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Commemorating The 75th Anniversary Of D-Day; Trump And Macron Side- By-Side Paying Tribute In Normandy; Jake Larson, D-Day Veteran, And Carlisle Salapare, U.S. High School Student, Are Interviewed About D-Day; Antony Beevor, Military Historian, Is Interviewed About D-Day; Instilling The Patriotism Of WWII Veterans In The Soldiers Of Today. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired August 27, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR. This week, we're dipping into the archives and
looking back at some of our favorite interviews from the year. Here's what's coming up.
75 years since D-Day, a real-life history lesson in a moving conversation between the generations, a 96-year-old veteran and a 17-year-old high
Plus, the real story of what happened here in 1944. Historian and author, Antony Beevor, walks us through that fateful day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, 34th PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Many thousands of men have died for ideals such as this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The U.S. military past and present. I speak to the Army Secretary, Mark Esper, about the sacrifices made here and how the military
will face the challenges of the future.
And the politics behind this somber remembrance with the top French journalist, Christine Ockrent.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour here at the American cemetery in Normandy, where the sun is setting now on a day of
deep emotion and tribute to the veterans who 75 years ago today stormed the beaches below me to liberate Western Europe from the Nazis. It's a moment
known forever more by its military term D-Day. Thousands of allied troops died in the first day of assault.
And today, under the shining sun the world returned to Normandy to honor them and the many more who were killed during World War II.
Side by side, U.S. president, Donald Trump, and French president, Emmanuel Macron. paid tribute to the fallen and to everyone else who fought here on
June 6 all those years ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: You are among the greatest Americans who will ever live. You are the pride of our nation. You are the glory of our
republic. And we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT: We owe what we owe to you veterans, our freedom. On behalf of my nation, I just want to say thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And in the shadow of that history, President Trump paid rare tribute to the power of alliances and he celebrated those bonds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: To all of our friends and partners, our cherished alliance was forged in the heat of battle, tested in the trials of war and proven in the
blessings of peace. Our bond is unbreakable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: 173 World War II veterans have traveled from far and wide to come to this anniversary. 65 of them were on D-Day. And earlier today, I
spoke to one of them, Jake Larson, landed on Omaha Beach on June 6th when he was just 21 years old. He continued to fight through Europe, including
the liberation of Paris and at the Battle of the Bulge. This anniversary is the first time he's been able to return to France since he helped to
We were also joined by the future generation, a 17-year-old student, Carlisle Salapare. He is from South Carolina and he came to Normandy to
immerse himself in real-life history.
Jake Larson, Carlisle, welcome to the program.
Listen, Jake, it is really an amazing honor and a privilege and honor for us to talk to you and to have you here because you are, as it says on the
back of your jacket, an Omaha Beach survivor.
JAKE LARSON, D-DAY VETERAN: I am. Yes.
AMANPOUR: Is this the first time you've been back?
LARSON: 75 years ago. 75 years ago. Today I landed on Omaha Beach, came off the ship, down the rope ladder and got into one of these LCIs, it's
Landing Craft Infantry. I was the first one on that ship. So, I sat right back by the pilot, who was furnished by the navy. And then 29 others came
in and sat in front of me.
Now, we were supposed to go in about 8:30 in the morning to help the troops that already came in there. They could not get any support there. So,
they held us back until there was room to come.
AMANPOUR: Do you remember how scary it was? Was it --
[13:05:00] LARSON: I don't remember the scary part but I do remember that everybody was getting sick in the boat and when you start seeing people
vomiting and the smell comes to you, it kind of nauseates you.
AMANPOUR: I bet it does. And when you hit the beach, what do you remember about, you know, making it onto the beach?
LARSON: Well, I remember when I hit the beach, machine guns were opening up and firing at me. And I found this little, what I call blurb of sand,
kind of limestone. It sits in a (INAUDIBLE) and it was about six to eight inches high and it was a protection from those machine guns. So, I laid
behind it thinking, "How am I going to get out of this plane without being shot at me?"
So, I reached in my pocket and got a cigarette out of a waterproof cigarette holder, and I reached for a match and the matches were wet. I
looked over my left shoulder and there was a GI sitting there, not 3 1/2 feet behind me laying, and I say, "Hey, buddy, have you got a match?" No
answer. I looked again, under the helmet was no head.
AMANPOUR: Oh, my goodness. So, this man had been killed?
LARSON: He had been killed. And at that instant, I thanked his soul for inspiring me to beat it to the cliff. I got up and -- between those
machine guns that were shooting from two different angles, over down at me, I made it to the cliff without a scratch.
AMANPOUR: Wow, Jake, that is just unbelievable. You know, we've got a really young guy right here sitting next to you, Carlisle, he's 17, he's a
student from South Carolina.
Carlisle, I mean, you are here because you are really interested in this part of World War II history.
CARLISLE SALAPARE, U.S. HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: Yes, ma'am. Yes, ma'am.
