About the movie
The movie The Longest Day
directed by Darryl F. Zanuck, Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, Bernhard
Wicki et Gerd Oswald is
the first film about the Normandy Landing.
The title was inspired by a sentence pronounced by General Rommel,
commander of Army Group B in the north-west of France during the
Normandy Landing. Many people believe that it is a film very close
It is time to say things how they are: no, the film The Longest
Day is not an exact historical movie of D-Day. But then why
did it so successful, despite many historical mistakes, how had
it transformed the Normandy Landing into a legend?
All scenes are of course not wrong in comparison with history.
It is necessary to admit that this movie is the only one presenting
mandy Landing in its quasi-totality. Anyone interested
in the D-Day must have seen at least once this film. But I would
like to criticize some liberties taken by the directors of this
film. We need to take care of a future where veterans will not
be there to tell. This film tells of the Normandy Landing, but
it sometimes does it irrespectively of history.
In my research on the Normandy Landing, I met veteran Maurice
Chauvet, belonging to the First Marine Fusilers Battalion which
landed on June 6, 1944 on Sword Beach, and we discussed the theme
of films on D-Day. His role was to learn directors and actors
about the historical progress of operation Overlord. But, believing
that History wasn't respected enough by the directors, he'd decided
to leave the film crew.
The errors of the film
Being the creator of a website seeking historical truth, I decided
to tell about these mistakes on these pages. Here are some of
the mistakes of the film The Longest Day.
history of French troops reinvented
Maurice Chauvet, being a military adviser, was asked if the scenes
were accurate compared to the history of the Normandy Landings.
But the filmmakers and especially the producers wanted their film
to attract a very large audience. To do so, they have changed
the history of D-Day.
Tuesday, June 6, 1944, at dawn, the Free French troops led by
Commandant Kieffer and belonging to the 1st Commando BFM N°4,
have to liberate the town of Ouistreham, Sword Beach sector. Maurice
Chauvet, then corporal, took part in the assault. In the film,
French soldiers, who landed at the same time as the piper Bill
Millin, reach the coast using an American landing craft of the
1960s. In fact, French soldiers landed in Normandy from landing
craft infantry (LCI) with two retractable ramps thrown in front
of the ship.
on the beach, the French 1st BFM Commando had to capture a casino,
formerly a large luxury building, but the Germans had destroyed
it before D-Day to install there a bunker. The casino has never
been an eight-storey building as shown in the film: it was a concrete
bunker protecting machine guns and an antitank gun, three to four
In the film, during the attack on the casino (which, however,
was filmed in Port-en-Bessin and therefore has no common point
with the town of Ouistreham), nuns approach the fighting and begin
treating the commando troops in the heat of battle. But this never
occurred, there has never been nuns at this point of the attack!
Chauvet says: "The casino was in fact a bunker from where
the Germans could shot. there has never
been a 80 meters high house or nuns during the attack. The Germans
had destroyed the casino and they had built the bunker that was
destroyed after the war."
here to see the photo of the bunker of the casino which was
attacked on 6 June 1944 by the French in Ouistreham.
In the early hours of Tuesday June 6,
1944, when the airborne troops of the 82nd and 101st American
divisions were parachuted over Normandy, many units are dropped
sometimes more than 40 miles from their objective (for example,
U.S. paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne division were dropped near
the Pointe du Hoc). Some units were parachuted over Sainte-Mère-Eglise,
and everybody knows the fam
ous story of John Steel who stayed at
the top of the tower of the church for nearly four hours.
In the "The Longest Day", a
dozen of paratroopers fall on the village square and are immediately
killed. But in reality, the paratroop
ers dropped on the village
square were less than ten: most airborne soldiers arrived in gardens
or in the streets around the church square. The movie is a kind
of dramatization of the D-Day
The landings are very unrealistic. Particularly
on Omaha Beach, men seem to be stopped by a concrete wall (very
enlarged in comparison with its actual size) and not by enemy fire:
during the first minutes after the landing of the first American
assault wave on Omaha,
almost 95% of these soldiers have been killed or wounded because
of the ferocity of the battle.
When two aircrafts of the Luftwaffe attack Gold
and Juno beaches,
the Allied troops advance toward inland without
being stopped by anything. In fact, the Anglo-Canadian troops were
greeted by extremely intense
gunfires that have delayed the Allies and caused many losses,
in particular on Juno Beach.
The landing crafts used in the film are from the U.S.
Army and were created in the 1960s, modern crafts at the time of
the shooting and very different from the 1944 models.
What lessons can we learn from this film? We must
certainly see in The Longest Day a work influenced by its
time: 1962. In the midst of a crisis in Cuba, a symbol of the Cold
War, America seeked to regain confidence and called the memory of
a just war, won with the assistance of its allies. Richard Burton,
John Wayne, Henry Fonda and Robert Mitchum were charismatic symbols
of a victorious America, when it had the greatest need. Fidelity towards history is not the major effort: there must be victories, the help of allies, and if there are obstacles
(such as Omaha Beach), it is important to show the courage of men who,
facing adversity, are still winning.
At this periode also, war films had not as a priority
to describe with great accuracy the fighting and the events. This
phenomenon, whose two main examples are Saving Private Ryan
and Band of Brothers, appeared at the end of the twentieth
century. Now history comes first, immediately followed by the realism
of the fightings, what was not the case at the time of the shooting
of The Longest Day. But it has been necessary to wait more
than 50 years after the events to take a realistic look at the Second