dignitaries and the world leaders behind, he is now going to review the troops.
All of this happening at the foot of the Arc de Triomphe in Central Paris. And he's going to salute the flag bearer bearing the French flag. And in a few minutes, there will be a roll call of soldiers who have died for France during the past year. Let's listen in for a moment.
ALLEN: As we continue here with the beginning of this ceremony, after this, we'll also be hearing from Yo-Yo Ma, who will be playing Bach on his cello. CNN's Nic Robertson among those with us. We'll talk with him in just a moment. Let's listen to a little bit more of the music now.
VANIER: He's reviewed the -- he's honored the French flag, then you heard the national anthem, The Marseillaise. Right now the march of the consular guard. They believe it was to have been played in the 1900s the first time during a battle in Italy fought by Napoleon Bonaparte. It was at one time the national anthem of France.
Right now the French president is reviewing the military academy, so the French equivalent, for our American audience, the French equivalent of West Point, the Naval Academy, the Army.
Those are the bodies of learning to train not only the best officers of the French military but also some of the top civilian engineers. And each of those schools have their own history, their own protocol; obviously, their own uniforms. They were created 2 centuries ago to give France the best bureaucrats and staff at every position.
ALLEN: We have Nic Robertson with us as well among our correspondents covering this momentous occasion.
Nic, I want to ask you about the optics we just saw. We have Vladimir Putin --
[05:25:00] ALLEN: -- right near Donald Trump, right near Erdogan of Turkey and Netanyahu as well, all there together.
ROBERTSON: Absolutely. President Trump has sort of set something of a standard of meetings of global leaders, tending to be one of the last to arrive, sometimes late in four meetings. It was President Putin who was the last to turn up here, perhaps with the French concerns because of that security breach during President Trump's arrival, perhaps this concerns generally more broadly for the U.S. services protecting President Trump, the Russian services protecting Vladimir Putin as well.
In the past week, there have been arrests in France for uncovering a plot, a threat to President Macron himself. So all of these things in play. But I think in these moments, these moments, who arrived when, where they stand, it's all set aside. Deeply embedded in protocol but all set aside for this moment of solemn remembrance.
We're expecting to hear the last post to be played, expecting to hear speeches from high school students here, read. We're expecting some very poignant recollections from diaries of officers of different armies, who were in the trenches right in those moments, in days leading up to the time when the armistice was signed and the cease- fire was announced.
For anyone who has ever visited the cemeteries in the fields of France and Belgium and so many other parts of Europe, this sort of service that we're witnessing now is only part of the picture. Those huge fields laid out with so many young men of their generations, 8 million who died in the war, any moment one visits them is poignant.
This sums it all up, brings these leaders together. But it is a huge act of remembrance that we all endeavor to pursue at this time, to remember the sacrifice, to remember what led to this, what came after and the importance of avoiding wars on this scale again.
VANIER: I believe we're now hearing the minute of silence in honor of those who have fallen during World War I and we will honor that.
VANIER: You just heard the French national anthem there, the Marseillaise, being sung by the choir of the French army. Emmanuel Macron will soon be completing this introductory part of the commemorative ceremony and taking his place among the 72 world leaders that are gathered at the -- under the Arc de Triomphe.
ALLEN: We were just hearing, of course, the names of the soldiers that they've lost this year fighting for France. We saw their pictures up on the screen. We might mention that the last veteran from World War I died in 2012. So we're seeing veterans from other wars here.
VANIER: We have Kate Williams with us. She's a lecturer at the University of London, specializing in modern history.
Kate, allow me if I have to interrupt you at some point as we watch the pictures.
KATE WILLIAMS, UNIVERSITY OF LONDON: Of course.
VANIER: But it's now 11:30 am in France. That means we are exactly 100 years and 30 minutes after the official time date of the armistice, the end of the fighting of World War I.
VANIER: Explain to us the moments that led up to that moment.
What was it like at 10:00 am?
And what was it like at 11:01?
WILLIAMS: It's an incredible story. So the actual agreement, the armistice itself was signed at 5:00 am Paris time between the Germans and the Allies. And then during that period after that, it was getting the news out to the people across the world and the news did go out slowly to people on the Western Front.
