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One of the Best! This movie is on TWM's short list of the best movies to supplement classes in United States History, High School Level.
SUBJECTS — U.S./1941 - 1945; World/WWII;
Age:10+; No MPAA Rating; Drama/Documentary; 1962; 179 minutes; B & W; Available from Amazon.com.

Description: This movie is a fairly accurate description of D-Day. It shows the landings from the point of view of the American, French, British, and German participants. The film is based on the book by Cornelius Ryan.

Rationale for Using the Movie: The Longest Day illustrates the scope, the difficulties, the risks and the confusion in the famous battle that enabled the Allies to prevail in the war in Europe.

Objectives/Student Outcomes Using this Learning Guide: Students will more thoroughly comprehend the important strategic, military and moral victory known as D-Day. Research and writing assignments at the film's end will assist teachers in meeting curricular goals associated with WWII.

Possible Problems: MINOR. This is a war movie with lots of death. There is no gore and, in fact, the full horror of war is not shown. The movie was made in 1962 at the height of the Cold War when the U.S. valued its West German ally. It gives a very sympathetic view of the German army, ignoring its complicity in many of the atrocities of the Nazi regime and the murder by SS Troops of Allied soldiers taken prisoner during the Normandy invasion. These failings should be explained to students who are shown this film.

Note on The Longest Day vs. Saving Private Ryan and other exceedingly violent films. — Although the Longest Day omits much of the pain, mutilation, and death involved in war, TWM recommends it rather than films such as Saving Private Ryan. which are so realistic in their portrayal of the violence and gore of war that cause a risk of emotional harm to some students below the ages of 18. There is no harm in having children wait to see such scenes until they are older .



Rationale and Objectives
Possible Problems
Parenting Points

Using the Movie in Class:
      Introduction to the Movie
      Discussion Questions


Helpful Background

Additional Discussion Questions:
      Subjects (Curriculum Topics)
      Social-Emotional Learning
      Moral-Ethical Emphasis
            (Character Counts)

Additional Assignments

Other Sections:
      Bridges to Reading
      Links to the Internet
      CCSS Anchor Standards
      Selected Awards & Cast

MOVIE WORKSHEETS: TWM offers the following movie worksheets to keep students' minds on the film and to focus their attention on the lessons to be learned from the movie. Teachers can modify the movie worksheets to fit the needs of each class. See also TWM's Historical Fiction in Film Cross-Curricular Homework Project.


Introduction to the Movie: XXXX.


Discussion Questions:

After the film has been watched, engage the class in a discussion about the movie.

1.  If the invasion of Normandy had failed what new weapon would probably have been used on Germany? Suggested Response: The U.S. would probably have used the atomic bomb, which was originally intended for use on Germany. It was used on Japan because Germany collapsed and surrendered several months before the first atomic bombs were ready. See Learning Guide to "Fat Man and Little Boy".

2.  The film makes clear the problem with communication in WWII. How might things have been different in the D-Day invasion had soldiers been able to use modern tools for communication? Suggested Response: Answers will vary and all well reasoned ideas are acceptable. The use of cell phones alone may have changed the outcome of the battle for either Allies or Axis powers.

3.  For what reasons do you suspect the Germans were slow to respond to the invasion? Suggested Response: Answers will vary. Some may point out that the Germans were over-confident and could not imagine the Allies pulling off such a massive invasion. Some may suggest that the German higher command had not adequately planned for an assault on the coast that they should have known was inevitable. It has been said that the Allied victory in World War II was due to their superior ability to manage complex organizations. The success on D-Day is an example of that. Hitler's interference with the German military is another cause. Hitler refused to commit Panzer units held in reserve until after the beachhead had already been established.

4.  What was Russia's interest in the Normandy invasion and why had it been lobbying hard for the invasion to start as soon as possible? Suggested Response: Russia 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.

For additional discussion questions, click here.


Any of the discussion questions can serve as a writing prompt. Additional assignments include:

1.  Research the London Control Section, the British program for strategic deception and prepare a presentation for the class on the kinds of deceptions practiced by the nine members of this vital team that threw the enemy off guard in many situations. Pay special attention to deceptions at play in trying to make the Germans prepare for an invasion further north on the coast of France than in Normandy.

2.  Research and write an expository essay on the build-up to the invasion at Normandy. Address even the mundane issues such as planned diversionary tactics, supplies, seasickness, weather conditions, wave height, etc, that were each fundamental to the success of the action.

3.  Write an essay in which you postulate what many have happened had the Allies been repelled at Normandy. Consider what the next move by the Allies may have been had the invasion failed. Be sure to research the plan to use the atomic bomb, under development at the time of the invasion, against Germany should the Allies be in danger of losing the war using conventional arms.

For additional assignments, click here.


Click here for TWM's lesson plans to introduce cinematic and theatrical technique.

Select questions that are appropriate for your students.

Parenting Points: Before showing this film, tell your children something about your family's experience in the Second World War. Describe for them the problems with the film as set out in the Possible Problems section.

Reminder to Teachers: Obtain all required permissions from your school administration before showing any film.

Teachers who want parental permission to show this movie can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.


MOVIES ON RELATED TOPICS: See U.S./1941 - 1945 and World/ WWII categories in the Subject Matter Index.

Last updated April 7, 2009.

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