D-Day 6 June 1944 “The Longest Day”
Special to KPI
In 1959 Cornelius Ryan wrote a book about the Normandy invasion in France, liberating the French of Germany’s stronghold. The book became so popular that Darryl F. Zanvck offered Mr. Ryan $175,000 for film rights. He accepted. Within just a few weeks the framework of the movie “The Longest Day” started in contacting survivors of the Army, Navy, Marines, and Army Airforce with special emphasis on survivors of the 82nd and 101st Airborne for authentic details while selecting well known and promising actors.
The movie came out in 1962 and was acclaimed as being 88 to 90% accurate in the portrayal and details. Thus, it was tagged as a docudrama. Think about it; that garners some pretty high numbers.
The landings at Omaha Beach and Utah Beach are portrayed to perfection according to some of the surviving G.I.s. Since this important decision was, at the time, a big gamble made by General Eisenhower, it was labeled as the-straw-that-broke-the-camel’s-back (I mean GERMANY, of course), leading to the liberation of France.
Inland the 82nd and 101st parachuted into small towns, wooded terrain, large buildings and hedges under heavy fire. In one small town a paratrooper by the name of John Steele became entangled by his parachute and shrouds atop a steeple and could do nothing but watch all the fireworks beneath him. In the movie his part was played by Red Buttons. Every year the townspeople commemorate and celebrate Memorial Day in a big way. And, they hang a parachute entangled manikin on that steeple.
On 6 June 2014 an exceptionally large gathering is expected in this historical section of France with upper echelon from numerous countries in attendance. Two individuals from the greater Paducah Area, Inga Thomas & John Handegan, are touring these sites (as mentioned) and have emailed a couple of fantastic pictures for publication with this article. The American Flag flying at the front of the U.S. Military Cemetery is a great tribute to our own who did not return home. The other picture portrays John Steele (Red Buttons) hanging from the steeple.
If you have not read the book or seen the movie I highly recommend you do so, as we remember this 70th Anniversary of D-Day.