But actually the fighting continued between 5:00 am and 11:00 am on this day 100 years ago and, indeed, the last soldier to be killed was an American soldier at 10:59, one minute before the armistice took its effect.
There was a British Commonwealth soldier, Canadian soldier, killed at 10:58 by German snipers. So the fighting continued right until the moment of 11:00 am. And then the guns, the bombs, everything fell silent.
And there was a real contrast because, in the civilian cities, in the cities across Europe and the cities across the world, there was an absolute outpouring of joy, euphoria; people couldn't believe it. They were so thrilled. They poured into the streets, singing and dancing.
But where the men were fighting, it was almost as if they could barely believe it. They were emotionally drained and they were shocked. They couldn't actually understand that you could stand up and not be shot at. They could talk to the Germans, they shook each other's hands. There were celebrations.
But they were quite muted because these soldiers had seen so much and lost so much and they also saw what a huge job it would be to rebuild the shattered world of Europe once more.
VANIER: And on those words, Kate, we're going to listen in.
ALLEN: This is Yo-Yo Ma.
ALLEN: All right. We're listening to Yo-Yo Ma play a somber Bach for the people gathered there. He sits there in front of the eternal flame representing the Unknown Soldier. Let's bring in now CNN's Jim Acosta. He joins us now via Skype.
You talk more, Jim, about the poignancy of this as we look at President Trump next to Angela Merkel, next to the French president.
ACOSTA: Yes. Yes, Natalie, it is a stirring scene to watch. I have to say when you see the three leaders sitting together, you can't help but think about the way the geopolitical stage is shifting at this very moment, as we're marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
You have to look at the various political dimensions that are just sort of unfolding in front of us. Angela Merkel, who is not going to be running for reelection as the German chancellor; she's weakened politically, raising all sorts of questions as to who is going to rise potentially as the de facto leader of Europe.
A lot of people are saying it might be the French president, Emmanuel Macron. As we saw yesterday here in Paris, the body language being a little frostier between President Trump and President Macron --
VANIER: Jim, I'm going to interrupt you for a second as we want to take in the sights and sounds. Right now, high schoolers, French high schoolers, are going to be reading excerpts from letters written by people who were on the ground on November 11th, when they heard and learned the news that the fighting was over.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking French).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking French).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking French).
VANIER: High school students in France. We're going to be reading -- they're going to be reading excerpts written mostly by soldiers. And it is what they wrote in the run-up to the armistice.
I believe we now have a translator.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): -- first victims of the war.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Yesterday I thought that the tree -- the war was a long forgotten nightmare. I now realize that I was deluding myself. The war will continue, shots will be fired and more blood will be shed.
(INAUDIBLE) 1918, more than ever, I'm convinced that the war has at long last ended, the arms have been cast aside. They will not be taken up again. I have much that I want to write. But the low rumblings of the cooking pots and the whistling of the bullets is finished. It's over.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Testimony of a British soldier, Charles Neville, artillery officer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "My darling parents, today has been perfectly wonderful. We got news of the armistice at half past 9:00 this morning. I got 10 minutes to sort out this detachment for grand parade in the square of Mons.
"So I got everybody I could let my hands on to scrub the mud off. The streets were packed with wildly cheering civilians, chucking flowers at us and carrying on like only a foreigner can.
"All the streets and the square was a blaze of color, mostly of course the Belgian color, red, yellow and black, Union Jacks, French flags, American flags; in fact, every conceivable flag of the Allies.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking French).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking French).
VANIER: You have high schoolers here, reading excerpts of letters that were written by soldiers who were on the front at the moment when they learned of the armistice. These are their impressions, their thoughts and feelings as they wrote back to their families.
This is a letter that was written by a Chinese national who was in France in the Western French region of Normandy at the time.
I'm telling you, as somebody who lived in France, I'm not at all surprised that the youth and high schoolers, teenagers would be so heavily involved in this commemorative ceremony because this is a very important theme that the French authorities are going to want to push through and push across, which is the generational aspect of it and the lessons that the current generations need to learn from World War I and also from World War II.
There's a heavy emphasis put on this in France at all levels. CNN senior international correspondent Jim Bittermann, who's been living in France for decades, I believe now, Jim, can tell us about this.
