The Longest Day (1962)

 

 

 

Director:  Ken Annakin (British exterior episodes), Andrew Marton (American exterior episodes), Bernhard Wicki (German episodes)

Starring:    Eddie Albert (Col. Thompson), Paul Anka (U.S. Army Ranger), Arletty (Madame Barrault), Jean-Louis Barrault (Father Louis Roulland), Richard Beymer (Schultz), Hans Christian Blech (Maj. Werner Pluskat), Bourvil (Mayor of Colleville), Richard Burton (Flight Officer David Campbell), Wolfgang BŁttner (Maj. Gen. Dr. Hans Speidel), Red Buttons (Pvt. John Steele), Pauline Carton (Maid), Sean Connery (Pvt. Flanagan), Ray Danton (Capt. Frank), Irina Demick (Janine Boitard), Fred Dur (U.S. Army Ranger major), Fabian (U.S. Army Ranger), Mel Ferrer (Maj. Gen. Robert Haines), Henry Fonda (Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr), Steve Forrest (Capt. Harding), Gert FrŲbe (Sgt. Kaffekanne), Leo Genn (Brig. Gen. Edwin P. Parker Jr.), John Gregson (British Padre), Paul Hartmann (Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt), Peter Helm (Young GI), Werner Hinz (Field Marshal Erwin Rommel), Donald Houston (RAF pilot at flight base), Jeffrey Hunter (Sgt., later Lt., John H. Fuller), Karl John (Gen. Wolfgang Hager), Curd JŁrgens (Maj. Gen. Gunther Blumentritt), Alexander Knox (Maj. Gen. Walter Bedell Smith), Peter Lawford (Lord Lovat), Fernand Ledoux (Louis), Christian Marquand (Cmdr. Philippe Kieffer, commando leader), Dewey Martin (Pvt. Wilder), Roddy McDowall (Pvt. Morris), Michael Medwin (Pvt. Watney), Sal Mineo (Pvt. Martini), Robert Mitchum (Brig. Gen. Norman Cota), Kenneth More (Capt. Colin Maud), Richard MŁnch (Gen. Erich Marcks), Edmond O'Brien (Gen. Raymond D. Barton), Leslie Phillips (Royal Air Force officer), Wolfgang Preiss (Maj. Gen. Max Pemsel), Ron Randell (Joe Williams), Madeleine Renaud (Mother Superior), Georges RiviPre (Sgt. Guy de Montlaur), Norman Rossington (Pvt. Clough), Robert Ryan (Brig. Gen. James M. Gavin), Tommy Sands (U.S. Army Ranger), George Segal (U.S. Army Ranger), Jean Servais (RAdm. Janjard), Rod Steiger (Destroyer commander), Richard Todd (Maj. John Howard), Tom Tryon (Lt. Wilson), Peter van Eyck (Lt. Col. Ocker), Robert Wagner (U.S. Army Ranger), Richard Wattis (British soldier), Stuart Whitman (Lt. Sheen), Georges Wilson (Alexandre Renaud), John Wayne (Lt. Col. Benjamin Vandervoort).

Awards:  Best Cinematography, black and white and Best Special Effects.

D-Day, June 6, 1944

 

 

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

The free French broadcast from London to their country men a long series of one sentence following another.

Occupied France in the fifth year of World War II. A man with a briefcase runs in a field. He is being chased by a German military car. The man is shot from behind and killed Gen. Max Pemsel gets out of his car, grabs the briefcase, gets back in the car and the car drives away.

A fat German sergeant rides on a mule taking breakfast to the soldiers in the bunkers along the coast of Normandy. He is watched by a French farmer from his second-story window.

Field Marshal Von Rundstedt, Commander -in-Chief, OB West watches as a parade of German soldiers march by him. With him is Gen. Blumentritt.

Meanwhile, German guards are checking out a large wagon carrying hay. A pretty woman named Janine Boitaro, French Resistance, Caan, with a low cut blouse rides up to the guards, who suddenly lose interest in the hay. The wagon driver comes over for his permission to go and the guards dismiss him and the man proceeds ahead. The guards are talking to Janine, but when the officer comes out and asks whatís going on, the guards immediately send Janine on her way. As she passes the driver of the wagon, she exchanges glances with her husband. In the wagon are people being smuggled through the German lines.

