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A War Movie to Remember: The Longest Day

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MG is an air warrior with a distinguished career and now a corporate advisor, writer, and intrepid traveler and novelist


The Landing at Normandy

There are so many war movies created by Hollywood. iI one was to make a selection of the greatest war movie of all time, would be indeed a difficult task. However, after sifting through the various movies churned out by Hollywood, the movie ‘The Longest Day would in the opinion of most people stand out as an authentic war movie. The Longest Day was released in 1962 when the war was still afresh in the minds of the people and there were a large number of veterans who had taken part in this epic battle still alive. Now after a lapse of almost 60 years the old order that fought at the landing in Normandy is no more alive or has thinned out, yet for students of history, this depiction of the Allied landing in Normandy cannot but enthuse.

The allies were being pressed by Stalin to open a second front right from 1943 but the offensive was only mounted in 44 when the German forces had been greatly degraded.


The Movie

The original movie released in 1962 was a black and white affair. That perhaps gives it an authenticity that is hard to describe. It is a long movie by Hollywood standards and runs close to 3 hours.. Shot originally in black and white, the movie relates the first 24 hours of the epic Allied landing on the beaches of Normandy. Popularly called D –day, this invasion remains the largest seaborne attack in military history.

The film presents an account of the first 24 hours of the battle as seen from the eyes of the various protagonists, the British, the Americans and the Germans. It is a multilingual movie and each of the protagonists speaks in his own language. Thus the dialogues are in French, German and English. Subtitles are available for a person not knowing any of these languages.


The Longest Day

The movie is based on the book ‘The Longest Day', by Cornelius Ryun and it is reported that he received $175,000 from the producer Darryl F Zanuck for the rights to film the book. The movie depicts frame by frame the events of the first 24 hours of the battle. The Germans considered this period as the most important and were of the opinion that this period would decide victory or defeat in the war. But despite their opinion, the movie depicts that the Germans were taken by surprise. One reason for this was the German belief that the Invasion would place at Calais which is 22 miles from the English coast. Actually, the invasion took place at Normandy and took the OKW by surprise. Field Marshal Rommel, the commander of the German forces in France had been expecting an invasion and had stated that the battle will be decided in the first 24 hours.

The stars that played the roles to perfection reads like a Hollywood wish list with big names like John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum, Richard Burton among others turning in stunning performances. The best role on the German side is portrayed by Werner Heinz as Field Marshal Rommel.

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Last Word

The direction, background score, and dialogues cannot be faulted. The movie is in real terms an authentic account of the greatest invasion force assembled in history. For students of military history, it is an invaluable asset. I will vote for this as one of the best war movies on the Second World War ever, to hit the celluloid screen.

The invasion was no doubt a great effort but historians have now come to the conclusion that there was very little chance that the Germans could've stopped the invasion. The simple reason was that their best divisions in both numbers and quality were committed on the Eastern front and only second rate inferior in numbers and training were deployed against the allies. If numbers have a meaning only about 60 divisions were employed against the allies compared to 160 against the Russians. The film is faithful to the book but it would have been a good idea if this fact had been tacitly mentioned in the film but despite this, it does not detract from the merit of this great war film.


MG Singh (author) from UAE on May 15, 2021:

Tom, very interesting comment. Cornelius Ryun wrote this book. Very meticulous details. I think Hollywood did not make a film on the 3rd book of Ryun as they never wanted to glorify Soviet victory. The fact is the Allies faced second-rate German divisions in France.

tom on May 14, 2021:

i have watched this coloured and bw versions ,78 stars from different countries.real life characters,cornelius ryan dutch historian three books .a bridge too far movie, last battle not made as film,soviets destroyed 30 axis divisions,ryan died

MG Singh (author) from UAE on May 14, 2021:

CJ Kelly, thanks for the input.

CJ Kelly from the PNW on May 14, 2013:

You're quite the film buff. But I think Private Ryan is miles ahead in quality. My father, who fought at Normandy, stated that Private Ryan was the most realistic war movie that he ever saw and he hated war movies. Honorable mention to a long forgotten film: Between Heaven and Hell with Robert Wagner. Gritty. Free of cliche'. Highly recommended.

MG Singh (author) from UAE on March 27, 2013:

Thank you for commenting

goood on March 23, 2013:


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