Jim, would you agree with me that French authorities, for them, it is key that everybody, especially new generations, learn the lessons of the past?
JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Cyril. In fact, that was one of the things this week as President Macron did his itinerants (ph), as he called it, the kind of wandering through the battlefield, one of the points of that was to pass along to another generation the conflicts, the catastrophe that was brought on by conflict. And they got young people to understand a little bit about what happened back then and why it shouldn't be repeated. I know and you mentioned, talking earlier about my little village in Normandy. In fact, the parents out there, every 11th of November, urge their children to come out.
And they look bored and they still don't want to be there and they would rather do something else. But the fact is that the parents bring them out and make sure that they're witness to this ceremony on the 11th of November, because it is so moving and also so much to remember.
VANIER: Jim, let me interrupt you for a second. Jim, let me interrupt you for a second as we continue to listen to the music being played. Now it's French cellist Renaud Capucon alongside Yo-Yo Ma.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Testimony of American soldier, 127th infantry, 32nd division. November 11, 1918.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "In the parade, where hundreds of thousands of soldiers from the U.S., England, Canada, France, Australia, Italy and the colonies, each soldier had his armful of French girls, some crying, others laughing.
"Each girl had to kiss every soldier before she would let him pass. There is nowhere on Earth I would rather be today than just where I am. I have had many, an old French couple, come up to me, playing like children, saying, you grand Americans, you have done this for us.
"I only hope the soldiers who died for this cause are looking down upon the world today. The whole world owes this moment of real joy to the heroes who are not here to help enjoy it."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).
VANIER: Let's go back to Jim Bittermann, who is just down the road from where this is happening; he's on the Champs-Elysees. Jim's been our Paris correspondent --
VANIER: -- for decades now. Jim, just give me your thoughts and impressions as you watch this.
BITTERMANN: Well, I'm very moved by it all. I think one of the things that this does is it brings out the international quality of not only the war but of France today and of the world today. The war itself brought in so many different nationalities; I just read
this morning, there was a note from the Indian press service reminding us that 1.5 million Indians were involved in the war, something that was left out of my history books.
But in any case, watching this exercise and memory, I think, is just fascinating. I think it's like a history lesson that Emmanuel Macron is wanting to give to the world. And I think he's succeeding, as we see Donald Trump listening there in the front row and, of course, all the other leaders as well, I suppose around the world, and watching CNN and learning a little bit about World War I and the significance of it.
VANIER: That particular reading may have been of particular interest to Donald Trump, since it was a letter written by an American soldier being thanked by the French. Let's listen in.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Testimony from a French person, a letter to her fiance, Pierre, far from Denise (INAUDIBLE).
"My darling Pierre, at the very instant when I write to you in your distant forest of Alsace (ph), you are learning the extraordinary news. The bells here of the churches are ringing out. I am overwhelmed by happiness. I cannot write. I am sobbing for joy.
"I will never, ever be able to convey the emotion and the extraordinary enthusiasm during this first day of armistice. We're overwhelmed. And this extraordinary thought, that not a single man will fall henceforth, that the vast expanse of the front is silent, there is nothing but silence.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Big tears as we reflect that everything is over.
VANIER: The queen of African music, Angelique Kidjo, singing "Blewu."
This just helps to underscore the international nature of this war. There were many numerous, numerous soldiers from Africa, from North Africa, from West Africa. Remember, at the time, the countries involved in this war, many of them were empires. France had colonies across the world, including many of them in Africa.
ALLEN: We're about to hear now from the leader of France, Emmanuel Macron, a very, very important event for this president.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please bear with the interpreters as we try and figure out a technical problem. We're not getting the sound. Technical hitch.
EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE (through translator): On 7th of November, 1918, when bugle player Corporal Pierre Sellier sounded the initial cease-fire at around 10 o'clock in the morning, many soldiers could not believe it.
Then they slowly left their positions and, further away along the frontlines, the same bugles repeated the cease-fire and then sounded the last post before the bells spread the news across the entire country.
November 11, 1918, at 11:00 in the morning, 100 years ago, day -- on the day, on the hour in Paris and all around France, the bugles sounded and the bells pealed. Armistice was being announced.