At the village of Sainte Mere Eglise, the town center is teaming with German soldiers. They are watched by the Mayor of the village, Alexandre Renaud. Facing the square is a huge Catholic Cathedral. The priest Pere Louis Roulland speaks to his parishioners. He tells them that their deliverance is coming.

Major Werner Pluskat, 352nd Coast Artillery Division, plays with his German Shepard dog in front of the huge pill boxes. Below him on the coast German soldiers are used to plant mines and obstacles to slow down any Allied invasion of Normandy, France. Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, the desert fox, oversees the work. He is informed that over 4 million mines and obstacles have been placed on the beaches. Rommel boasts to the men with him: "But not a single Allied soldier shall reach the shore. . . . I shall destroy the enemy there at the waterís edge!" He also says that for the Allies and the Germans, invasion day will be "the longest day".

General Gunther Blumentritt, Headquarters German Command - France, arrives at his post. At headquarters, Oberst Hellmuth Meyer, Chef Abwehrdienst, asks about the messages being sent by Frenchmen to Frenchmen. He listens as one of the "personal" messages is broadcast: "The long sobs of the violins of autumn." The Germans say that by the time they hear the second verse of the Paul Verlaine poem, the invasion will come within 24 hours.

Von Rundstedt tells Blumentritt that for over a year they have been receiving messages over the radio from the free French. He states that he canít keep putting the army on alert without it exhausting the soldiers. Von Rundstedt says he will not sound an alert and especially not in this terrible weather they are having.

Rommel gets a weather report that the waves on the French beaches are up to five feet high. For a June they have had the worst storm ever to hit the area. Rommel says itís a good time for him to go to Berlin, because the weather is expected to stay bad for another week.

England, one of 1,108 Allied camps. The Americans are living in a huge tent city. The men are tired of waiting and are anxious for the invasion to start. Down by the docks, equipment and men are loaded on the ships.

Colonel Benjamin Vandervoort, U.S. 82nd Airborne Division, talks to some of his officers and tells them that some 3 million men are penned up all over England in staging areas like the one they are in. Everyone is anxious to get going, but the men will just have to be patient. He says: "Weíre on the threshold of the most crucial day of our times."

General Norman Cota, U.S. 29th Division receives, is told by a visitor that the invasion is on for this night. The high ranking officers will have to attend a conference with Eisenhower at Southwick House at 9:30 p.m. Cota says this time they canít postpone the invasion. There are 4,000 ships, 11,000 planes, 18,000 paratroopers, 200,000 assault troops and a myriad of gliders just waiting to go. Cota adds that some of the assault troops have already been on the transport ships for three days now.

In the barracks some of the men are betting big money (for them) on dice games. A young man named Schultz wins big. He takes the money over to his bunk to count it. He has over $2,500 dollars. He gets an envelope in the mail and opens it to find a rosary from his mother.

Flight Officer David Campbell, Fighter Pilot, Royal Air Force goes to have a beer at the bar. A friend asks him whereís their friend Johnny? Campbell replies: "At the bottom of the Channel. .. . . Ack-ack over Calais. He jumped clean but his parachute didnít open." This leaves Dave as the only survivor of the squadron from the old 1940 mob.

Col. Vandervoort goes in to speak with General James Gavin, US 82nd Airborne Division. Gavin has given him a very tough assignment. Sainte-Mere Eglise straddles the only road the Germans can use to drive into the armyís northern flank. The place has to be taken and held and thatís why Gavin gave the job to the tough Vandervoort. What worries Vandervoort is that if they undershoot the drop zone they will land in the thousands of acres of farmland deliberately flooded by the Germans. If they overshoot the drop zone, his men will be falling right into the center of the German held town.

Group Captain J. N. Stagg, RAF, Meteorological Service. He gets the latest weather report. The new front of calmer weather is moving in. Stagg will be there tonight at Southwick House.

Colonel Priller, a German pilot who shot down 132 airplanes, calls General Wolfgang Hager, Hauptquartier, Luftwaffen Kommando West. He protests that he is at the airport now and has only two broken-down planes to fly. He says the policy of spreading out the airplanes so they donít all get destroyed at once by the Allies is idiotic. Thereís little, however, that the general can do since this is the new policy. Priller hangs up, still angry.

Rommel bought some shoes for his wifeís birthday, tomorrow, June 6. He is going home for her birthday.

Gen. Erich Marcks, Kommandierender General des 84, Armeekorps. He prepares himself to go to the war games conference at Rennes with its theoretical invasions. Today he will play the part of Eisenhower. He tells his assistant, if he was Ike, he would go against the obvious and land his troops in Normandy.