AMANPOUR: Well how? What? I mean, stories like this, this is living history here, Carlisle.
SALAPARE: I know. Like in school they always teach us about World War II and the politicians and the Operation Overlord, you know, D-Day. But
coming here, seeing the beaches, seeing all of the great men who fought and died for freedom and liberty and to see you here, Mr. Lawson, is just --
it's amazing. I'm speechless. Thank you so much.
AMANPOUR: What do you think young people -- what would you like young people like Carlisle to remember and to know about what you and your band
of brothers did?
LARSON: Let's talk about our freedom. We're so blessed. We're so blessed. We don't realize how blessed we are. I joined the National Guard
when I was 15 years old because Hitler had just annexed Austria and he was taking the (INAUDIBLE) land from Czechoslovakia. At that time, it wasn't
very good to be liking war.
AMANPOUR: You had to lie about your age, didn't you?
LARSON: I had -- a little bit, just three years.
AMANPOUR: To get in.
LARSON: That three years that I lied about my age, it hurt me in the long run, because my service records were burned up in St. Louis in '73 or '74
or something like that. And I wanted to get hospitalization from the Veterans Association. No, they didn't have any record of me. And they
kept looking and kept looking. Now, this D-Day adventure, I was offered a spot of time to go here paid for. I didn't have the money.
AMANPOUR: You mean for an anniversary?
LARSON: For this 75th anniversary. And as quick as my son told them, "His service records were burned up in St. Louis," they hung up on me. That was
the end of that.
[13:10:00] Two girls from the bagel shop in Martinous said, "We were going to fund you." I said, "What's funny about this?" "Oh," she says, "No,
we're going to be funding you."
AMANPOUR: Funding you.
LARSON: Funding you. And I thought it was funnying me.
AMANPOUR: Yes, you made a joke.
LARSON: So, I said, "I don't think anybody is going to give me money that doesn't know me. I said, "I'll probably take a tin cup and sit out here in
front and get more money than you get." I was wrong. The people responded. They had a $10,000 limit, and I got $12,000.
AMANPOUR: Wow. So here you are thanks to your neighbors.
LARSON: So here I am. I kind of -- not only my neighbor, from people all over the United States who had lost parents, grandparents, brothers or
sisters or something like that in the Second World War. I could not believe it. This is like winning the lottery for me.
AMANPOUR: What is it like to be back?
LARSON: It's unbelievable. I've got my two sons. I've got two of my grandsons that are escorting me. There is a God. There is a God.
AMANPOUR: Well, there is a God that saved you and kept you alive.
LARSON: He kept me going. He --
LARSON: 96 years old. I don't have aches or pains like ordinary people.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask Carlisle. Listen, Carlisle, can you even imagine, you're 17 years old, lying about your age at 15 to be able to go to war and
SALAPARE: That's patriotism, ma'am. That's just amazing.
AMANPOUR: How deeply do they teach you at school? Because I hear the longer the distance between D-Day, World War II, the less of a massive
central part of school curriculum it is.
SALAPARE: Yes. Yes, like beginning in elementary school and middle school, they teach just history, and it's mostly about U.S. history,
obviously, and they cover from the revolution all the way up to, you know, modern politics. And they just covered D-Day as an event.
And this past semester I had AP U.S. History and we covered D-Day under the World War II aspect in the periods of how the test was divided and it
struck me. I'm going on a trip. I'm seeing places I would only learn about. That I'm meeting people that, you know, I would never think I would
AMANPOUR: I have read that there is some interest in history buffs who are also making sort of roots to trace the roots that people like Jake Larson
fought through to get through Europe and defeat the Nazis, even beyond France.
SALAPARE: Yes, ma'am.
AMANPOUR: Is that sort of like a pilgrimage you might want to make?
SALAPARE: Actually, I'm on a trip right now with my school. We're going up to Paris to see where the Allies liberated them, the Battle of Bastion,
AMANPOUR: Were you in the Battle of Bastion?
LARSON: You're taking liberation of Paris, I was there.
LARSON: Yes, I was there.
SALAPARE: That's amazing.
LARSON: We billowed (ph) in the Normandy hotel. I don't know the place where we set up headquarters, but I sat at Marshal Petain's desk, which was
full of different kind of medals and stuff.
AMANPOUR: So, of course, he would have been the World War I hero --
LARSON: World War 1 hero --
AMANPOUR: -- who was the World War II --
LARSON: -- who was president of --
AMANPOUR: -- collaborator.
LARSON: -- the V.C. --
AMANPOUR: That's right.
LARSON: -- French.
AMANPOUR: That's right. He was the collaborator during World War II.
LARSON: Yes, yes.
AMANPOUR: And you sat at his desk?
LARSON: I sat at his desk, yes.
AMANPOUR: Wow. So, here is a real, living monument to what you're going to see. That's better than any history lesson.
SALAPARE: Oh, yes. Definitely.
