What do these three different things have in common? History. Right now there is a very unique opportunity to get a close look at the history of D-Day, June 6th, 1944.
In 1964, there was a CBS special report titled D-Day Plus Twenty Years: Eisenhower Returns to Normandy, and it is available for free right now on YouTube. In case you're unaware, Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was an American General, and the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe of the Allied Expeditionary Force, which included all land and sea forces from American, British, and Canadian militaries combined. The Normandy invasion was his brainchild, and the command of execution at his will. Some years after the war and his retirement from military service, Ike got into politics and ran for President of the United States, winning the election and becoming the 34th man to hold the esteemed office. In the CBS special, Walter Cronkite interviews Ike about D-Day, the planning leading up to it, the decision to execute, and other minutia of Ike's day and the news he was receiving from the front, and how the strategic plan came together for success and victory over Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, the German military commander responsible for coastal defense, and the German forces at large. It is a fascinating glimpse into history, straight from the mouth of the man who commanded it.
Which brings me to the third element I included in the title: The Longest Day. First a book by journalist Cornelius Ryan published in 1959, it tells the story of D-Day, collected from the firsthand accounts and interviews with living participants and observers, from every nation involved on both sides of the battle, military and civilian alike. Within a few years, Hollywood picked it up and made it into a screenplay. The film, released in 1962, is in my opinion one of the greatest war films ever made about World War II and the events on D-Day. From Wikipedia,
The Longest Day features a large international ensemble cast including John Wayne, Kenneth More, Richard Todd, Robert Mitchum, Richard Burton, Steve Forrest, Sean Connery, Henry Fonda, Red Buttons, Peter Lawford, Eddie Albert, Jeffrey Hunter, Stuart Whitman, Tom Tryon, Rod Steiger, Leo Genn, Gert Fröbe, Irina Demick, Bourvil, Curd Jürgens, George Segal, Robert Wagner, Paul Anka, and Arletty. Many of these actors played roles that were essentially cameo appearances. In addition, several cast members had seen action as servicemen during the war, including Albert, Fonda, Genn, More, Steiger, and Todd; Todd was among the first British officers to land in Normandy in Operation Overlord, and he participated in the assault on Pegasus Bridge.
The film employed several Axis and Allied military consultants who had been actual participants on D-Day, and many had their roles re-enacted in the film. These included Günther Blumentritt (a former German general), James M. Gavin (an American general), Frederick Morgan (Deputy Chief of Staff at SHAEF), John Howard (who led the airborne assault on the Pegasus Bridge), Lord Lovat (who commanded the 1st Special Service Brigade), Philippe Kieffer (who led his men in the assault on Ouistreham), Marie-Pierre Knig (who commanded the Free French Forces in the invasion), Max Pemsel (a German general), Werner Pluskat (the major who was the first German officer to see the invasion fleet), Josef "Pips" Priller (the hot-headed pilot), and Lucie Rommel (widow of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel).
The film won two Academy Awards and was nominated for three others.
So why am I sharing all of this with you? Well, I have a passion for old cinema, and especially films - whether "old" or modern - that fancy themselves as accurate dramatizations of historical events. This is one of the greatest, and it, too, is available for free right now on YouTube. If you haven't seen it - or, heck, even if you have - and you are curious enough to watch this cinematic masterpiece, go ahead and watch the extended CBS interview first. It will clarify a lot of details and minutia in the film that you might miss otherwise, especially if you aren't very familiar with the history of WWII and D-Day.