At Southwick Captain Stagg says that they can expect at least a brief period of fair weather conditions. If they donít go on June 6, they wonít be able to go until July.

Gen. Marcks tells his aide that a Normandy attack will not take place because: "Eisenhower would never take the gamble."

Ike says: "Iím quite positive we must give the order. I donít like it, but there it is. Gentlemen, I donít see how we can possibly do anything else but go."

Vandervoort gets the word: "Tonight as scheduled." He runs into the office to get things going. Col. Thompson gets a call. He listens and hangs up the telephone to say to Gen. Cota: "Next stop: Normandy." Cota replies: "God help us now." Lord Lovat, British Special Service Brigade, gets a call. He tells his staff: "Gentlemen, the day weíve been waiting for has arrived. Invasion! Weíre on our way." General Raymond Barton, U.S. 4th Division, gets the message: "Itís on."

Gen. Gavin speaks with the Pathfinders. He stresses that their one and only job is to light the drop zones for the paratroopers. They will be the first fighting men to land in France. Another speaker shows them the miniature dummies made of rubber that will be dropped over France and when they hit the ground, a lot of small explosions will go off.  Hopefully, this will trick the Germans into going in the wrong direction.

Vandervoort talks to the paratroopers. They have all received the toy called a cricket. One click is to be answered by two clicks, so that the paratroopers donít shoot each other.

An older Frenchman lives in a coastal farmhouse not far from the German fortifications. He listens to the list of sentences broadcast by the free French. His name is Alphonse Lenaux and he lives in Maire de Golleville-sur Orne. When he hears the message "John had a long moustache" he drops his spoon into his soup bowl. A big smile comes over his face. He grabs his hat and coat and his keys and rushes out the door.

A group in the French Resistance of which Janine Boitaro is a member listens to the radio. The key sentence they hear is: "Wounds my heart with a monotonous languor." The men and Janine grab for the hidden rifles and quickly go to their assigned places.

Gen. Von Salmuth, Befehishaber der 15. Armee is playing cards with other officers. A staff member rushes in to say that the expected second verse of Paul Verlaineís poem has just been transmitted: "Wounds my heart with a monotonous languor." The invasion is coming. The general very calmly gives the order to put the 5th Army on full alert.

The ships are heading for Normandy. Two soldiers exchange small talk on a ship.

It is Gen. Marcksís birthday and his staff celebrates with him, the 6th of June, 1944.

Normandy. British Glider Assault, Orne River. Airplanes are towing the gliders over the Channel and into France. The pilot of one glider tells Major John Howard, British 8th Airborne Infantry, that they are about to be cut loose from the airplane. Major Howardís orders are to capture the Orne River Bridge intact and hold until relieved.

The glider flies over the Orne River Bridge. It turns around and lands on a dirt road by the Orne River not far from the bridge. The plane has a rough landing, but as soon as it stops the men rush out to begin the assault. They are spotted by a bridge guard and fired at. A machine gun opens up on them, accompanied by more rifle fire. The British advance on the defensive positions and kill those guarding the bridge. Very quickly they reach the bridge. They start sending men underneath the bridge to take off all the German demolition charges meant to blow the bridge if the Allies try to grab it. Thereís still more fighting as other German soldiers rush to defend the other side of the bridge.

Alphonse Lenaux and another man knock down a long line of telephone poles with explosives and a main detonator. This knocks out much of the communication ability of the Germans in the area of the bridge.

More glider troops arrive at the bridge. Walsh reports to Howard that their glider landed in the river itself. With the extra troops, Howard takes and holds the bridge. In addition, all the demolition packs have been removed from under the bridge. The whole operation took less than 15 minutes.

General Max Pemsel, Befehlssab, 7. Armee, comes into headquarters. He is informed that Gen. Schlieben of the 709th has already left for the war games. In all, twelve officers have left to go to the war games. Pemsel has a bad feeling about so many key officers being away all at the same time. He gives orders that any other officers going to the war games, will not leave until tomorrow morning.

At 1:07 a.m. Allied airplanes fly over Caen. The Germans do their best to try and bring them down. The miniature paratroopers are thrown out of some of the airplanes. The German soldiers start shooting at them.

Three Pathfinders are dropped very close to Janine Boitaro. She sees that they are with the free French. They are to destroy the train tracks in the area. The paratroopers have a large steel capsule with them that contains explosives.

