The Redcoats Are in a Holding Pattern Over La Guardia


Toward the end of his Independence Day speech on Thursday, President Trump appeared to rewrite history.

The Continental Army suffered a bitter winter of Valley Forge, found glory across the waters of the Delaware and seized victory from Cornwallis of Yorktown,” he said. “Our army manned the air, it rammed the ramparts, it took over the airports, it did everything it had to do, and at Fort McHenry, under the rocket’s red glare, it had nothing but victory.”

Notice anything? No, not the sudden jump from the Revolutionary War to a battle decades later. The part about the … airports: The era Mr. Trump was referring to predated human flight by nearly a century, so there were no airports to seize.

But don’t take our word for it. Here’s Mr. Trump himself, speaking about 15 minutes earlier:

“On a cold December morning in 1903, a miracle occurred over the dunes of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, when two bicycle makers from Ohio defied gravity with a 12-horsepower engine, wings made of cotton and just a few dollars in their pockets,” he said, alluding to the first successful airplane flight.

Mr. Trump’s remarks prompted a lot of head-scratching and jokes online. But it also got us thinking about history, airports and the battle that inspired the national anthem.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, an airport is defined in the law as “any area of land or water used or intended for landing or takeoff of aircraft.” Today, airports are home to expensive candy, among other things. And, yes, armed forces do sometimes take them over.

Definitely not.

It isn’t exactly clear what Mr. Trump meant when he suggested that the army “manned the air” and “took over the airports” two centuries ago.

On Friday, Mr. Trump said that rain during his address knocked out his teleprompter, which might have helped to explain the inaccuracy had he not in the same breath suggested that the outage had no effect on the speech.

A joke was even edited into the Wikipedia entry for the famous 1851 painting “Washington Crossing the Delaware” by Emanuel Leutze, which described that river crossing as “the first move in a surprise attack” against German forces at Philadelphia International Airport.



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