AMANPOUR: What did you think of President Trump and President Macron's speeches?
SALAPARE: Oh, they were wonderful. I love to tell my stories but I don't have the command that they have. I just have a high school education. But
I try. And I go and talk to history classes. And you can hear a pin drop when I talk.
AMANPOUR: Well, listen, it is extraordinary to be able to talk to you and I'm really, really happy, and I think Carlisle got a real lesson in history
sitting here with you. You talked about the real importance of remembering what it cost to be free.
LARSON: Freedom is not free.
SALAPARE: Yes, sir. [13:15:00]
LARSON: That's the thing. And if you want a little lesson on longevity, how to live a long life, I can tell you that in two words, don't die.
AMANPOUR: I love it. Well, you didn't and you aren't and you're very much alive with us. Thank you. Thank you so much.
LARSON: Thank you.
SALAPARE: Thank you, Mr. Larson.
LARSON: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: It was really incredible talking to him and to see how the 17- year-old student reacted as well.
Underneath the pageantry we've seen today is the chilling reminder though that thousands of young lives were lost forever on the beaches of Normandy.
Our Nick Glass revisits that fateful day 75 years ago, exploring both the triumphs and the tragedies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICK GLASS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sunrise and the sea is mislifting just about the time the Allies landed after 6:30 in the morning and the utter,
utter serenity of it now, as we all need reminding, it was all so different on the day.
The 60 miles of Normandy coast was a killing ground, a terrible killing ground and the sea green water once awash with blood. The old footage, of
course, in black and white, choppy seas, landing craft, infantry waiting ashore and hauntingly and anonymously, men falling on the beach. Could we
ever really imagine what it was like? Not perhaps until Steven Spielberg made "Saving Private Ryan."
This concrete skeleton is all that remains of an artificial harbor. As we know the Americans took their heaviest casualties here at Omaha Beach.
Many troops never reached the shore, killed by artillery and machine gun faster than their aircraft. A lot of money simply drowned.
On the beach itself you can find particles of shrapnel, glass and iron still mixed in with the sand. 75 years on you just have to climb the bluff
above Omaha to be reminded of the cost of the Allied landing. Meticulously kept and intensely moving in its symmetry in the fading evening light, the
American symmetry, thousands and thousands of white marble crosses and their lengthening shadows, over 9,000 of them.
You look at the cliffs that point the hook and marvel at the bravery of the American rangers. How did they manage to scale them with ropes and rickety
ladders under German machine gunfire and a rain of grenades from above? The rangers went on to neutralize the German artillery battery. 225
rangers climbed up. Only 90 or so were still standing by day's end.
The relics at Gold Beach are perhaps more visible than anywhere else along the Normandy coast. The elaborate concrete harbors, one now a roosting
spot for a colony of cormorants, this is where right in the center of things the British famously secured a beachhead.
Total Allied losses on day one were as many as they estimate as 4,400 dead, 9,000 wounded or missing. As the great war prime (ph) goes, at the going
down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And as the president of France, Emmanuel Macron said, "I bow down before your courage and before the sacrifice that you gave," and he
implored us to be worthy of the generation that brought us freedom and secured peace.
For more on the history, I'm joined by the award-winning historian, Antony Beevor. He has literally written a book on D-Day as well as so many others
on World War II operations, like the Battle of Arnhem. And he's joining me now from Paris.
Antony Beevor, welcome to the program.
You have written so much and I just wonder what you make of today's tribute, the 75th anniversary, which may be the last of this kind.
ANTONY BEEVOR, MILITARY HISTORIAN: Well, it is indeed almost certainly the last of its kind. And obviously, the tributes have been fulsome but I
think it was also quite striking to see some of the political subtexts in the streak in some of the speeches. But at the same time, the really
moving on the political -- on the personal element and the personal experiences.
AMANPOUR: You have written so much about that particular day, the preparation, the day, the landing.
[13:20:00] What was it like for the soldiers as they waited? Because we hear so much about, you know, those who survived and those are the people
who we honor, not to mention all of the dead as can you see lined up in those graves at the cemetery behind me. But what was it like, the
preparation for it?
BEEVOR: Well, the preparation was intense. I mean, no operation in the history of warfare has been prepared as intensively as D-Day as Operation
But for the soldiers just beforehand, it was the waiting which was the worst. And especially when the operation had been delayed by a day from
the 5th of June to the 6th of June because of the bad weather. Many of them had been closed up in their landing craft and various transport
And then by the time, of course, they got into the landing craft to actually reach the shore, they had been pretty sick and exhausted and then
they had the worst part, which is the very rough seas which took them to the shore itself. But for all of them, the fear must have been intense.
Only as the unimaginative could not have been afraid.