Janine helps the paratroopers get by a railroad bridge guarded by German soldiers. They hook up with her husband. The guards hear some noise and start slowly walking down the tracks in the direction of the saboteurs. The French donít want to use their pistols, so Janine volunteers to distract them. The guards grab her. One guard takes her back to the railroad bridge over a stream. The other guard stays behind and is killed with the use of a knife.

The guard with Janine gets very suspicious and starts roughing her up. He pushes her down onto the bridge. He gets a lantern and holds it up to the oncoming locomotive and tries to get it to stop. To stop him, Janine jumps on his back. They both fall into the water below. The Frenchmen hear Janineís cries as the guard tries to drown her. One of the French paratroopers shoots the guard.

Meanwhile, the tracks are blown up right under the front of the locomotive and it topples off the track and down into an area below the tracks. There are some big explosions and fire starts spreading. German troops have to scurry to get off the train and away from the flames.

Gen. Marcksís aide tells the general that rubber, dummy paratroopers have been dropped in various areas along the coast. Marcks gets in touch with Gen. Richter. He learns that paratroopers have landed in many different sections in the area. Soldiers bring in one of the rubber dummies for Marcks to look at. The aide to the general remarks that maybe these are the paratroopers that have been reported as landing on French soil. Marcks replies: "When you create a diversion, itís for a reason." Now he calls Gen. Pemsel. Marcks informs Pemsel about the dummies and he, in turn, tries to contact Gen. Von Rundstedt (but the communication lines are down).

Thousands of paratroopers are being dropped on Normandy now. A paratrooper lands in an older womanís garden while the lady is standing there. She is shocked and goes into her house. Some paratroopers are killed soon after they land. Schultz lands in a tree and has a hard time getting down. He calls for his buddies to come help him. Another paratrooper drops through a roof of a green house making a lot of noise as the glass breaks. A German officer billeted in the nearby house is alarmed enough to go outside to check on whatís happening. He is killed by the paratrooper using a knife.

Some of the paratroopers with Vandervoort's F company start landing in the center of Sainte-Mere Eglise. They are almost all killed by the many German soldiers there.

A British paratrooper is brought in to be shown to Gen. Von Salmuth. The German general can hardly believe his eyes.

Col. Pluskat gets a call asking him whatís going on at the coast there? Has he seen anything? Pluskat opens his window and looks out, but all he sees is a flare way up in the sky. He reports this to the caller, but does say he will go to his bunker and take a look.

In Sainte Mere Eglise at 2:03 in the morning the people are trying to put out a fire. Parachutists jump from their planes. The planes overshoot their target and the paratroopers are falling into the center of the town. There they are killed by the many German troops.

Private John Steeleís parachute gets caught on the roof of the local church leaving the private dangling on the side of the church. Steele watches as the paratroopers are massacred. He tries to cut himself down with his knife, but drops it. The knife lands near a German soldier, who looks up and sees the paratrooper. He points his weapon at Steele and fires, but the soldier only hits his foot and then is distracted by a parachutist shooting at him as he comes down to the ground. The German soldier is killed.

Pluskat goes to his bunker and uses his binoculars to take a look. He sees nothing unusual, so he sits down at a table in the bunker.

Private Martini hears some rustling in the bushes. He clicks his cricket toy once and hears two distinct noises. He relaxes and starts walking toward the noise. The noise, however, originated from a German soldier loading his weapon. He sees the American and shoots him dead..

Schultz has gotten lost and rests against a short wall. He hears some noise, uses his cricket toy and gets a response. He jumps up from his position at the same time as a bunch of American soldiers rise up just on the other side of the wall from him. Schultz is from the 82nd Airborne, but the other fellows are from the 101st Airborne. So Shultz tags along with them.

Schultz is marching with the group along one side of the wall. On the other side of the wall there is a drop-off of the ground. A German squad passes by the Americans on the other side of the wall. Schultz sees them but does not react. He stops, not really believing what he just saw. He turns around as the last of the enemy squad goes around a bend in the wall. Schultzís own squad is now leaving him behind. So he just runs along to rejoin his squad.

Pluskat calls headquarters to report that hundreds of airplanes are flying overhead. He shouts into the phone: ". . . something must be happening!" But the officer on the other end of the phone says the problem is that they donít know what it is. He asks Pluskat to take another look at the ocean. Pluskat looks and reports that there is nothing happening. So he finishes the call and hangs up. He is so sure that something is happening, but frustrated that he doesnít know what.

