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Film / The Longest Day

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"The first twenty-four hours of the invasion will be decisive. For the Allies, but also for the Germans, it will be the Longest Day ... the Longest Day."

"Many men came here as soldiers, many men will pass this way
Many men will count the hours as they live the Longest Day
Many men are tired and weary, many men are here to stay
Many men won't see the sunset when it ends the Longest Day"

The Longest Day is a 1959 book by Cornelius Ryan describing the events of D-Day, the landings of the Allies (Americans, British, Free French and Canadians) on the northern France coasts of Normandy on June 6, 1944, which was the crucial first step in the liberation of Western Europe from the forces of Nazi Germany during World War II. The events are seen through the eyes of as many of the participants — Allies, Germans, and local inhabitants — as he could find and interview.

In 1962, the book was made into a big-budget feature film, which boasted a large All-Star Cast. Rather than focusing on one particular group of participants in the manner of Saving Private Ryan, the work aimed to provide an overview of the events of D-Day as they unfolded. Viewpoint characters include French resistance fighters, German generals and local commanders, Allied generals and commanders as well as members of the Airborne troops, Rangers, infantry, air force and navy components of the landings. It was such an Epic Movie that it required three directors: Ken Annakin for the scenes with the British, Andrew Merton to direct scenes with Americans, and Bernhard Wicki for scenes with Germans.

The huge All-Star Cast included Richard Burton, Red Buttons, Henry Fonda, Jeffrey Hunter, Curd Jürgens, Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan, John Wayne, Hans Christian Blech, Gert Fröbe, Mel Ferrer, Bourvil, Georges Wilson and many others. Because the film was made just 18 years after the events it depicts, many of the older actors had actually fought in the war, and some had even taken part in the landings. Richard Todd even played his own commanding officer from 1944.note 

Another Cornelius Ryan book, A Bridge Too Far, later got a similar all-star-cast epic movie treatment. For a "sequel" in spirit from the same decade, there is Is Paris Burning?, about the events that followed the battle of Normandy leading to the liberation of Paris, with a similar Epic Movie and All-Star Cast treatment.

The Longest Day provides examples of the following tropes:

  • The Ace: Josef Priller, a fighter wing commander and one of the two German airmen later seen strafing the beaches on the day as mentioned below in Worthy Opponent (the other being his wingman Heinz Wodarczyk, renamed "Bergsdorf" in the film). His ace status is referred to during the phone conversation early on in the film in which he basically asks "Where the hell are my planes?!"
  • Airstrike Impossible: Though not highlighted in the film, in order for those two German planes to get to the beach to strafe them, they had to make it past all of the Allied fighter planes providing cover over that part of France. In order to make it back from the beach, they had to fly so low, when they landed they found that the tips of their propellers had been damaged from clipping treetops on the way.
  • All for Nothing: The Ranger assault on Pointe du Hoc ends with the Rangers finding out the guns they were tasked to find and destroy were never there and the assault was unnecessary. In real life, however, the Rangers succeeded in locating and destroying the guns further inland.
  • America Saves the Day: Averted. The British and Canadian divisions and French commandos of the Normandy landings do their part in reaching their objectives. Almost subverted with Omaha Beach, where the Americans are stuck for several hours until a Heroic Sacrifice opens up the German defenses.
  • And Starring: The cast credits are announced as being in alphabetical order, but at the end of the list is "and John Wayne"; he would otherwise have been third to last.
  • Anyone Can Die: This is a war movie about the Normandy landings where thousands of soldiers got killed. Half the cast is bound to die doing something heroic, something foolish, or both, before the credits roll.
  • Artistic License – History: Has its own page.
  • Artistic License – Ships: They tried to avert this by only showing the warships in silhouette, but all that did was exaggerate their obviously postwar lattice masts.
  • As Himself:
    • Almost. Actor Richard Todd plays John Howard, the Major whose unit secures Pegasus Bridge. One of the relief units coming to their aid was led by Captain Richard Todd, played by another actor in the movie! There is a picture of Richard Todd, as John Howard, posing next to the other actor, as Richard Todd.