This was the end of four long, terrible deaths in fighting. But armistice did not signify peace. And in the peace, for many years, devastating wars continued to be fought. Here, on this very day, the French and their allies celebrated their victory. They had fought for their homeland and for their freedom.
And for this, they had made huge sacrifices and suffered untold hardships. They had experienced a hell, a hell that no one can imagine. We should take a moment to bring back into our memory all of these fighters, French soldiers from the continent and the colonies, around the world, fighters from the Legion, foreigners that had come from the whole world because, for them, France symbolized all that was beautiful in the world.
Let us summon the ghost of Peugeot, the first to have fallen, and Trebuchon, the last, who died for France 10 minutes before the armistice. We have teacher Clebelle Dupris (ph), defender of Douaumont; Diamopole Noblesse Sandres (ph) from the intrepid Foreign Legion; the soldiers from the regiments of the vast country, Brittany or Marseilles; the captain, Dugoze (ph), that was unknown at the time; General Gang (ph), the American with his ambulance; Montelon Juneau (ph), Charles Piggis (ph) and Alain Fournier (ph), who all fell during the first weeks; Josef Cassell (ph), who came from Orenburg in Russia and all the others, all the others who are our family, the family that we belong to today, the names of whom can be read off each monument, from the fonques mountains of Corsica to the valleys of the Alps, from the Salon (ph) to the Vosges, from the Pont du Mat (ph) to the Spanish border, one France, rural, urban, bourgeois, aristocrat, working class, where all the colors and where the Paris priests and the secular suffered side by side and whose pain shaped us during these four years of fighting.
Europe nearly committed to (INAUDIBLE) humankind can gone down the sinister path of merciless fighting, the kind of hell that devours all fighters, whatever side they might be on, whatever --
MACRON (through translator): -- country they hailed from.
The day after the armistice, the very next day after the armistice, the sinister task of counting the deaths -- counting the dead, the wounded, the disfigured, the missing started.
Here in France, but also in all the other villages and countries, families waited for months on end in vain the return of a father, a brother, a husband, a fiance. And amongst those that were absent, there were also admirable women who worked alongside the soldiers as volunteers, 10 million dead, 6 million wounded; 3 million widows, 6 million orphans, millions of civilian victims; 1 billion shells dropped on France only.
The world discovered the extent of the wounds that combatant fervor had obscured. The tears of the dying were followed by those of the survivors because, on this very soil in France, the entire world had come to fight, young men from (INAUDIBLE) provinces, from overseas territories, young men coming from Africa, the Pacific, the Americas, Asia, came to die far from their families and villages, of which they did not even know the name.
The millions of witnesses from all nations then told of the horrific fighting, the stench of the trenches, the bleakness of the battlefield, the screams of the wounded in the night, the destruction wrought on the field in doom which were reduced to a cinder.
Many of those who went home, who made it home, had lost their youth, their dreams, their appetite for life. Many went home disfigured, blind, amputated. Victors and vanquished were then plunged for a long time in the same darkness.
1918, that was 100 years ago. It seems very far away but it was only yesterday. I have seen the countryside, where the most terrible battles were fought. And in that countryside, I saw the land still gray and barren from the fighting.
I saw villages destroyed with no one left alive to rebuild them and whose ruin still today attests to the folly of mankind. I saw on our monuments the litany of names of French soldiers, alongside the names of foreign soldiers, who died under the skies of France, I saw the bodies of our soldiers buried in the fields where nature has reclaimed its rights, just as I had seen, in mass graves, side by side, the bones of German and French soldiers who had -- soldiers who had fought during a vicious winter over a few square yards of soil.
The traces of that war never faded, have not faded from French soil. They have not faded from Europe, from the Middle East, nor from our memories.
All of us around the world, let us remember, let us not forget because the remembrance of these sacrifices urges us to be worthy of those that died for us so that we may live free.
Let us remember, let us take away nothing of what was pure of the ideals of the lofty principles of our elders' patriotism. This vision of France as a generous nation, as France as a subject; as France, the bearer of universal values, was displayed during these dark hours as the very opposite of the selfishness of a nation which only looks after its own interests because patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism.
Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism by saying (INAUDIBLE) first. Who cares about the others?