And I think the exhaustion after the vomit, the fear and so forth, when they reached the beaches, many of them were completely exhausted before
they even started. So, I think they really had to overcome that and I think it was the real determination which came through, not for everybody,
but certainly for enough to persuade the others to break through and to fight their way, especially on Omaha Beach, which was the worst of all of
AMANPOUR: And that is the one below this cemetery. Can I ask you to -- you have studied this a lot and you've, you know, outlined the main reasons
you think the Allies won. Obviously, the attack, the invasion location was a surprise. But just fill us in and remind us as to why, I mean, these
Germans who occupied this place, they had the -- Luftwaffe, they had their defenses. What happened that day and those days?
BEEVOR: Well, the Germans knew the invasion was coming but they had no idea exactly where or exactly when. And the operation deception, Plan
Fortitude, managed to confuse them further and in the end, they actually swallowed it whole and it was the most brilliant pieces of deception in the
history of warfare. And they kept the whole of the 15th army bottled up in the (INAUDIBLE).
And so, as a result the Allies did not face the full force of the German army. We also had the air superiority and one must never underestimate the
importance of that naval gunfire. Romo (ph) himself was taken aback by the strength and effect of it. So, we could never be sure of victory, and it's
always a mistake in history to look backwards and think something was inevitable.
And certainly, many people were nervous at the time. I mean, field marshal, Sir Alan Brooke and Winston Churchill, were incredibly nervous
before the operation started. And it's true that as many American staff officers observed, the British were much more afraid or fear -- had a
greater fear of failure partly because of their experiences during the war, at the beginning of Dunkirk, Norway, Crete, all of those evacuations where
landings had not gone well. And then, (INAUDIBLE) for the Canadians. So, by the time in 1944, people were not yet still convinced the victory was in
AMANPOUR: I'm actually really interested what you say and what you write about the French civilians because we don't hear so much about that. And
if we do, we hear how wonderfully grateful they were when the soldiers turned up at their house and their farms, et cetera. But you write about
the enormous number of French civilians who were killed, including on D- Day. Tell us about that and why they took such heavy casualties.
BEEVOR: Well, many were killed in the preparation for D-Day. I mean, Churchill himself was horrified at what was called transportation. This
plan to seal off the invasion area by bombing towns and all of the bridges along cities along (INAUDIBLE) and the River Seine. But bombing towns to
block any German reinforcements coming in, and this was a vital part of the preparation.
Churchill wanted an appeal to President Roosevelt but Roosevelt overruled him and basically said, "No, it must be Eisenhower's decision." And at
least 10,000 and some people would say 15,000 French civilians were killed just in the preparation and many more came afterwards. And I think this
reveals a terrible paradox.
The armies of Democracies are likely to kill more civilians purely because they're under such pressure at home from the press and public opinion to
reduce their end casualties that they rely on that much more of high explosive in the form both of bombs and of shelling.
[13:25:00] And this, I think, is one of the things which made, if you like, the sacrifice of Normandy a very bitter but also, if you like, sweet
as well for France, a form of sacrificial lamb because the rest of France was spared but Normandy itself certainly suffered greatly.
AMANPOUR: And I'm really interested by how you compare some of the effects on the German soldiers versus the allied soldiers. You talk about the U.S.
army suffering 30,000 cases of combat fatigue in Normandy, the same as Britain. But oddly, very few German soldiers suffered the same. Why is
BEEVOR: Well, I say it's struck by the papers written by British and American psychiatrists after the war, and what they were saying was
actually the German army had been better prepared psychologically for the fighting, partly because ever since 1933 in the militarization of German
society under the Nazis, they expected these sort of horrors.
We have to remember, and this in no way undermines the courage of anything, I think it increases one's respect for what were basically civilian armies,
both British and Americans, because they had to overcome their fears in this terrible fighting, which was more intense actually than a lot of the
fighting on the Eastern Front.
AMANPOUR: Can I just finally ask you about the Russian war effort, because obviously the Eastern Front, which just talked about, the Russian foreign
ministry tweeted today, "The Normandy landings were not a game-changer for the outcome of World War II and the great patriotic war. The outcome was
determined by the Red Army's victories, mainly in Stalingrad and Kursk. For three years the U.K. and then U.S. dragged out opening the Second
Front." Give us the historical perspective and context around that statement.
BEEVOR: Well, Stalin was demanding even from 1941 and certainly from 1942 was demanding a Second Front. Now, the Americans, in fact, it was
President Roosevelt, made a promise, which was very rash, in fact impossible to keep, with an operation sledgehammer of crossing the channel
in 1942 and occupying the Cotentin Peninsula.
Now, that would have been crazy because the Germans could have buckled it easily indeed and the British, because they were by then -- for very few
American troops in Britain, the British army sent over 100,000 men, would have been probably lost for no reason.
Stalin was using, if you like, blood guilt against Western Allies making us embarrassed about how few our casualties were in comparison to the
appalling casualties of the Red Army. I mean, altogether we know over 9 million Soviet soldiers as well as another 16 million Soviet civilians died
in the Second World War. It is certainly true, as Putin loves to argue constantly, that, of course, the back of the Vermont was broken on the
Eastern Front. 80 percent -- more than 80 percent of their casualties took place on the Eastern Front.