    • Another almost with former President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Eisenhower actually would have played himself except he looked too old for his younger self from two decades before so the idea was scrapped.
    • Played straight with Joseph Lowe, one of the cliff climbers at Utah Beach who reprised his efforts for the movie.
  • As You Know: Several speeches open this way.
  • Badass Preacher: A paratrooper chaplain, having landed in a flooded field and under enemy fire, still takes the time to locate his communion set before heading for cover.
  • Battle Epic: The novel and subsequent film documents "Operation Overlord," the largest invasion by sea in modern history.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Trilingual, actually. Half of the dialogue is in German and French in the original version, spoken by their native actors. While most instances are translated there are some instances the German running out of a bunker shouting "bitte, bitte"'. An American Ranger shoots him and then says, "I wonder what 'bitter, bitter' means.". "Bitte" is the German for "please".
  • Bloodless Carnage: Compared to more modern depictions of D-Day, the deaths in the film aren't nearly as graphic. Though you can hardly fault the studio, given that special effects in the 1960's weren't nearly as advanced as they are today.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • "Sergeant Coffepot." He has exactly two scenes in the movie, one at the beginning where he's being ridiculed (from out of earshot) by a French civilian, the next one where he arrives at the beach just in time to freak out and run from the Allied bombardment.
    • Pluskat has a very bad day. First his warning that the Allied fleet of "5000" ships has shown up right at his position being dismissed as the Allies not having nearly that many ships. Then getting shelled by those same 5000 ships. And later he gets strafed off the road while driving back to headquarters by a pair of RAF fighter-bombers.
  • Cast Herd: The film follows men from several main groups such as the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force, the 82nd US Airborne Division, the 2nd Ranger Battalion, the 29th US Infantry Division (on Omaha Beach), the crew of the USS Satterlee, the 3rd British Infantry Division, some Royal Air Force pilots, the 6th British Airlanding Brigade, the Free French Kieffer Commandos, the German generals, Erwin Rommel and his staff, some Luftwaffe pilots and the local French resistance in Normandy. There are smaller ones too. Only a few of the groups cross each other's path.
  • Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: Spectacularly averted by the French commandos shown taking Ouistreham, who continue the fight in the face of a nearly impregnable artillery position and some serious casualties. And by the French nuns who calmly walk across the battlefield with bullets flying around them to provide first aid to the commandos. And by the French resistance group shown sabotaging a German train the previous night - particularly the woman who volunteers to distract the German patrol that's about to discover the explosives, and then takes on one of the soldiers herself when her diversion doesn't work out. And the French sailors in their ships who were part of the ships protecting the invasion force, who were willing to pay the ultimate price for their freedom by shelling their own homeland.
  • Chroma Key: Quite obviously when Rommel speaks to his generals atop the Atlantikwall; also during the landing-craft scenes.
  • Colonel Badass: A number bear mentioning. Among them:
    • "Pips" Priller, who led his unit — all two planes of it — in a strafing attack on Sword Beach, was an Oberstleutnantnote  at the time.
    • Benjamin Vandervoort. Played by John Wayne? Check. Battalion commander in the 82nd Airborne? Check. Breaks his ankle on landing and refuses to leave his men... for weeks? Double check.
  • Conscription: An inter-unit variation. After crosswinds scatter the 82nd and 101st Airborne all over Normandy, officers from both units tell any paratroopers they run into they are now a member of the officer's unit and will be joining them on that unit's mission.
    Colonel Vandervoort: Are you with the 82nd?
    Soldier: No, sir. The 101st.
    Colonel Vandervoort: Well, you're with the 82nd now. Move out!
  • Correlation/Causation Gag: One paratrooper wins $2,500 (roughly 5 years pay for a private) in a craps game. He then reminisces that the last time he won anywhere near as much money as that in a game, he broke his leg in a jump the next day. Since he expects to be jumping again in a few hours, he goes back to the game so that he can deliberately lose it all. He doesn't get injured in the jump or the battle, but spends the entire day wandering around lost, unable to find his unit, his objective, or the enemy.