Vandervoort broke his ankle and the doctor gives him the bad news. He gets some more bad news when it is reported that A, B and C companies are scattered all around the place and F company must be somewhere around Sainte Mere Eglise. Vandervoort is furious that they were dropped five miles from their drop zone.

Gen. Max Pemsel is sure now where the Allies are going to land. He says from the positions of the sightings of American and British paratroopers, he knows the invasion is coming at Normandy. He calls his suspicion in to Maj. Gen. Blumentritt, who in turn tells von Rundstadt. Rundstadt disagrees with Pemsel, saying that the assault on Normandy is only a diversionary attack. He is sure that the main attack will happen northeast of Normandy at the Pas-de-Calais as thought. But, to be careful, he tells Blumentritt to bring up the Panzer tanks nearer the coast. Blumentritt says they will have to get Hitlerís personal approval to move the Panzers. Rundstedt tell him to call Jodl in order to get Hitlerís approval.

Lord Lovat talks to his men and some free French soldiers about the invasion. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. comes in to ask Gen. Raymond D. Barton if he can go ashore and fight alongside his troops. Barton doesnít want Roosevelt to go because he is the assistant division commander and too important to get killed on Utah Beach (one of the two American landing places, the other being Omaha Beach). Roosevelt wants to go and Barton decides to approve his request.

Commandant Philippe Kieffer, Commando Francais, uses a model of a town to show his men how they will take command of the place. They have fought for four years in Abyssinia, Libya, Egypt and Crete. He adds: "But this time you are going to fight on French soil, in our fields, in our villages, under the eyes of our own people."

Gen. Oberst Alfred Jodl, Chef der Operationsabteilung OKW, tells Blumentritt that Hitler took a sedative and is now sleeping. He says he will not wake Hitler. Jodl thinks that the paratroopers are just involved in commando raids. He asks: "Is that sufficient reason to send the panzers to the coast?"  Blumentritt is a little disgusted and feeling down, as he says: "We are going to lose the war because our glorious Fuhrer has taken a sleeping pill and is not to be awakened."

It is dawning and Pluskat is relieved after a long night. The men will eat breakfast, but Pluskat wants to take one more look. He starts to say that there isnít even a seagull out to see . . . when he finally sees a huge armada headed toward his beach. He turns around and says: "The invasion . . . itís coming." Pluskat calls into headquarters to say that there must be 5,000 ships out on the English Channel. He is told to pull himself together, because the Allies donít even have 2,500 ships, much less 5,000. Pluskat yells into the phone: "Well dammit! Come and see for yourself, you fool!í On the other end, the officer asks where are these ships headed? Pluskat screams into the phone: "Straight for me!!"

Gen. Omar Bradley, US 1st Army, is told that in two minutes the fleet will open fire on the beaches. Admiral Jaujard of the Free French Forces speaks in French to his free French soldiers.

The lazy sergeant comes riding on his mule to bring breakfast to the men in the bunkers. The French farmer watches him as usual. Suddenly, the sergeant stops his mule. He sees thousands of ship out on the English Channel. Just as he scoots himself off the mule, the shelling of the coast begins and a couple of explosions happen pretty close to the man. He and the mule run back to get to somewhere safer. The French farmer is absolutely thrilled. He retrieves his French flag and starts waving it out the window. His wife tries to draw him back from the window, but she isnít strong enough.

The bunker in which Pluskat is stationed starts getting shelled and the ceiling falls in on the German. He gets to the phone, but has to shout into the phone to be heard because of the noise of the explosions. He shouts: "Those five thousand ships you say the Allies havenít got, well, theyíve got them." The French farmer is also getting shelled, but he still smiles.

Piller gets the command to get himself and his other pilot into the air. Sarcastically, Piller shouts out: "Normandy! How delightful." He tells the other pilot that they are going out, but he doesnít think they will be coming back.

Omaha Beach, 6:32 in the morning. The troops are loaded into landing craft. Pluskat telephones to report that the shelling has stopped, but now landing craft are headed for the beaches. Pluskat is told to report to headquarters and direct the fighting from there.

The alarms go off at the German fortifications and the soldiers get into their positions from which to repulse the landing. As the landing craft get very close to the beach, the Germans open up with mortar shells.