So, from that point of view, yes, he has a justification in saying that the war was more or less won on the Eastern Front. But one has to remember
even Stalin and Marshal Zhukov and others acknowledged that without American aid and British aid, but above all American aid of Lend-Lease and
others as well as efforts in other areas and theaters of war, the Soviet Union would never have survived.
So, shall we say that's a very partial element of truth in what Putin is saying but one should not take it as a literal truth.
AMANPOUR: Antony Beevor, thank you so much indeed for joining us.
And while we're here in Normandy marking D-Day, it seems only appropriate to hear the words of president Dwight D. Eisenhower who is the architect of
the assault as supreme Allied commander. When he returned here for D-Day's 20th anniversary in 1964, he told Walter Cronkite what we all owe to that
sacrifice of those Allied troops.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EISENHOWER: I devoutly hope that we will never again have to see such scenes as these. I think and hope, pray that the humanity learned more than
we had learned up to that time. But these people gave us a chance, and they bought time for us so that we could do better than we had before.
AMANPOUR: For more on that, I spoke to Mark Esper. He's the U.S. secretary of the Army.
[13:00:00] And he's a combat veteran himself. We spoke earlier here in Normandy.
Secretary Esper, welcome to the program.
MARK ESPER, U.S. SECRETARY OF THE ARMY: Well, thank you very much for inviting me.
AMANPOUR: So you are a vet yourself. Your first war was actually the First Gulf War.
ESPER: That's correct.
AMANPOUR: And what does it mean to you then as secretary of the Army and as an army vet to actually be here?
ESPER: Well, it brings back great memories of my time in service. But maybe, more importantly, it really thinks -- makes you think about what
this greatest generation did or how they contributed, they sacrificed, they left home at a young age and didn't come back for maybe three, four, five
years later. And all they did, they really changed the tide of history and really ensured that liberty and freedom and democracy survived.
AMANPOUR: It's really important that we discuss that, right. Now, there are some students here actually running around, young people.
And we hear from a lot of teachers both in the United States and actually in Europe and France, even as far as Russia, that the kids are not really
focusing or learning about this D-Day and about the liberation of Europe. It's sort of fading a little bit into the past.
But when you realize it is so important for our institutions and our democracy, what do you feel about that?
ESPER: Well, it concerns me as well because I think the military at the end of the day is the protector of our freedom, of our liberties. And I
see it in my own kids that there's less knowledge, if you will, of the struggles we have gone through the past 75 years.
I, of course, grew up during the Cold War and Soviet communism was a result in some ways of what happened in World War II. So those memories are
fading with each generation. And that concerns me.
And it also has an impact in terms of recruiting. We have a generation of young Americans today that have a little connection with the military that
AMANPOUR: And does it worry you that we're in a state right now where certainly your country is -- and the current administration is not as
beholden and not as sort of duty-bound to this multilateralism. Do you feel that kind of alliance, that spirit of multilateralism in protecting
these freedoms that were so hard won is in question?
ESPER: I think we fully support NATO and are committed to Article Five. I've heard it from the president all the way down the chain of command.
This week, I come here having traveled in the previous few days to Germany. I visited our troops in Kosovo. I met with our allies in Romania. And
yesterday, I came from Italy.
And at each point in time, I stop and thank our allies for their contributions to NATO, their partnership in other cases. And I'm reminded
here today when you think about the operations of World War II how it took a coalition to defeat Nazi Germany.
And the one virtue that we have as the United States going forward because my job is to think about the future as we look at China and Russia as
potential adversaries, the one unique advantage we have is we have allies. They don't.
And I think that is an asset for us we need to cultivate and grow but that also means the NATO allies, all allies contributing and making sure that
they help us with collective defense and security.
AMANPOUR: This might be the last time that this number of remaining vets gather. It probably won't in five years' time and the big celebrations are
pretty much every five years.
They're now in their 90s. Some are even in their early 100s. Just talk to me a little about that generation and those people who are coming here for
the last time.
ESPER: Yes, it really does -- it causes me concern as well because when you meet with them and I've had a chance to see several yesterday and
today, you're touching history.
And again, these remarkable stories of young men who came from New York and cornfields of Iowa and the West Coast of California. And they walked away
from their lives, many volunteered enthusiastically to defend the country and our values.
They came and contributed and sacrificed and then went home and didn't talk about it and raise families and built this great country we have today.
It's really an inspiring generation.
Part and parcel why we changed the army uniform, if you could see, you will see that here today is to hearken back and to recognize and honor the
greatest generation with the uniforms of their era.
AMANPOUR: So then tell me about the 101st and certainly the screaming eagles as it was known. They were amongst the first, if not the first to
land behind enemy lines as the naval assault forces were coming, the amphibious assault forces. That was a pretty dangerous, very very risky
ESPER: No, very dangerous. And I've had the privilege to serve with both the 101st and the 82nd Airborne. And so I think about that too as I walk
around out here.