  • Dated History: The book was written in 1959, and the film was released in 1962. But to its credit, only two major elements have been disproven by subsequent research.
    • The 'Genius Generals, Stupid Hitler' myth promoted by German Generals' memoirs, has been shown to be more of a case of the generals trying to look better than they actually were. The German generals were completely fooled by the invasion in Normandy instead of the Pas-de-Calais. And the armored divisions they wanted Hitler to release would have been shredded by naval gunfire, as something similar had been attempted at Salerno in Italy a year prior — a single Allied destroyer wiped out a German tank force. In Normandy there were battleships waiting for those tanks to show up.
  • Dead Hat Shot: The end credits are played over a still of an American infantry helmet upside-down in the sand.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Loads and loads.
  • Death by Adaptation: The German officer who put his boots on the wrong feet survived in real life.
  • Death from Above: Both Allied and German planes are shown wreaking havoc, though the latter are heavily outnumbered and are forced to retreat after just one pitiful strafing run.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: To give the film a documentary/newsreel feel.
  • Demoted to Extra: Canada is barely mentioned in the film, in spite of Canadian soldiers tasked to Juno Beach. There are a few mentions of the Canadians, and one shot of the Canadian Red Ensign.
  • Determinator: The Fighting 29th at Omaha, especially when it comes to destroying the wall that's pinning them down on the beach. When it's pointed out to General Cota that they've already tried to blow it up three times and been shot down every time, his order is to try again.
  • Diegetic Soundtrack Usage:
    • A slower, slightly mournful version of the main theme is heard played by an RAF man on a piano in an early scene.
    • And later one of the soldiers waiting on the ships plays it on his harmonica.
  • Distracted by the Sexy:
    • You're driving a hay cart with two Resistance operatives hiding in the hay. You need to get past a German checkpoint. So you arrange for an insanely-hot lady Resistance fighter to arrive at the checkpoint at the same time, riding a bike, showing off cleavage with a half-unbuttoned blouse. It works like a charm.
    • Later subverted when she tries the same trick to distract a late-night German patrol from discovering the explosives in the railway tracks and nearly gets killed in the process.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: "Two clicks... I heard... two clicks..." Turns out the toy clicker given to American paratroopers for friendly identification sounds exactly like a Mauser rifle being cocked.
  • Due to the Dead: Upon reaching Sainte-Mère-Église, Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Vandervoort's first priority isn't to take the town as ordered, but to get the bodies of the men who were killed while dropping into the town off of the trees and telephone poles they had landed on.
  • Dwindling Party: One minor character is a fighter pilot who had fought in the Battle of Britain - and had just watched the only other pilot in his squadron with that distinction get shot down.
    Pilot: Funny thing about being one of the few. We keep getting fewer.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Many, this being a war film.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: A lot of focus is given to the British and American Airborne, as well as the American Rangers and British and French Commandos. Justified, as these units were given the toughest and most critical missions in the invasion.
    • In a meta example, young heartthrob/A-list actors were purposefully used to cast these units, to emphasize their prestige.
  • The Engineer: Naturally, when you're up against a big concrete wall, you call in this guy.
  • Epic Movie: A three-hour epic war movie done by five directors working simultaneously with thousands of extras, and according to producer Darryl F. Zanuck, more soldiers involved than in the actual Normandy landings!
  • Everything's Louder with Bagpipes: Bill Millin providing the advancing troops a jaunty marching tune.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Pluskat's German Shepherd dog makes itself scarce just before the Allied invasion fleet appears over the horizon. The Allies may not have been evil, but the huge naval bombardment that accompanies their arrival could certainly be considered that way.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The entire movie takes place over the course of two days: June 5th and 6th, 1944.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Played for Laughs with... carrier pigeons, of all things.
  • Field Promotion: When Brigadier General Norman Cota (Robert Mitchum) finds that the highest ranking Army engineer is Sergeant John H. Fuller, he promotes Fuller to lieutenant and puts him in charge of demolishing a concrete barrier.
