Almost every year around June 6 we watch the great movie, The Longest Day, which covers the Allied invasion of Normandy, France, in World War II. There is no doubt that this battle is one of the most critical, and decisive battles in determining the path of the world that led to the present. Failure would have prolonged the war in Europe for at least a year, and can we imagine what the world would be if Stalin had occupied most of continental Europe.
The screenplay is astonishingly accurate in many, many details. Cornelius Ryan wrote it, and it's a faithful depiction of the people and events in his book, The Longest Day, which I have and have read. The movie was made in 1962; many, many important participants in the battle were still alive then. Many figures portrayed in the movie were still alive then, too, and are listed as advisers to the movie. You can watch this movie and obtain a fine understanding of the overall battle and many individual heroic actions.
Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. was awarded a Medal of Honor for his decisive actions in effectively saving the Utah beachhead. Gen. Norman Cota did what the movie shows - saving the Normandy beachhead and the entire operation. The British units preformed magnificently as did the Free French units (both uniformed and underground). And when you see the actor, Eddie Arnold, playing as a key figure on the Normandy beach as Cota's assistant, you should know that he fought on Tarawa in the Pacific, which was one of the most difficult beach landings in that theatre.
When you watch the movie, one should be aware that it presents many Germans rather favorably and the word, Nazi, is not used in my memory. Germany was being rehabilitated at that time and was a integral part of NATO. The movie chose not to put attention on the dark side of WW II Germany, but it does present Hitler's decisions as contributing to loss of the battle. That is true.
British Gen. Montgomery gets criticized much for some of his actions in WW II, but he did prepare the battle plan for the Normandy invasion - his changes were crucial for its successes.
Why Normandy ? Germany was surprised by its choice, and the reason might surprise you, too. Normandy was the only place in northern France where the Allies could land five divisions abreast. And Montgomery had required that increase in the landings size to give it much more punch and staying power.
Was Rommel right in fighting at the beaches ? Yes, because he knew that Allied air power would prevent major reinforcements. From his experience in Africa, Rommel understood the power of Allied air forces, which generals (and Hitler) with only experience in Russia did not.
I could go on and on, having read so many books on this battle. But if you watch the movie, you'll get an accurate overview in both broad and specific details.
Word of the Day
"Beetling" - from "Beetle" (3rd meaning) adjective & verb [$10]
Beetle (this usage) means (of brows, cliffs, etc.) projecting, overhanging threateningly.
Sentence: If you ever visit Pointe du Hoc in Normandy, you can see how difficult the Ranger assault up the beetling cliffs was. I visited about 15 years ago and one can still see huge shell holes, and signs advise sticking to marked paths due to risk on mines.