US President Donald Trump is promising the “show of a lifetime” for the hundreds of thousands of revellers who flock to Washington’s National Mall for July 4 celebrations.
The tanks are in place for the display of military muscle and protesters are ready to make their voices heard.
It has been nearly seven decades since a president spoke on the Mall on Independence Day. The US was at war in Korea when Harry Truman addressed a large gathering on the Washington Monument grounds, marking the 175th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
There is no such historical marker on Thursday for Mr Trump, who for the past two years has sought a moment to orchestrate a display of America’s military prowess.
He is calling his event a “Salute to America”, honouring the armed forces, and he will speak at the Lincoln Memorial in front of a ticket-only, VIP crowd of Republican donors, administration and campaign officials, family members and those who flock to see him or protest what they see as a divisive intrusion on a traditionally unifying national holiday.
Mr Trump sounded a defensive note on Wednesday, tweeting that the event’s cost “will be very little compared to what it is worth”.
“We own the planes, we have the pilots, the airport is right next door (Andrews), all we need is the fuel,” he said, referring to Maryland’s Joint Base Andrews, home for some of the planes that are to fly over the Mall on Thursday.
“We own the tanks and all. Fireworks are donated by two of the greats.”
Mr Trump glossed over the expense of shipping tanks and fighting vehicles to Washington by rail and guarding them for several days, and other costs.
Mr Trump’s upcoming spectacle even caught the attention of the Rolling Stones, performing at nearby FedEx Field on Wednesday night.
Sir Mick Jagger took note that this year’s July 4th would not be “just fireworks”.
“Now we’ve got tanks on the lawn as well… and some inspirational speeches,” he said wryly.
Keith Richards chimed to wish people “a happy 4th, tanks and all”.
Under White House direction, the Pentagon is arranging for an Air Force B-2 stealth bomber and other warplanes to conduct a fly-past. There will be Navy F-35 and F-18 fighter jets, the Navy Blue Angels aerobatics team, Army and Coast Guard helicopters and Marine V-22 Ospreys.
The White House referred questions about the cost of the military participation to the Pentagon, which said it did not have the answer.
The US Air Force said it costs 122,311 US dollars (£96,500) an hour to fly a B-2 bomber, which is making the round trip from its home at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.
Officials said the flight will be considered a training event, with the cost already budgeted. The per-hour flying cost of the F-22 fighter is 65,128 US dollars (£51,360).