  • Fooled by the Sound: Prior to the D-Day Landings during World War II, American paratroopers are issued toy clickers to help identify one another in the darkness of their nighttime operation. It turns out that these clickers sound almost exactly like a German Mauser rifle being cocked, as one paratrooper finds out the hard way...
  • For Want of a Nail: The book emphasises a number of real-life coincidences and runs of bad luck which enabled the Allies to establish a much bigger beachhead than they really should have.
    • Many German units were less efficient because they were not controlled by their actual commanders, who were away from their posts to participate in previously scheduled war games - war games for the purpose of evaluating proposed strategies for repelling an Allied invasion across the English Channel.
    • The overall commander of German forces in the region, who would likely have ordered a quick counterattack to stiffen the defense (Erwin Rommel) and might even have managed to reestablish contact with enough units to effect a small one, was away from his post because he took a short leave to visit his wife on her birthday.
    • The overall commander of Germany's armed forces (Hitler), could nominally have started the process of moving reserve forces to the area several hours earlier if he had not been asleep with orders not to wake him. When The Longest Day was made, only expensive military texts (such as the relevant US or UK Official History volumes) could have told the film's creators that these reserve forces only had horses (and no tractors or trucks) and so could not have been moved (with their artillery) to Normandy for several days anyway.
  • Foregone Conclusion: There was absolutely no hope of preventing the Western Allies from establishing a beachhead given the sheer volume of Allied naval artillery. And anyone who grew up in the US, UK, Canada or France and has even a passing knowledge of world history knows the Western Allies secure their foothold in Western Europe on 6/6/1944, and will go on to win the war.
  • Four-Star Badass:
    • He didn't have the four stars, but Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt III (Henry Fonda) was the highest-ranking officer on Utah Beach that day and the only General to land with the first wave. Walking cane and all. His presence and leadership proved essential when his division was landed a mile out of position. "We'll start the war from here."note 
    • Brigadier General Norman Cota was Roosevelt's counterpart at Omaha Beach. When the assault bogged down in the face of immense German fire, he personally organized and led the attack that got the American assault moving.
  • General Failure: The German Military's General Staff believed that the Normandy landings were a diversion, and that the Western Allies would soon send the 'real' and much larger invasion force to Calais. They also believed that the Allied invasion force would have more than a million frontline combat troops (against the real-life figure of just 600,000).
    • The Germans have to ask Hitler for permission to use the 21st Panzer Division in a counterattack to limit the bridgehead's size, but no-one dares wake him up.
    • A lesser example with Von Rundstedt: after Hitler is awake but still hasn't released the panzer reserves because the German General Staff believes that the Normandy operation is a decoy attack, Blumentritt suggests that he call headquarters and make a direct appeal to Hitler. Rundstedt, who had already been fired by Hitler for insubordination during Operation Taifun (December 1941) and thereafter assigned to dead-end postings for two years, refuses - supposedly because he is enraged at the notion of "crawling on my knees to that Bohemian corporal? No! It's out of the question!" The appeal probably wouldn't have worked, but claiming to be refusing to even ask out of pride makes it this trope.
  • Guile Hero: To confuse the enemy as much as possible, the tricks used by the Allies include dropping Ruperts, small dummies looking like paratroopers that are rigged to set off internal firecrackers upon landing in decoy locations.
  • Heroic BSoD: That horrified look on paratrooper John Steele's face as he dangles from the Sainte-Mère-Église church bell tower...
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Well, that wall wouldn't blow itself up...
  • Hollywood Nuns: At Ouistreham, a group of French nuns walk into the hotel where the French commandos are fighting from to tend to their wounded. This did not happen in real life.
  • Home Guard: The 29th Infantry Division.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: General Blumentritt, upon realizing that the Allies are going to get their beachhead (due to the Panzer reserves not being able to be released and von Rundstedt refusing to appeal to Hitler out of pride) and start driving his people back to Germany, tells his aide that he has a bottle of Napoleon Brandy he'd been saving for a special occasion. He bitterly notes that this is not the kind of special occasion he originally had in mind, but it would have to do.
