By May 5, 2015 0 Comments Read More →

A D-Day Tribute: The Longest Day

photo Note: Reprinting this from last year, remembering D-Day.

Every year we recognize in some increasingly trivial way  the  incredible victory of the Normandy beach landings in France  on June 6, 1944.  D-Day changed the course of  WWII and certainly the course of our history.

When I visited the memorial a few years ago, I was really surprised by my feeling  of overwhelming awe.  Over 24000 men, Americans, British, and Canadians,  landed on that 50-mile section of beach and half were killed.  When  you see the American beach, Omaha Beach, and its sheer cliffs, you can imagine our troops climbing those cliffs under the deadly German fire from  heavily fortified positions above the cliffs.

The long rows of 10,000 white crosses are part of the memorial above the beach.  Beautifully landscaped with American trees, shrubs, and flowers, the memorial is maintained by Americans as France actually donated the land to us.  It is American soil.

The 1962 movie, The Longest Day, still is the best D-Day movie available.  Even though it may not have Saving Private Ryan‘s blood realism, the horror of war is totally conveyed.  It has an ensemble cast, seen as a debit to some, but not to me.  My only question: Everyone who was A-list was there except Charlton Heston.  I heard a rumor that he wanted the John Wayne role, but…

Opening to the somber tones of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, the movie has the effective strategy of introducing characters and giving them just enough screen time to establish themselves.  It’s fascinating to see the war machinery, the code rooms, the gliders, the “Rubens”, and those important Halloween clickers.

John Wayne is perfect as Col. Ben Vanderbilt.  He survived the war, worked for the CIA for many years and died at 77 from a fall in a nursing home.

Robert Mitchum is General Norman Cotta who was one of the highest ranking officers on the beach.  He was a West Point grad who is credited as saving the Omaha Beach operation and also led his men to defeat a superior force at Bastion.

Peter Lawford (soon to become JFK’s brother-in-law) played Lord Lovat who was severely wounded on June 12 but lived until 1994.  Both his sons died before him, and he lost his beautiful Beaufort Castle to his debts.

One of the most interesting roles was Henry Fonda’s General Teddy Roosevelt, Jr. Afflicted with crippling arthritis and armed only with a cane and a pistol, he insisted on landing with his men.  He son also landed on the beach that day and died. They were one of two father/son duos in the operation.  General Roosevelt died five weeks after the landing, still in Normandy, of a heart attack.  President Franklin Roosevelt bestowed the Medal of Honor upon his cousin.  There was a strong movement among the troops to have General Cotta nominated, but it failed.

Don’t miss a very young Sean Connery as a clownish soldier as well as musical stars Paul Anka and Favian.  Among many others: Mel Ferrer, Richard Burton, George Segal, Rod Steiger, Red Buttons, Robert Ryan, Curt Jurgens, Robert Wagner, Eddie Albert, Roddy McDowall, and Sal Mineo.  All very young.

Based on the novel by Cornelius Ryan and directed by Darrell Zanuck, it still is a movie to watch.  Those veterans who are still alive are in their 80’s and 90’s. I try to watch it almost every year to remember this event which changed our history forever.

CircleBen-02_100x115Ben says, “There was never a good war or a bad peace.”


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I am an observer of our interesting world , sharing my passions and my outrages, and thinking of Incredible Ben, his amazing blending of a social and civic life with superb common sense.

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