Gen. Cota and his buddy Col. Thompson successfully make it onto the beach alive. A lot of men are being killed by all the German firing. Cota shouts for his men to get off the beach. Many men donít make it off the beach. Their bodies litter the beach.

Gen. Bradley gets a report that the first and second waves of men are pinned down on the beach. The third wave is floundering because of the heavy casualties.

Utah Beach at 6:44 in the morning. The landing crafts let the troops out. Gen. Roosevelt is right there with his men still having to use his walking canr because of his arthritis. Resistance seems to be much lighter than at Omaha Beach. Private Morris runs up the sand dune and gets into a good position next to a sergeant. He is in line with a German machine gun nest and kills the German soldiers there. The private speaks to the sergeant, only to discover that the sergeant is dead.

Gen Roosevelt tells his officers that they landed a mile and a quarter south of where they should have landed. (No wonder resistance is light.) Roosevelt tells his men that they are heading inland. The soldiers move over the sand dunes to head inland.

Piller and his buddy attack the men on Gold and Juno Beaches at 6:49 in the morning. They strafe the troops trying to race to get over the sand dunes and off the beach. Once they run out of machine gun bullets, they head back home. Piller sarcastically laughs: "The Luftwaffe has had its great moment!"

Sword Beach at 6:53 in the morning. Lord Lovat and his men prepare themselves for the landing on the beach. A bag piper plays a tune for the landing troops. The British have an easier time of it than the Americans and are soon moving their vehicles and troops off the beach in a somewhat coordinated manner led by the beach master. A couple of journalists have to use carrier pigeons to get the news out to the public.

A Frenchman comes out on the beach on his bicycle. He has a bottle of champagne and wants Lord Lovat to drink with him on this wonderful day. Lovat very politely tells the man that the champagne will have to wait, thereís a war they have to fight.

Pluskat is trying to get to headquarters, but there is a lot of traffic of German soldiers and supplies heading towards the coast. Allied airplanes strafe the Germans and Pluskatís vehicle is destroyed and he is wounded.

At home with his wife and older son, Rommel is celebrating his wifeís birthday. He gets a telephone call. He is absolutely shocked to learn that the Allies are landing at Normandy. He says to himself: "Normandy! How stupid of me."

Pointe du Hoc at 7:11 in the morning. The American rangers will land on the beach at this very important point. A sergeant tells the very young privates that the German big guns are buried in bunkers behind the cliff that canít even bee seen from the air. That's why the rangers have to go in. They have to knock those big guns out.

The rangers land and rush over to the cliffs. They fire their prongs (tied to ropes) up and onto the top of the cliffs in order to snag the prongs on something that will hold the weight of the men climbing up the cliff. Some of the prongs donít hold and the men on these ropes fall back down onto the beach. The Germans also cut the barbed wire holding some of the prongs and the men fall back down the cliff.

Slowly and steadily the men start making it to the top. There they start killing the Germans, which makes it much easier for the men coming up the ropes. There is a bunker there with several machine guns killing a lot of Americans. The rangers finally take it out by lobbing grenades into the small openings. The rangers find one of the bunkers hiding the big guns. They lob grenades into it, only to find out that no guns were ever mounted here. One of the young privates asks: "You mean weíve come up all this way for nothiní?"

Von Rundstedt says that the choice of Normandy was just sheer madness. Blumentritt tells his superior that Hitler is finally awake. Then the fuhrer went into one of his tantrums and no one dared even to bring up the of subject of the panzers. Blumentritt asks von Rundstedt to call the fuhrer and ask him. Von Rundstedt just answers: "Call that Bohemian corporal?! Crawl on my knees to him?! No, itís out of the question!"

At the bridge over the Orne River, the British are still holding it. Major Howard learns that the Germans are moving up from behind their position. Howard tells a soldier to tell the others to expect another heavy counter-attack. A little while later, Lord Lovat and his men come up to reinforce the bridge crew. They come in to the sound of the bagpipes.

Vandervoort and his men are marching toward Sainte Mere Eglise. Two soldiers are pulling a wagon behind them. Vandervoortís men call them over and Vandervoort gets onto the wagon with some help. The two soldiers will now be pulling around the injured Vandervoort. A little later, Vandervoort finds out about the massacre of F company at Sainte Mere Eglise.

Major General Robert Haines at headquarters knows the situation at Omaha Beach is still going badly with heavy casualties. The French troops have reached Ouistreham. They are trying to capture the Casino in the town, but itís not going to be easy, since it is so heavily fortified and manned with many men and many weapons.