  • Ironic Echo: The Resistance code phrase, "Wounds my heart with a monotonous languor," gets repeated by Gen. Blumentritt when he realizes none of his superiors will do anything against the Allies landing at Normandy. He claimed that it was only at that moment that he realised that Germany would lose the war.
    • Early in the film, Lt. Col. Vandervoort bemoans the weather continually preventing the Allies from commencing the invasion, musing "sometimes I wonder whose side God is on." Later, after the invasion has commenced, but none of the German High Command will take early warnings seriously, Major General Gunther Blumentritt muses the same exact line.
  • Irony:
    • Two characters, Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Vandervoort (John Wayne) [Allies] and Major General Gunther Blumentritt (Curd Jürgens) [Germans], wonder aloud "which side God's on" to their respective subordinates.
    • General Marcks, a Wehrmacht corps commander, plans to assault Normandy while role-playing as General Eisenhower (the Allied commander), in the German war game in Rennes, because such a move is "inconceivable" to his colleagues. When news of the invasion comes to him, he can only look at the map and laugh at himself. When Marcks explains his attack plan to an underling, even he thinks Eisenhower is too cautious and would never use that plan. Cut to Eisenhower meeting with his Generals to discuss the weather conditions, with Eisenhower deciding "I'm quite positive we must give the order. I don't like it, but there it is. Gentlemen, I don't see how we can possibly do anything... but go."
    • As Marcks is about to abandon his Corps headquarters, he looks at the wall map of Normandy marked with the location of the Allied invasion units, and smirks to himself. It would appear that he recognized that Eisenhower, whom he thought too cautious to invade in Normandy, has done so in much the way Marcks had planned to attack at the war game that never took place.
    • Also the aforementioned Dramatic Gun Cock moment. A young paratrooper lands in an isolated area, and suddenly hears somebody nearby. He instantly (as he was instructed) unpacks his little communication tool (a.k.a. "The Cricket"), and gives a signal (one click-clack), and awaits two click-clacks in return, if the other person were another paratrooper. He in fact hears two click-clacks right away, and goes to greet the person in relief. Suddenly, he is shot in the stomach. He manages to mutter, "Two clicks. I heard two clicks!" and dies. It turns out the mysterious person was a patrolling German. The two click-clacks the paratrooper heard was the German working the bolt on his rifle. The contraption designed to preserve the paratrooper's life instead caused his death.
    • A great many important German officers were away from their posts on the morning of the invasion... so that they could participate in war games about a cross-channel invasion by the Allies - and in which the person selected to command the invasion force, General Marcks, had chosen a battle plan that bore many similarities to the one Eisenhower came up with and implemented.
    • At the film's end, one paratrooper comments that all through the invasion and battles, he never even fired his gun at all.
  • It's Raining Men: Including, unfortunately for those dropping, straight into heavily defended Sainte-Mere-Eglise, which they were supposed to land outside of, then march in to capture. And on a more humorous note, straight into General von Salmuth's headquarters.
    "Terribly sorry, old man. We simply landed here by accident."
    • A variation also shows up in the form of troops being dropped in via glider (rather than parachute) in order to take Pegasus Bridge.
  • Known Only by Their Nickname: Unteroffizier "Kaffekanne" (Sergeant "Coffee-Pot"), played by Gert Fröbe, is called that because it is his job to deliver coffee (and breakfast) to the men on their outposts on the beach every morning.
  • Large Ham: Priller is normally a Deadpan Snarker, but when addressing his superior, who's just informed him of the latest bureaucratic stupidity as though it were sense, he becomes a very hammy snarker.
    "You were a lousy pilot when we flew into Russia. Now you're flying a desk and you're STILL A LOUSY PILOT!"
  • Love Forgives All but Lust: Completely averted by the British soldier who is worried for his wife because she's going to have a baby soon, even though he's fully aware that the baby isn't his.
