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  1. Analysis
July 5, 2019

Military mishaps mar Trump’s Fourth of July celebrations

President Donald Trump celebrated US Independence Day 2019 with a salute to America's military might. However, it didn't go entirely to plan.

By Harry Lye

The event significantly expanded on the previous year’s festivities, featuring tanks on the national mall alongside flyovers by the Blue Angels and Air Force One.

In honour of the nation’s Independence Day, Army Technology has rounded up some military missteps around the event and sought out the facts behind them.

“Brand new” Sherman tanks

Before the event, Trump hailed how the US would be flexing its military muscle and showing off “brand new Sherman tanks”. The bad news being the Sherman exited service in 1957 after seeing significant usage across the Second World War, Korea and the Vietnam War. The US does have a next-generation tank in the works but there are no plans to name it Sherman.

“Brand new” M1 Abrams tanks

Another tank-related mishap was the promise of brand new M1 Abrams tanks being displayed. Although still in service and still being produced by General Dynamics, the M1 Abrams was originally commissioned and entered service in 1980, serving as the US Army’s main battle tank in almost every conflict since. The tank proved itself in desert environments after its extensive deployment in Operation Desert Shield and the invasion of Afghanistan.

The airports of 1775

As Trump recalled the events of 1775, people were quick to realise a slight anachronism.

“Our army manned the air, it rammed the ramparts, it took over the airports, [and] it did everything it had to do,” he said, despite the fact that powered aircraft wouldn’t be around for another 128 years when the Wright brothers successfully completed their first flight. The US Air Force itself would not be founded until 1907.

Competing with North Korea

“If Korea can have a military parade, why can’t we?” one onlooker asked the BBC. The president had repeatedly called for a parade on the scale of North Korea or France’s Bastille Day. However, these plans were scuppered after it was revealed the 60t tanks were too heavy for Washington DC’s roads. The tanks had to be parked on the national mall instead as the tracks would have caused too much damage according to local officials in the capital.

Fort McHenry when?

When talking about the War of Independence, Trump appeared to again begin to discuss the wrong war. Praising the heroics of the siege of Fort McHenry, it was not clear whether the president realised the siege did not take place until 13 September 1814 as part of the War of 1812. The fort itself sat on the site of the old Fort Whetstone and was not built until 1800.

The good bits

Despite the mishaps, large crowds filled the nation’s capital for the celebrations. In a 40-minute speech, Trump praised the Armed Forces, renewed his call for a Space Force and issued a new pledge to plant the US flag on Mars.

Trump used the flyovers to spotlight the different branches of the US Military with the US Coastguard being represented by rotorcraft, and the US Air Force displaying a B-2 bomber escorted by two F-22 raptors.

The newest iteration of the VH-92 rotorcraft, set to replace Marine One, was also on display, itself escorted by two Boeing V-22 Osprey aircraft from the US Marine Corps.

The army was represented with a flyover by two Apache gunships, a mainstay of the military’s air support since its introduction to service in 1986.

The navy flyover included state-of-the-art F-35 fighter jets and the Blue Angels show squadron flew over the national mall in tight formation before breaking off at the end of their flyover.

Other military hardware on display for the event included Bradley fighting vehicles, a Humvee, and Hercules armoured recovery vehicles that were transported from Georgia for the show.

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