The French try a frontal assault on the casino, but their assault fails with heavy casualties. The commander tells his men to retreat. Many head for a nearby, very damaged building. The commander asks the radioman to ask for tank support, but the radioman has no luck. The commander and another soldier decide to go for tank support. The other soldier is soon killed. A small bridge is blasted and cut in half by the Germans with the French commander still holding on to it. The commander, however, still keeps moving along.

Amidst the fighting, French nuns come down the road to help the French wounded gathered in the damaged building. The commander returns on top of a tank. The tank fires at the big German artillery piece before the German gunners can fire on the Allied tank. The artillery piece is not damaged, but so many pieces of the casino have fallen in front of it, that it may as well be damaged. The next tank blast brings down about a third of the casino. Now the French try a second frontal assault and this time are successful.

Gen. Cota is still on the beach. Col. Thompson asks him if he wants him (Thompson) to telephone for the landing craft to pick them up. Oh, hell no. He tells Thompson to get him some bangalores, bazookas, mortars, wire cutters and every man that can stand. Gen. Cota goes around telling his men to snap out of it  They are going to get off this beach!

Maj. Gen. Robert Haines gets the bad news that there is no movement at all off the beach at Omaha Beach.

Pemsel tells his men that he is going at once to Normandy to see the situation first hand.

Lt. Col. Vandervoort and his men arrive at Sainte Mere Eglise. He sees some dead parachutists still dangling from their chutes caught on telephone poles and trees. He gets angry and tells his men to get those paratroopers down from there. He tells his Major that they are going to stay in the town until reinforced.

Gen. Cota promotes Sgt. Fuller to Lt. Fuller. He then orders the lieutenant to move out with his bangalores to where they are going to blow a hole through the defenses. The lieutenant proves extremely brave and leads the way to push the bangalores underneath the barbed wire. Fuller blows the bangalores and an opening is made in the barbed wire. Next Fuller runs up to the German wall with explosives satchels. He and some of his men plant the satchels. Running the wire from under the wall back down, Fuller is killed. Another soldier grabs the wire, sets up the explosion and detonates it. Now they have a hole through the wall and they can get off the beach. The men pour through the gap in the wall. Col. Thompson is motioning for the men to follow him when he is shot dead.

Gen. Marcks oversees his men as they burn all their important papers.

The lost Schultz runs into British Flight Officer David Campbell, who has been badly injured from anti-aircraft fire from the crotch to the knee and canít walk on his own. The two men smoke, relax and talk.

Gen. Cota now oversees men and equipment which are moving off Omaha Beach in an orderly, steady stream.

 

 

This is a very long, but excellent movie about the Allied invasion of Normandy on D-day. The contributions of the Americans, British, Canadians and the French are covered and credited.  In addition, the role of the French resistance in France is also shown.

The great confusion among the German commanders about whether this was the real invasion or just a diversion (or even an invasion at all) is revealed very effectively in the film.  

Lt. Col. Benjamin Vandervoort (John Wayne) with his paratroopers is given the task of capturing the key town of Sainte Mere-Eglise; Major John Howard (Richard Todd) is to take and hold the Orne River Bridge until relieved; Lord Lovat (Peter Lawford) is to relieve Major Howard at the Orne River Bridge. 

The only drawback is that there are so many Hollywood stars that one's attention is constantly drawn to talking about the star or trying to figure out the name of the star.  But on the other hand, that can be fun in and of itself.  

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 


Historical Background:

The supplemental disc has lots of corrections of the events portrayed in the film.  One of the biggest mistakes was the scenes dealing with the Pointe du Hoc.  I believe it was Fabian who asks if they fought for nothing when they find no big guns at Pointe du Hoc.  The rangers actually involved in the operation objected that there was a huge artillery piece behind the coastal defenses there and it was the rangers at Pointe du Hoc who made the gun unusable.  The gun could have knocked out some of the ships in the Channel, but the rangers prevented this from happening by disabling the gun.

Another example of a mistake is that none of the paratroopers of F company landing in the midst of German soldiers in Sainte Mere Eglise were able to fire their weapons as they descended to the ground. 

The story about the two squads, one German and the other American, passing each other with no one doing anything is true.  Also true is the Private John Steele story of his parachute being caught on a church roof leaving Steele dangling from his parachute against the church wall in Sainte Mere Eglise.  He was able to watch the massacre of his buddies in F company by the Germans.  

 

 

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