  • Mission Briefing: Many of the Allied commanders are shown giving these.
  • Model Planning: The French commandos use one during their Mission Briefing.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: Most of the officer characters are portrayed this way - including on the German side. In their defense, when the book and film were made very few people were aware of just how 'Ungentlemanly' the Wehrmacht and its leadership had been.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • On the morning of June 6, Major Pluskat checks the sea with binoculars like he does every morning from inside his bunker, and sees nothing. He wonders where his dog has gone, and checks the sea again... then spots the humongous Allied armada on the horizon.
      "Where are those ships heading?"
    • The face of Sgt. "Kaffekanne" when said armada starts to shell the beach.
  • Old Soldier: General Hans von Salmuth may not have the age, but certainly has the attitude fit for an old hand at war. When intelligence officer Meyer delivers his assessment of the code poem signifying the imminence of the invasion (even committing a faux pas in his urgency by bypassing the officer implied to be von Salmuth's own staff intelligence officer, whose duties would have involved handling and screening all intel passed on to his commander), the general calmly orders his army to be put on alert, and resumes playing cards with his fellow officers, remarking "I'm too old a bunny to get excited about this." (Ich bin zu alte Hase...). Though even he is caught somewhat off-guard when British paratroopers are dropped (in error) into his headquarters.
  • The Oner: A long overhead tracking shot of the Free French forces taking Ouistreham. It follows the troops running from cover to cover, crossing pedestrian bridges, taking fire, heading upriver toward a target that the camera eventually reveals is a casino building fortified into a massive German bunker. View it here.
  • Only Sane Man: Blumentritt. He's the one German officer who can see this is the critical battle and tries to get his superiors to deploy the tank reserves that could stop the Allies. No-one listens to him.
  • Parachute in a Tree: There's a scene (Based on a True Story) where paratrooper John Steele becomes snagged on the church spire in Sainte-Mère-Église. The real-life church now has an effigy of Steele hanging from its steeple as well as a stained glass window commemorating the invasion.
  • Percussive Maintenance: Captain Maud fixing a stalled Universal Carrier on the beach with a shillelagh. The shillelagh in the film was the genuine article used during the real landings.
  • Precision F-Strike: Col. Priller delivers one of these with just a "damned" at his superiors, who order to him to assemble his forces for a counterattack, not long after having dispersed his forces so far from the front that he has only 2 planes available.
  • Prolonged Prologue: The initial phase of the invasion (resistance groups moving, paratroopers dropping) starts about a third of the way through the movie. The actual D-Day landings don't happen until two thirds of the way through the movie.
  • Quick Draw: A scaled up version of this happens at Ouistreham, between a French tank and a German bunker, each of them swiveling their main gun towards the other as quickly as possible so they can shoot first. The tank wins.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot:
  • La Résistance: Starring the one and only Trope Namer.
  • Road-Sign Reversal: A Reversed Road Sign to Sainte-Mère-Église briefly confuses invading Allied forces, until an American officer sees through the trick and orders the sign cut down.
  • Rousing Speech: Several, including the one given by Brigadier General Norman Cota to his men pinned on Omaha Beach: "I don't have to tell you the story. You all know it. Only two kinds of people are gonna stay on this beach: those that are already dead and those that are gonna die. Now get off your butts! You guys are the Fighting 29th!"
  • Rule of Three: A wounded RAF pilot with a lost US paratrooper — along with a dead German lying nearby — for company, comments that the situations of all three of them neatly sums up the chaos of war.
  • See No Evil, Hear No Evil: A squad of American paratroopers is holed up in a house. Despite having somebody on watch a Tiger tank sneaks up on them. It's quite funny -.every time the lookout turns around for a cigarette or quip with his mates the tank silently glides out of an alley and across the street into one on the opposite side.
  • Servile Snarker: Colonel Josef "Pips" Priller obeys every order he receives from his commanding officer no matter how stupid it is and no matter how his flying squadron has been reduced to two planes, but he does so with comments of his own.
    "You were a lousy pilot when we flew into Russia. Now you're flying a desk and you're still a lousy pilot!"