[13:35:00] But yes, they parachuted, jumped and thousands of paratroopers just after midnight on D-day in the area, both east and west of Sainte Mere
Eglise which is up the road several miles and their job was really to cause chaos amongst the Germans but secure key crossroads and block enemy
counterattacks or secure bridges.
And when they jumped in amidst gunfire and the fog of combat and low cloud cover, everything, all of these obstacles in front of it, there were still
these little groups of paratroopers. These young men, and women from Iowa and New York and California who banded together, who took the initiative,
who employed their expertise, and really won the day, seized the day.
And as I think about that, for me as the Army secretary, is to ask myself, what did we do back then to train those young men and to instill in them
the sense of duty and discipline as we think about today's soldiers and should they in the future can do the same heroic acts, that same valor on
AMANPOUR: And can I ask you this because it's now come up because the president was interviewed by a British interviewer when he was in London
and he was asked about the transgender ban in the military.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They take massive amounts of drugs, they have to. And also -- and you're not allowed to take drugs.
You're in the military, you're not allowed to take any drugs. You take an aspirin.
And they have to after the operation. They have to, they have no choice. They have to.
And you will actually have to break rules and regulations in order to have that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Is that fully factually correct? I mean the military can take prescription drugs, right, under medical conditions?
ESPER: Well, let me tell you what the policy says. Because the policy came out earlier this year and it says this.
First of all, we welcome all Americans who are qualified to serve. And I certainly do personally and professionally in my role, one, we need all
Americans to serve but you have to be qualified to serve as well.
And that's one of the challenges we have today. Seventy-one percent of Americans youth are not qualified to serve for behavioral, for mental, for
physical fitness reason.
AMANPOUR: Did you say 71 percent?
ESPER: Seventy-one percent unqualified to serve, which is a stunning number if you will. So the policy is not a ban on transgenders. What it
says is if you suffer from gender dysphoria, which is a medical condition, then we need to look at your condition and in many cases, we can offer
waivers on a case-by-case basis and you would be allowed to serve.
That's the same process by the way we go through for young people who have asthma, who have bad knees, bad backs. Every year, we issue hundreds of
waivers if you will and it's just part of the qualification process.
So that's my role as army secretary. I want to get the best and brightest Americans to serve but you have to be medically qualified to do so.
AMANPOUR: So are the ones who are in the military now, do you have any doubt that -- I mean there are transgenders in the military right now and
they're serving with distinction. Some of them have been awarded.
ESPER: Yes, I don't think sexual orientation or transgender is the issue with me. I have met with several transgenders, personnel, service
personnel members. When I first came in, I sat down with them and was very impressed with many of them.
And I don't think that's the issue. Again, I think the issue is, are you deployable? And deployability typically depends on your medical readiness.
And we make these calls every day with soldiers, from all walks of life.
Again, whether you have sleep apnea or asthma or you have a hearing problem or a visual problem or a bad knee. We look at these on a case-by-case
basis and ask ourselves, are you physically fit to deploy? Can you do your mission?
It would be the same thing with any soldiers who have signs and symptoms of gender dysphoria. It's something we have to look at and on a case-by-case
basis are able to issue waivers.
AMANPOUR: So currently, you would accept transgenders if like any other person they're able to serve?
AMANPOUR: So there is no blanket ban as far as you're concerned?
ESPER: No, there's no blanket ban. Again, we look at each individual as they come in.
Your sexual orientation is not an issue. At issue is do you meet the qualifications to serve? And that gets back to again, medical fitness,
physical fitness, behavioral, mental fitness, those type of things.
AMANPOUR: Because, of course, the military is known to provide servicemen with Viagras. Spend a huge amount of money on that. So that would -- so
saying that transgenders can't take drugs is not right, right?
ESPER: Well, it depends. There are soldiers who take any number of drugs for any number of reasons. When you really get into the weeds in this, it
depends on is the drug portable or not?
As you know, some places drugs require refrigeration, which is hard to do in a combat environment. So that's why I said you have to look at each
case separately on a case-by-case basis and ask yourself is this soldier deployable with the conditions he or she has? Can it be mitigated by drugs
or prescriptions? And if so, what's the portability of that?
It all comes down to this, are you deployable as a soldier? Three or four years ago, we had a non-deployable rate of 15 percent, 16 percent. So
think about that. Out of --
AMANPOUR: In the general population?
ESPER: In the army. Of a million soldiers, 150,000 couldn't deploy to combat. Now, we've got that number down to five percent now.
AMANPOUR: And they couldn't because?
ESPER: Any number of -- mostly medical reasons and mostly lower body injuries if you will.
