US President Donald Trump said Monday that tanks and warplanes will take part at the event he’s hosting — in a major break from tradition — to celebrate the July 4 holiday.
Opponents have criticized the US president for placing himself at the center of the independence day holiday Thursday by planning a speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC.
Trump said his event would only add to what has long been considered a nonpartisan day, when Americans of all stripes gather across the country to celebrate the nation’s founding.
“It will be like no other, it will special,” he told reporters in the White House.
Trump confirmed US media reports that in another break with the past, he has asked for major military hardware to be on display.
There will be “planes going overhead, the best fighter jets in the world,” and “we’re going to have some tanks stationed outside,” he said.
Trump had wanted a military parade of tanks and other equipment in the District of Columbia after he witnessed a similar parade on Bastille Day in Paris in 2017. That plan eventually was scuttled, partly because of cost, though Trump apparently held on to the idea.
Local officials also had objected because of the damage the heavy armored tanks could do to city streets.
Trump appeared to acknowledge local officials’ earlier concerns.
“You’ve got to be pretty careful with the tanks because the roads have a tendency not to like to carry heavy tanks,” he said. “So we have to put them in certain areas, but we have the brand new Sherman tanks and we have the brand new Abrams tanks.”
Sherman tanks were the tank most widely used by the US during World War II, but they have been out of service for decades. The M1A1 Abrams tank is currently the main US battle tank.
Two M1A1 Abrams tanks and two Bradley Fighting Vehicles will be on display as part of Trump’s “Salute to America” event, according to a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the exhibits have not been made public.
The Abrams tanks weigh more than 60 tons apiece and were been shipped on railroad freight cars, from Fort Stewart, Georgia, the nearest Army base that has them. The White House declined to release more specific information.
Trump recalled his visit earlier this year to a plant in Lima, Ohio, where M1A1 Abrams tanks are refurbished. The plant had been at risk for closure but remained online due to Trump’s investments in defense spending.
“We have some incredible equipment, military equipment on display — brand new,” Trump said. “And we’re very proud of it. You know we’re making a lot of new tanks right now. We’re building a lot of new tanks in Lima, Ohio — our great tank factory that people wanted to close down until I got elected and I stopped it from being closed down, and now it’s a very productive facility.”
Thursday’s events are also expected to include a military demonstration by the US Navy Blue Angels and other aircraft.
The event is open to the public and free of charge, but a ticket-only area in front of the memorial is being set aside for VIPs, including members of Trump’s family, friends and members of the military, the White House said.
Last year, Trump and his wife, first lady Melania Trump, hosted service members and their families at a picnic on the White House lawn and the president addressed guests from the balcony. No similar event is being planned this year.
Federal lawmakers, local officials and others have voiced concerns that Trump could alter the tone of what traditionally is a nonpartisan celebration of America’s independence from the British by delivering a political speech. Trump formally announced his bid for re-election in June.
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, who oversees the National Mall and has helped orchestrate the president’s vision, and other officials have said Trump’s remarks will be patriotic.