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Richard Burton's character is a Battle of Britain veteran who is shot down over Normandy on D-Day.
  • Shooting the Swarm: German pilot Josef "Pips" Priller and his wingman Bergsdorf are tasked with counter-attacking the landing Allied troops on the beaches, and they don't have a full squadron anymore, only the both of them and two planes. They execute the order, strafe the beaches, machine-gun and bomb what they can (i.e., not much, since hundreds of Allied soldiers are landing) and come back home, with Priller ironizing on the absurdity and uselessness of the attack.
    Priller: That was the Luftwaffe's greatest moment! (chuckles)
  • Spy Speak: Every evening, British radio stations sends dozens of nonsensical messages into France. Some of them are coded messages to Resistance cells, and others are just nonsense meant to confuse German Counterintelligence. At least two of the messages sent out on the night of June 5th, 1944 ("Jean has a large moustache" and "Wounds my heart with a monotonous langour") mean "invasion imminent".
  • Start to Corpse: The movie begins with a member of La Résistance running from the SS, who shoot him in the back.
  • Storming the Beaches: It's a dramatization of D-Day, of course it's going to have this. The film also shows all five beaches that the Allies landed on: Omaha, Utah, Sword, Gold, and Juno. This is all the more true at Pointe du Hoc, where the Rangers have to storm a beach with a cliff!
  • Take a Third Option: Rommel wants to fight right on the beaches, so close to the Allied troops that they will hopefully not dare to make use of their crushing and total supremacy in (ship-based) artillery, and destroy the beachhead - plus, he believes reinforcements won't be able to get there in time due to overwhelming Allied airpower. Rundstedt thinks that Allied artillery supremacy makes it impossible to destroy the beachhead and wants to establish a solid defensive line inland, just out of range of the Allied navy, hoping to mass reserves there for counterattacks. So the Germans execute a mix of both plans that falls under the Golden Mean Fallacy. Neither general has overall command, and the forces are split in such a way as to be insufficient for either plan. Not enough armor is on the beach for immediate counterattacks, and the reserve armor is also too little and too scattered. And without consulting their joint commander - Hitler's HQ back in Berlin, the reserve can't even be released in the first place.
  • Take Our Word for It:
    • Lt. Col. Vandervoort breaks his ankle on landing. His medic informs him it's a compound fracture (the bone is sticking out of the skin), so he has the medic lace his boot tightly. This is entirely (just) out of view of the camera.
    • RAF fighter pilot David Campbell was shot down and split his leg open from groin to knee. A medic found him, pumped him full of morphine and pinned the leg together with safety pins, promising to come with proper supplies (hopefully before the morphine wore off). The actual injury is not shown.
  • Tank Goodness: A Free French Sherman tank is part of the force involved in liberating Ouistreham from the Germans. Other Shermans can be seen as part of the forces landing on the beaches. Averted with the Germans, who can't bring in their Panzers to stop the invasion without authorization from Hitler.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • While scanning the beach, Col. Pluskat sighs "Not even a seagull..." At that precise moment, the invasion fleet emerges from the fog.
    • An even more egregious example with General Marcks, who's just explained his plan at the upcoming war-gaming exercise (where he's been assigned the role of Eisenhower): instead of invading in Pas-de-Calais during perfect weather as everyone expects, he'll invade in Normandy, taking the longer path, "and in terrible weather! Like now!" He then reassures his assistant that it is, thankfully, just a game: the real Eisenhower would never risk making such a gamble. "Never!"
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Sandwich:
    • Upon hearing "John has a long mustache" on the radio, one Frenchman immediately rushes off to join his resistance cell in cutting the local phone lines, leaving his barely touched dinner behind.
    • Colonel Vandervoort is nursing a cup of coffee in a parachute packing room when a messenger informs him that General Eisenhower just gave the go order for the invasion. The Colonel promptly throws his coffee mug away as he rushes out to assemble his men.