[13:40:00] So we've worked really hard to improve the physical fitness of our soldiers, to give a more thorough look at injuries and do some other
But if you can't deploy, if you can't do what the young men and women of 1944 did and get on a Higgins boat and traverse the English Channel and
land on Omaha Beach, if you can't get inside a C-47 and put a parachute on and drop into combat, then you don't provide value to me as an army. I
need soldiers who can do that.
AMANPOUR: Absolutely. But just to be very clear, you have transgender members in the military and they can do their job?
AMANPOUR: Fine. The other thing I want to ask you is this because this is often brought up when there are issues of sexual orientation. It used to
be the case with gay service people, that people would say oh, it's going to affect unit cohesion, it's going to affect the battlefield momentum.
And that apparently is a concern at the White House. Is that a concern for you in the Army with transgender troops?
ESPER: I think the culture has moved along as it has over time since my days in the service as well. Again, nothing is percolated up to my level
that said it's a big issue.
But, of course, I don't get all of those readiness reports and I don't believe transgender personnel are serving in large numbers. I think with
all of our service members, of all of the people who join, regardless of your religious background, your ethnicity, male or female, they just want
And the army's responsibility as a standards-based organization is to keep a high bar of standard, who we will accept and how we will retain you in
the service. Because at the end of the day, you have to survive in a crucible conflict, conflict like we saw here on June 6, 1944, on Omaha
Beach or at Sainte Mere Eglise or at the Carentan Dropzone, you name it.
That's what we're looking for, it's young men and women who can qualify for that service and survive and deploy, fight, and win on future battlefields.
AMANPOUR: And when you leave the ceremonies today after this amazing 75th Anniversary, what's the key thought you will take away with you?
ESPER: Well, it gets back to what I said a few minutes ago. As I look at these old veterans now, when they were young men and, of course, we have
many women serving as well in other branches of time, what was it that made them special, what did we do as an army to make sure that they were well-
trained and well-disciplined enough to fight and win on this day, and how can I take those lessons and apply them to today's service?
And we're doing well that in the army. We've extended our basic training for infantry to 22 weeks from 14. I now like to say it's the longest and
toughest in the army.
We're modernizing army and all of our whole new generation of weapons systems. We're developing new doctrine. As I have been keen to say over
the last several many months, there's a renaissance underway in the Army as we shift to high-intensity conflict.
And what I'm trying to do is capture all of the lessons from the past because I don't want to relearn them. I want to learn them now before we
get into battle because we may not have months or years to prepare in the future.
AMANPOUR: Really interesting. Secretary Esper, thank you so much for coming.
ESPER: Thank you, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: And after that bright day of tributes and celebrating the heroes, night is falling. And in many ways, of course, D-Day was the birth
of a United Europe made possible by international cooperation.
But as we stand here today 75 years on, that unity is under threat both from political forces across the continent and from President Trump's
America first policy. For that reason, Trump has often found himself at odds with the French President Emanuel Macron, a staunch defender of
Here in Normandy though, the two teamed up for a show of unity. Christine Ockrent is a critically acclaimed journalist who's been reporting on the
Transatlantic Alliance for a long time now, for decades, and she joins me from Paris to discuss the politics at play behind today's ceremony.
Christine Ockrent, welcome to the program. I just wonder if we just move forward --
CHRISTINE OCKRENT, JOURNALIST & COMMENTATOR: Hi, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: -- from the history that we've been celebrating to what it all means going forward. So what did you think about the president of both
countries really celebrating, in fact, the alliance and the things that we took for granted but that have been under threat for the last several
OCKRENT: Well, I think it's been an important day, not only for that extraordinary tribute to this fantastic generation of very young men and a
few women but it's been a political -- also a political challenge to both presidents.
I think that President Trump, who's about to announce officially that he's running for a second term, well, he showed I think the best of him the way
he would relate emotionally, personally, to a lot of people and his relationship with Emanuel Macron, which as we know has had its ups and
[13:45:00] It's always strange to see how they came to be sort of physically close to one another, you know, embracing, touching and so on.
But, of course, in the speech, the vocabulary was quite different for Emanuel Macron. There was also a very important political dimension to
this day which he wanted to be on a bilateral basis.
It was on a bilateral basis with Theresa May this morning, with the British. And, of course, mostly with the American president.
And Emanuel Macron is climbing back from a very difficult internal cycle, you know, with social unrest and so on and so forth. And I think that
establishing his presidential status again, having overcome that difficult moment in our domestic issues, I think it was keen to show that he can talk
to Donald Trump on an equal basis, still defend his own views on multilateralism, the dangers of having this military polar system which, of
course, sprang in away from the victory -- the victories of World War II.
And so think again, for both men, it's been a successful day.
AMANPOUR: Let me just play this sound bite as part of their sort of photo- op after the tributes and after the ceremony when they had their bilateral
meeting. This is what President Trump said describing the mood at the moment between them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The relationship between you and I and also France and the United States has been outstanding. I don't think it's ever been maybe as good.
