DONALD Trump hailed American heroes in a patriotic Independence Day extravaganza as soaked spectators marvelled at a stunning military flyover in a rainy Washington DC last night.
The US president hailed an eclectic mix of American patriots – from the armed forces, space explorers and civil rights leaders through history.
He largely stuck to a positive and inclusive pro-American script – steering clear of the political rhetoric many had expected and feared.
To rapturous cheers from supporters, Mr Trump said: “Our nation is stronger today than it ever was before. It is its strongest now.”
Thousands who gathered in the National Mall opposite the Lincoln Memorial braved intense downpours to take part in the July 4 spectacle.
They were treated to a flypast by Coast Guard helicopters, Air Force F-22 fighters, Marine V-22 Osprey helicopters and other military aircraft.
For over 65 years, no enemy Air Force has managed to kill a single American soldier. Because the skies belong to the United States of America
President Donald Trump
The flashy display ended with a performance by the Navy’s Blue Angels aerobatics team – America’s answer to Britain’s elite Red Arrows.
Trump – flanked by US Bradley tanks – was the first president in nearly seven decades to address a crowd at the National Mall on Independence Day.
His insistence on flexing America’s military muscle came after seeing a similar display in France during Bastille Day in 2017.
With precise choreography, the president told stories about each branch of the American armed forces to introduce separate flyovers of aircraft.
He said: “For over 65 years, no enemy Air Force has managed to kill a single American soldier. Because the skies belong to the United States of America.”
Trump, 73, praised American might in front of the famous memorial – echoing a theme he uses at campaign rallies.
The enthusiastic crowd could be heard chanting: “USA! USA! USA!” as he listed American agencies, armed services and heroic figures.
He cited as great Americans both Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass – African-Americans who campaigned for the abolition of slavery.
And Trump urged young people to join the armed forces during the barnstorming pro-American speech.
It was followed by a concert on the US Capitol lawn at the opposite end of the National Mall – before fireworks topped off the spectacle.
Pro-Trump spectator Brandon Lawrence said: “I think what Trump’s doing with the tanks, all the flyovers, I think it’s great.”
PROTESTS OVER COSTS
Opponents questioned the cost of the militaristic tub-thumping show – which reportedly required $2.5million (£1.99m) in funds to be diverted from the National Parks budget.
A Baby Trump balloon was blown next to a banner calling the president a traitor – while the Secret Service arrested two protesters who burned an American flag near the White House.
Medea Benjamin of peace group Code Pink said: “This is costing us millions and millions of dollars.
“We the taxpayers are paying for it, for Donald Trump to use our military as a prop. And that’s just not right.”
Democrat presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said: “This is what authoritarians do: @realDonaldTrump is taking $2.5 million away from our National Park Service to glorify himself with a spectacle of military tanks rolling through Washington.”
Trump earlier played down the expense, tweeting: “he cost of our great Salute to America tomorrow will be very little compared to what it is worth.
“We own the planes, we have the pilots, the airport is right next door (Andrews), all we need is the fuel.
“We own the tanks and all. Fireworks are donated by two of the greats. Nice!”
The July 4th holiday celebrates the US founding fathers declaring independence from Britain in 1776.
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