    • Averted with one RAF pilot (who was Drowning His Sorrows after having watched a squadmate he'd flown with for five years go down earlier that day) who says that he's fine with the big push starting tonight so long as he can finish his beer first.
  • Those Wacky Nazis:
    • Averted in the portrayal of most German officers, as when The Longest Day was produced most Western Academics were under the (false) impression that the German officer corps had been apolitical military professionals. Of course, we now know better.
    • Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt was a rabidly anti-Communist, deeply racist, proud aristocrat and not a Nazi - and refused to ask Adolf Hitler for permission to release the Wehrmacht's Panzer reserves, declaring that he would not "bow" to "that Bohemian corporal", diesen böhmischen Gefreiter?! Hitler had it set up so that only he could order the reserve Panzer divisions to move. The refusal to wake him on D-Day was costly. Though that's only what Blumentritt thinks to have happened. In reality, when Hitler woke up, he was more cheerful than ever about the invasion, because now he was actually able to reach a large Western Allied army for the first time in months, and crush them. He was so happy, that he started dancing and fell back into his original alpine Austrian dialect: O'ganga is! (It's on!).
    • Actor Curt Jürgens, in his role as the German General Blumentritt, calls the German generals incompetent. Jürgens was actually imprisoned by the Nazis in his youth, so this might be considered a bit of Take That!.
    • The only time the phrase "Sieg Heil!" appears in the movie is graffiti on a bunker wall in Ouistreham. And the only time any SS personnel appear is at the very beginning, when they gun down a fleeing man.
  • Title Drop: When Rommel is discussing the need for building up mass defenses along the French shoreline: that Germany needs to repel any landing before the Allies can secure a firm foothold.
    Rommel : Believe me, gentlemen, the first 24 hours of the invasion will be decisive. For the Allies as well as the Germans, it will be the longest day... The longest day.
    • Truth in Television as Rommel really did say this phrase, although without the dramatic repeat at the end.
  • Ultimate Job Security: Priller (see The Ace above). Lampshaded a few seconds before we even meet him, when we find out that the reason he hasn't been court-martialed yet is that he's shot down over a hundred enemy planes. This allows him to chew out his own superior officer in a way that would almost certainly never be tolerated from a less exceptional pilot.
  • Voice of the Resistance: The Free French radio based in London that sends secret messages to the Resistance.
    "Ici Londres, les Français parlent aux Français." Translation 
  • War Is Hell:
    • The paratroopers crashing into Sainte-Mère-Église. The paratrooper caught on the belltower (John Steele, played by Red Buttons) can only dangle and watch in horror as his fellow jumpers get mowed down. It really happened that way, too.
    • Omaha Beach. Just... damn. The memorial on Omaha Beach is actually kind of Real Life Tear Jerker in itself (No matter that you smirk a bit when you have to go through metal detectors and checkout in order to enter it. And the fact that when you compare the giant memorial for US soldiers to memorials of other nation armies, which makes irony almost unbearable) — it is nothing but cemetery. Stand in the middle and you can't see the ends.
    • The Utah Beach unit climbing the cliffs to get at the big guns overlooking half the beach-head reach their objectives only to find the Germans hadn't installed the guns into their bunkers yet. "You mean we climbed all this way... for nothing?" In Real Life it got worse when those secured positions were fired on by the warships anchored off-shore.
      • In Real Life it wasn't for nothing. The Germans had moved the guns inland prior to the invasion and the US Rangers found and destroyed them.
      • Between this scene and a scene in which one of the Rangers shoots two German soldiers attempting to surrender, many Ranger veterans were quite upset with their portrayal in this film, as they felt they'd been unfairly singled out to deliver the War Is Hell message.
    • "He's dead. I'm crippled. You're lost. Do you suppose it's always like that? I mean war."
  • Worthy Opponent: Most German soldiers. Special props to the two Luftwaffe pilots available, whom even a British officer admired.


Video Example(s):


One Click - Two Clicks

During D-Day, Allied paratroopers were given clicking toys to identify each other with in enemy territory. Mistakes did happen.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / FooledByTheSound

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