The Longest Day

It was the longest, most miserable, horrible day
that I or anyone else ever went through.
~ Pvt. Felix Branham

The sixth of June, 1944, was an exhausting day,
a frightening day, an exhilarating day,
a sorrowful day, and a joyous day.
~ Lt. Charles Ryan, Company A

It seems overkill to write 600 pages to describe one twenty-four hour day unless that day is as momentous as D-Day.  Stephen E. Ambrose begins with the Nazis defenders, wheels his way around the beaches of Normandy, expands his viewpoint to the world watching, and ultimately offers an encyclopedic scope of one of the key battles of WWII.  It takes an historian and writer as skilled as Ambrose to seamlessly weave a narrative from hundreds of individual oral histories. 

In addition to the inspiration that comes from reading about courage and bravery, I gleaned several principles from this book:

•  The tactical difference between planning (offensive) and preparing (defensive). 
•  The power of exhortation; the more potent force of example.   
•  Isolation will cause loss of momentum.
•  The failure to advance while they had the advantage was a consistent weakness of the Allied forces. 

I can easily apply these lessons to the trivial-by-comparison struggle of losing weight.  If my weekly weigh-in shows a loss, I reward myself and act like the soldiers who stopped to brew tea instead of moving forward.  

This book is crammed with odd bits of information:

•  The Tiger, the biggest and best German tank got 1/2 mile to the gallon!
•  General Eisenhower did not give a single command on D-Day.
•  The D stands for Day (also H-Hour).  There are several D-Days in history.
•  “We are asking rather a lot if we expect Russians to fight in France for Germany against the Americans.”
•  The New York Daily News printed the Lord’s Prayer in place of lead article.
•  My favorite sentence: “To see tanks coming out of the water shook them rigid.”

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8 thoughts on “The Longest Day

  1. The movie, Defiance, is my only recent foray into the WWII dilemma.  I enjoyed the storyline because it showed a community banding together for protection.  All very plausible, albeit violent…. plus based on a true story.

  2. Is this book suitable for a 12yo?  My daughter is on a BIG WWII kick, and I think she’d enjoy this book if it isn’t too graphic.  She’s an excellent reader, so that wouldn’t be a problem, but just because she can read something doesn’t mean she should, you know?  I’d appreciate your opinion if you have a minute.  Thanks!

  3. @nnjmom –  I’m with you Carrie.  I’d like to read all of his work.  And all of David McCullough’s.  I think I’m about a third of the way with Ambrose.@hiddenart – I haven’t heard of Defiance.  I’ll have to check it out.@womanofthehouse1 –  I think it should be fine for a twelve year old.  A lot of people die and there are sentences like, “the men on both sides of him were killed by gunfire.”  But I didn’t think it was especially graphic.  Does your library have it and you could give it a scan?  I’ve already been exposed to a lot of WWII gore, so this one seemed tame.  Compared to a holocaust memoir, I think it is fairly gentle.  It all probably depends on your daughter’s ability to form mental images or not form mental images.   You know, when I *read* Lord of the Rings, I didn’t care much about the battle scenes and did some mental hopscotch over them.  When I watched the movies I couldn’t avoid seeing what I had not even imagined. 

  4. “Isolation will cause loss of momentum.”  You have just defined my son’s homeschool day.  Between your quote and God’s spirit, I may just develop some patience- THANK YOU!!

  5. well timed. i just started weight watchers, and had a super first-week weigh-in. it was AWFULLY tempting to celebrate by going out for mexican…. :)This one’s on my list. thank you!!!5 minutes until radio silence,Steph

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