It's been good sometimes and sometimes it hasn't been but right now, it's outstanding.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So I mean you were mentioning the ups and downs and body language, but the fundamental importance of this relationship, even though
they have different views on certain important political issues and issues of war and peace going forward, I mean we're celebrating the turning point
in that terrible war, World War II.
But, of course, there's Iran, there's the Middle East, there's other such things. And I'm just going to play what Emanuel Macron said about their
views on Iran, divergent but kind of with the same aim, and then we'll talk about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT: First, you want to be sure they don't get a nuclear weapon. I mean, we had an instrument until 2025. We want to
go further and have full certainty in the long run. Second, we want to reduce ballistic activity. And third, we want to contain the regional
I mean these three approaches -- these three objectives are important. We have, as well, a fourth common objective, peace in the region. So, we have
to deliver together these objectives. We need to open a negotiation in order to build and to get these four objectives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Christine, Europe is obviously very concerned that this argument over how best to deal with Iran and contain Iran should be dealt with. The
Americans seem to be, you know, sort of blowing the war drum if you like or banging the war drum, at least some of them.
What do you think is going on in the minds of those in the Elysees and in the French Foreign Ministry and how best to deal with? Because Macron just
said there, "We want peace in the region."
OCKRENT: Yes, of course. But I mean France knows and even the Europeans who still support the treaty with Iran, there's very little they can do as
long as the U.S. is now out of it.
And it's kind of difficult from on this side of the Atlantic to follow up on the very contradictory statement -- statesman from the White House and
then from Mike Pompeo. So the last we heard is that oh, well maybe we can discuss, you know, with our preconditions with Iran.
But then the week before, the presidential tweets were of another -- in another mood. So it's kind of difficult. But we're painfully aware that
it's not our European government which can do much.
And of course, as you know, the fact that the sanctions have been hardened and the dollar being, of course, the domineering currency, there's very
little our European governments can do except as Macron said, we want peace, obviously.
[13:50:00] And so we want to restrain Iran but let's try and find some sort of compromise.
AMANPOUR: So, Christine, let me ask you about another issue and that is something that's happening right where you're sitting and in many parts of
Europe, this sort of rise of populism that we've seen.
Maybe it got a little bit of a knock in the recent European elections, but the very forces that World War II was fought to stop and to end have seen a
resurgence. I spoke to Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany a couple of weeks ago about this and she was also very careful to warn that, you know,
we need to keep an eye on this. Let's just listen to what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (thru translator): We have to face up indeed to the specters of the past. We have to tell our young people what
history has brought over us and others, and these horrors.
Why we are for democracy, why we try to bring about solutions, why we always have to put ourselves in the other person's shoes, why we stand up
against intolerance, why we show no tolerance towards violations of human rights.
Why Article One of our basic law, human dignity, as invaluable is so fundamental to us. It has to be taught to every new generation and you're
quite right, the task has become harder but it needs to be done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So Peace Time Germany has obviously been one of the fiercest defenders of those values, democracy, freedom, tolerance. But in your
country, the far-right won in the European elections. In other European countries, they did pretty well. Maybe not as well as they expected.
In Britain, obviously, the Brexit forces won, the populist forces won. What do you feel is the state of affairs in this battle, this ideological
battle between tolerance and intolerance?
OCKRENT: Well, Christiane, it's a battle that has been going on since the dawn of mankind. But as you quite rightly put to the German chancellor,
what is important is for the younger generation, especially here in Europe who believe that peace is here forever, who believe that peace is like the
oxygen, it's there and we're so used to it.
We don't even realize how costly it has been to reach that and how costly and important it has been to actually instill that very strange and unique
process of European integration. So, yes, it's a challenge.
But, again, the last European elections were quite interesting because you see now with, you know, climate change becoming more and more of a common
concern, you see the younger generation in Europe being extremely motivated by ecological issues, green parties in Germany particularly but also in
And, therefore, in the forthcoming European parliament, creating a new political force. And so the hope is that as we have this imperfect but
growing transnational political space, it is interesting to have young people getting involved in politics their own way, about their own concerns
and not according to our own vocabulary.
So I think, you know, we're not over with politics and, of course, there's an identity concern, an identity crisis in many European countries and
that's linked also to globalization and that there's a lot of issues there. And Europe is not, by the way, the only continent where such forces are at
Look at what's happening in the U.S. indeed and also in Latin America. But you are right, here in Europe, it's particularly important given our common
history and all of the blood that has been spread to reach that peace.
It's very important indeed that the message, that the lessons of history be taught over and over again. And that is why again today has been an
AMANPOUR: You are absolutely right. So those lessons of history are never forgotten. Christine Ockrent, thank you so much indeed.
And that is it for our special show marking the 75th Anniversary of D-Day. Remember, you can always listen to our podcast and see us online at
amanpour.com and follow me on Instagram and Twitter.
Thanks for watching and goodbye from Normandy.