SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIALS FOR THE LONGEST DAY
In 1942, General Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, had
warned Germany to: "Beware the fury of an aroused
democracy." On D-Day, June 6, 1944, the Allies mounted the
largest amphibious assault in history and made good on
Eisenhower's warning. The invasion force consisted of more
than 5,000 ships, 1,200 warships and 13,000 airplanes. Some
90,000 U.S., British, Canadian, and Free French troops
landed on the beaches of Normandy, while about 20,000 more
came by parachute or glider. The invasion had been in
preparation for a year.
Casualties turned out to be less than expected except
at Omaha Beach, where strong German resistance and difficult
seas resulted in about 2,000 U.S. casualties. By June 11,
1944, the Allied forces had linked up and made a solid front,
ensuring that they would not be thrown back into the sea.
The success of the Normandy invasion was crucial to the Allies.
By the same token, defeating the invasion was vitally important to the Axis.
Hitler is reported to have said: "The destruction of the
enemy's landing is the sole decisive factor in the whole
conduct of the war and hence in its final results." But the
Germans couldn't stop the invasion. In 1943, they were
fighting the Americans and British in Italy and the
Mediterranean as well as the Russians in the East. The Atlantic
Coastline from Holland to France was 6,000 kilometers. It
could not be watched in all places. In short, the Germans were overextended.
The Allies, backed by the tremendous productive power of the U.S. and
the men of the American and British armies, were not to be denied.
Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin wrote:
Three weeks after D-day, one million men had been put ashore, along
with an astonishing supply of 171,532 vehicles and 566,000 tons of
supplies. "As far as you could see in every direction the ocean was
infested with ships," Ernie Pyle [the great WWII war correspondent]
observed, but when you walked along the beach, a grimmer picture
emerged. "The wreckage was vast and startling." Men were floating in
the water, lying on the beach; nearly nine thousand were dead. "There
were trucks tipped half over and swamped ... tanks that had only just
made the beach before being knocked out ... jeeps that had burned to a
dull gray ... boats stacked on top of each other. On the beach lay
expended sufficient men and mechanism for a small war. They were gone
No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin, 1994, Simon & Schuster, New York, page 511, quoting from Pyle, Brave Men pp. 358, & 367 - 69.
Mr. Pyle was amazed that the Allies could afford these losses, but he realized that behind the men, the vehicles and the ships, were still more in preparation to overwhelm Germany.
Overall, the movie is quite accurate. The German High Command was
extremely confused during the early hours of the invasion. Hitler indeed
refused to commit Panzer reserves to the battle until the beachhead was already established.
There are, however, some scenes in which poetic license takes the day. For
example, in reality, the landings were more difficult than
shown in the movie. Soldiers were dropped off in water over
their heads and had to use life jackets to keep afloat until
they reached the shore, where they collapsed with
exhaustion. The Pegasus bridge had not been rigged for
demolition. The German defenses on Omaha beach were not
blown up and frontally assaulted as shown in the film. This was the original
plan but the bulldozers and tanks which were to carry out
the assault didn't make it to the beach. Junior
officers and NCOs took charge of the situation, infiltrated
their men behind the enemy fortifications, and took them
from the rear.
Additional Discussion Questions:
Continued from the Learning Guide...
1. If the invasion of Normandy had failed, and if the Germans had been
able to halt the Allied offensives on the Eastern Front (Russia) and in
the South (Italy), what weapon would have been used on Germany? Suggested Response:
The U.S. would probably have used the atomic bomb, which was originally
intended to be dropped on Germany. During the Second World War, the U.S.
judged that Germany was a greater threat than Japan. For that reason
the U.S. threw most of its resources and manpower into the war in
Europe. As a result, Germany collapsed and was conquered before Japan,
several months before the atomic bomb was ready. This fact saved
Germany from being the first country to suffer from an attack in which
nuclear weapons were used. See Learning Guide to "Fat Man and Little Boy".
2. Why was it important for the Allies to win World War II?
3. What was Joseph Stalin's position with respect to the Normandy
invasion? Did he want it to go forward or did he want it delayed? Suggested Response:
Stalin repeatedly pressured England and the U.S. to mount the invasion
so that the Germans would have to divert men, supplies and equipment
from the Eastern Front.
4. Evaluate the film from the point of view of casting, performances,
directing, and cinematography. Did anything bother you about the way in
which the events in the film were presented? Would you have done it
differently? Why? Similarly, what works best in the film? Explain why.
Continued from the Learning Guide...
See additional Assignments for use with any Film that is a Work of Fiction.
Social-Emotional Learning Discussion Questions
COURAGE IN WAR
1. Would you have participated in the invasion of Normandy had you been a soldier in WWII?
Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.
(Be honest; Don't deceive, cheat or steal; Be reliable -- do what you
say you'll do; Have the courage to do the right thing; Build a good
reputation; Be loyal -- stand by your family, friends and country)
1. Where would we be without the sacrifices of the men who served in the armed forces during World War II?
Bridges to Reading:
There are hundreds of books suitable for middle school and junior high readers relating to WWII. Check with your librarian.
Links to the Internet:
Common Core State Standards that can be Served by this Learning Guide
(Anchor Standards only)
Multimedia: Anchor Standard #7 for Reading (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). (The three Anchor Standards read: "Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media, including visually and quantitatively as well as in words.") CCSS pp. 35 & 60. See also Anchor Standard # 2 for ELA Speaking and Listening, CCSS pg. 48.
Writing: Anchor Standards #s 1 - 5 and 7- 10 for Writing and related standards (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). CCSS pp. 41 & 63.
Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards #s 1 - 3 (for ELA classes). CCSS pg. 48.
Not all assignments reach all Anchor Standards. Teachers are encouraged to review the specific standards to make sure that over the term all standards are met.
Selected Awards, Cast and Director:
Selected Awards: 1962 Academy Awards: Best Black & White Cinematography,
Best Special Effects; 1963 Golden Globe Awards: Best Black &
White Cinematography; 1962 National Board of Review Awards: Ten
Best Films of the Year; 1962 Academy Awards Nominations: Best
Picture, Best Art Direction/Set Decoration (B&W), Best Film
Featured Actors: John Wayne, Richard Burton, Red Buttons, Robert
Mitchum, Henry Fonda, Robert Ryan, Paul Anka, Mel Ferrer, Edmond
O'Brien, Fabian, Sean Connery, Roddy McDowall, Arletty, Curt
Jurgens, Rod Steiger, Jean-Louis Barrault, Peter Lawford, Robert
Wagner, Sal Mineo, Leo Genn, Richard Beymer, Jeffrey Hunter.
Director: Ken Annakin.
In addition to websites which may be linked in the Guide and selected film reviews listed on the Movie Review Query Engine, the following resources were consulted in the preparation of this Learning Guide:
- Past Imperfect, Mark C. Carnes, Ed., Henry Holt and
Company, New York, 1995. and Guts & Glory: Great American War Movies,
Lawrence H. Suid, 1978, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc.
Contributors: Thanks to Michael Turyn, Ph.D., Watertown, Massachusetts for suggestions on discussion questions.
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