Will There Be Tanks at Trump's Fourth of July 'Salute To America' Parade?

President Donald Trump takes a tour of the Lima Army Tank Plant, Wednesday, March 20, 2019, in Lima, Ohio. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump takes a tour of the Lima Army Tank Plant, Wednesday, March 20, 2019, in Lima, Ohio. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

If members of the D.C. City Council have their say, parading tanks won't be a part of the growing military participation in President Donald Trump’s 'Salute to America" festivities on the National Mall planned for July 4.

"We have said it before, and we'll say it again: Tanks, but no tanks," the Council said in a Tweet Monday.

The Tweet also referred to a Pentagon memorandum to Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford on military participation in a planned Veterans Day parade last year that was eventually cancelled because of cost concerns. That memo cited the potential damage the 60-ton vehicle could do to D.C.'s streets.

"Include wheeled vehicles only, no tanks -- consideration must be given to minimize damage to local infrastructure," the memo said about the plans at the time.

A spokesman for the Interior Department, the agency in charge of coordinating 4th of July events, declined comment on whether or not tanks are a part of the festivities, and referred questions to the White House. The White House did not reply to requests for comment by midday Monday.

The Washington Post, citing individuals briefed on parade planning who spoke on grounds of anonymity, reported that Pentagon officials have been considering static displays after being notified of Trump's interest in having tanks or other armored vehicles involved in the Independence Day events.

In remarks to troops at Osan Air Force Base Sunday following his historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in the Demilitarized Zone, Trump called the M1A1 Abrams "the best tank in the world" and said 165 more would be included in the new defense budget.

Trump singled out in the audience Army Gen. Robert Abrams commander of U.S. Forces Korea and told the troops that the "great Abrams tank is in his family. Named after his father. Did you know that?"

The Abrams tank was named for the late Army Gen. Creighton Abrams, the former Vietnam commander and Army Chief of Staff.

Trump didn't say whether tanks would be part of the Fourth of July events but told the troops that the celebration would be bigger and different than those of the past.

"When I return home to the White House, I will celebrate Independence Day with a special 'Salute to America' on our National Mall July 4th. I hope everybody can be there," he said.

"It's going to be big. We're making it especially big because we're more proud of our country today than we have been in many, many, many decades," Trump said.

Trump has been pressing for a military parade since being impressed by the July 14 Bastille Day events in Paris in 2017 that he attended with First Lady Melania Trump.

Past presidents have typically marked the Fourth of July at venues other than the Mall, but in a break with tradition Trump has planned a speech honoring the military branches from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial before a fireworks display.

Singer and songwriter Carole King, one of the entertainers scheduled to perform, said last Friday that she would honor the commitment but stressed that her performance should not be considered part of a "political rally" for Trump.

"Just to be clear -- I am appearing in 'A Capitol Fourth,' the traditional event held annually on the lawn at the Capitol," at the far end of the Mall about a mile from the Lincoln Memorial, where Trump will speak, King said in a Twitter post. "I am not participating in t's [Trump's] political rally."

In a release last month, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said the National Independence Day Parade along Constitution Avenue NW from 7th Street to 17th Streets NW beginning at 11:45 a.m. will feature "marching bands, a fife and drum corps, floats, military units, giant balloons, equestrian and drill teams and more" in a "red, white and blue celebration of America's birthday!"

The military participants will include the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, the U.S. Army Band {Pershing's Own], the Armed Forces Chorus, the Marine Corps' Silent Drill Team "and many others," Bernhardt said.

Bernhardt later said that military flyovers for the events will include a flight demonstration by the U.S. Navy's "Blue Angels."

The current National Weather Service forecast for Thursday in Washington, D.C., predicted temperatures of 92 degrees and rain with the possibility of thunderstorms.

There have been no overall cost estimates as yet for the Fourth of July events, but Bernhardt said the $750,000 costs of the fireworks displays was being donated by two fireworks firms.

The preparations for the Fourth of July have come with some inconvenience for area residents. Areas around the Mall have already been restricted for security reasons.

At the Lincoln Memorial Sunday, visitors were limited to a narrow walkway to gain entrance while workers completed erecting a grandstand for VIPs and scaffolding for broadcasting Trump's speech.

The long stretch of West Potomac Park behind the Lincoln Memorial, normally crowded on weekends for softball, cricket and volleyball, was fenced off to allow for placement of the fireworks. In addition, the adjacent Hains Point area, popular for picnics and bicycling, was also blocked off.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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