Trump gives rare hug to Normandy veteran Russell Pickett

Trump hugs the last survivor of Omaha Beach’s company A: The President pays tribute to ‘tough guy’ who stormed the beaches in ‘suicide wave’ and saw half of his comrades killed in minutes

  • President Donald Trump offered a rare show of emotion when he hugged 94-year-old veteran Russell Pickett 
  • Pickett stormed the beaches of Normandy at the age of 19
  • ‘Tough guy,’ Trump said of him
  • Pickett is the last known survivor of Company A, who led the charge on D-Day
  • He was wounded during the battle 

President Donald Trump on Thursday offered a rare show of emotion when he hugged 94-year-old veteran Russell Pickett, who stormed the beaches of Normandy as a 19-year-old during World War II.  

‘Tough guy,’ the president praised him.

Pickett was a member of Company A of the 29th Infantry Division – the group chosen to be in the first wave at Omaha Beach on D-Day in June 1944.  

President Donald Trump offered a rare show of emotion when he hugged 94-year-old veteran Russell Pickett

Trump took a moment out of his remarks at the American cemetery of Colleville-sur-Mer in Normandy, France, to greet Picketts

French President Emmanuel Macron helped Pickett stand after Trump singled him out

Pickett was 19 years old when he stormed Normandy

‘Russell Pickett is the last known survivor of the legendary company A. Today, believe it or not, he has returned once more to these shores to be with his comrades. Private Pickett, you honor us all with your presence,’ Trump said in his remarks at the American cemetery of Colleville-sur-Mer in Normandy, France.

The Army veteran told his local ABC news station in 2016 that his company, known as part of the ‘suicide wave’ that led the charge, had a high casualty rate on the day they landed in Normandy.

‘A company was 96 percent casualty within the first 30-45 minutes,’ Pickett said. ‘They) figured half of them dead. The other half of the casualties wounded which I was one of the casualties.’ 

Pickett was on a Higgins boat, holding a flame thrower when his vessel was hit. 

“I tried to get up and my legs wouldn’t work. I wasn’t hurting anywhere, scared to death of course which that might have been what was wrong with me,’ he recalled.  

A nearby boat pulled him out of the water and to safety.  

On Thursday, Pickett was on stage with a group of World War II veterans, Trump, first lady Melania Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Brigitte Macron.

President Macron helped Pickett stand when Trump singled him out.

And then Trump walked over and embraced in a full-on hug. He also whispered in the veteran’s ear.

The president, who has admitted he is germaphobe, rarely makes such displays of emotion in public. 

But he does show a reverence and respect for the military. Trump has often spoke of his wish to hold a military parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. 

The president never served in uniform. He was eligible during the Vietnam War but received student deferments and a medical disqualification for bone spurs. 

Trump told Piers Morgan – during an interview that aired Wednesday in London – that he would have preferred to serve in World War II than Vietnam.

‘I thought it was a terrible war,’ the president said of Vietnam. ‘I thought it was very far away, and at that time nobody ever heard of the country. So many people dying, what is happening over there? So I was never a fan – like we’re fighting against Nazi Germany, we’re fighting against Hitler.’ 

Trump also said he has made up for his lack of time in uniform by increasing the Pentagon’s budget during his time in the Oval Office.

‘I think I make up for it right now,’ he told Morgan. 

Trump praised many World War II veterans during his remarks

A World War II veteran stands and waves to the crowd at Normandy

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump were at the cemetery to pay tribute to the veterans

In his remarks at the American Cemetery at Normandy, Trump recognized several of the surviving World War II veterans by name, including former Army medic Arnold Raymond ‘Ray’ Lambert, who served in the 16th Infantry Regiment of the U.S> Army’s First Division, known as ‘The Big Red One.’ 

At 98 years old, Lambert has said this is the last time he will likely come to Normandy. 

‘Ray was only 23 but he had already earned three Purple Hearts and two Silver Stars fighting in North Africa and Sicily where he and his brother Bill, no longer with us, served side by side,’ Trump recalled.

During the invasion, Trump said, ‘Ray ran back into the water. He dragged out one man after another. He was shot through the arm. His leg was ripped open by shrapnel. His back was broken. He nearly drowned. He had been on the beach for hours, bleeding and saving lives when he finally lost consciousness. He woke up the next day on a cot beside another badly wounded soldier. He looked over and saw his brother Bill. They made it. They made it. They made it. At 98 years old, Ray is here with us today with his fourth Purple Heart and his third Silver Star from Omaha. Ray, the free world salutes you.’

Trump then paused in his remarks to walk over and shake Lambert’s hand. Macron did the same.

Lambert, in a ‘D-Day veteran’ hat, tipped it toward the president.   


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