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The Longest Day: The Classic Epic of D-Day (1959)

by Cornelius Ryan

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,152436,003 (4.14)75
The classic account of the Allied invasion of Normandy The Longest Day is Cornelius Ryan's unsurpassed account of D-day, a book that endures as a masterpiece of military history. In this compelling tale of courage and heroism, glory and tragedy, Ryan painstakingly re-creates the fateful hours that preceded and followed the massive invasion of Normandy to retell the story of an epic battle that would turn the tide against world fascism and free Europe from the grip of Nazi Germany. This book, first published in 1959, is a must for anyone who loves history, as well as for anyone who wants to better understand how free nations prevailed at a time when darkness enshrouded the earth.… (more)
  1. 80
    D-Day June 6 1944: the Climatic Battle of World War II by Stephen E. Ambrose (timspalding)
  2. 50
    A Bridge Too Far by Cornelius Ryan (phm)
    phm: A great follow-up to The Longest Day about Operation Market Garden -- inspiring, moving, and renews faith in your fellow man.
  3. 10
    Utah Beach by Joseph Balkoski (Strangcf)
  4. 10
    Gators of Neptune: Naval Amphibious Planning for the Normandy Invasion by Christopher D. Yung (Strangcf)
  5. 03
    Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age by Kurt W. Beyer (missmaddie)
    missmaddie: Both of these books paint a picture of war through the lives of those who participated in the war effort, whether it be on the front lines like in The Longest Day or back at home like in The Invention of the Information Age.

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Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
Almost certainly the best popular history book on D-day ever written though I stand to be corrected. The Longest Day is not a scholarly recitation of the facts (such as they are known) as even to this day there is controversy over what really happened during Operation Overlord. It was an enormously complex and difficult invasion involving 150-thousand people and thousands of supporting ships and planes and uncountable pieces of equipment. Ryan covers a little bit of everything and sprinkles lots of small details throughout the book that enliven it though he primarily looks at the invasion from on-high as it is a huge subject and properly needs a lot more space to fully cover than The Longest Day can offer.

I really enjoyed reading about the German perspective on the invasion which he covers quite well. The takeaway? They really got caught with their pants down and thank God for that! I would think that since the book was first published in 1959, D-day scholarship has advanced considerably so I expect that we now know a lot more than Ryan did when he wrote the Longest Day. A simple example would be the number of dead on Omaha beach which for a long time was set at 2000-2500 and now is thought to be 4500-5000. I have not heard of any real controversy over Ryan's version of the landing, he did a lot of research and the touches on a little bit of everything from the early-morning paratroops and gliders right up to Hitler's reaction in Berchtesgaden. I recommend The Longest Day unreservedly, it's a terrific read and a great first start for anyone interested in the D-day invasion.
( )
1 vote blnq | Dec 26, 2021 |
This is a good book. What is not good is the ebook setting of margins and paragraph breaks. The last 40 per cent comes over like a drunk was typing it. 4 stars for the early part. 2 stars for the latter part. ( )
  graeme.bell3 | Dec 25, 2021 |
This is one of the books that have kept me from sleep all week. Before I get to my thoughts on the book, I want to explain a few things about the physical copy of the book.

You all know by now that I am History-addict. I recently read The Dead and Those About to Die: D-Day: The Big Red One at Omaha Beach another 5 star read, for me, about D-Day. A few members of a group here recommended I read this account of D-day. It was not an easy book to find but I ended up getting a copy to read from MELCAT, the Michigan inter-library.

When the book arrived, I thought "Good God, it's going to fall apart in my hands." How wrong (and right?) I was. I say both words because the book did fall apart-not physically-but it fell apart into my heart and soul with all the souls of the past readers.

This book was published in 1959, this was an original copy of the first edition. It is taped up- top to bottom with mailing tape. If you remember the old "stamped" due dates that appeared inside the front cover of books: This started circulation on May 10, 1960 and ends March 24, 2000. Obviously the last is when they switched to computers. I want to thank the Vicksburg Library for keeping this in circulation, and trying desperately to preserve it's history. I believe when I return the book, I will attach a thank you note!

This book covers D-Day-but through a thousand eyewitnesses (and he lists them all at the end of the book). The soldiers, their families, the Underground, the people who lived in the villages along the French Coast. Cornelius Ryan was an Irish Journalist who covered the war while being attached to various Air-Bourne and Land units. What made this story more chilling than ever for me? The fact that this man was writing the oral history just a a few years after, as spoken through those who fought and survived . It is told by all the fighters and survivors, from the countries who sent men to fight the evil that gripped Europe, not just the Americans.

Highly Recommend! ( )
  JBroda | Sep 24, 2021 |
I read this years ago and just went back to it. It's always been known as one of the "classic histories" of D-Day, June 6, 1944. I'm not quite sure it deserves that status. I've read others ( ([b:The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945|16044941|The Guns at Last Light The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945 (World War II Liberation Trilogy, #3)|Rick Atkinson|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1435169033s/16044941.jpg|21858205] comes to mind) that seem to me to be more accurate, detailed, and personal than Cornelius Ryan. Perhaps back in 1959 this book was seen as great, and he does do a fine job of telling short stories about participants from France, Germany, England, Canada, and US. But those stories seem very short - a couple of paragraphs for most of them. And would it have been so hard to include a map!?!? Kudos to Ryan for including the job of the participants as an appendix. ( )
  Jeff.Rosendahl | Sep 21, 2021 |
This is the story of D-Day, June 6, 1944, from a few days before (the original invasion date had to be postponed) until just after midnight of the day of the invasion. Told chronologically, and covering all sides, on the allied side, from the supreme commander's headquarters to the enlisted men in the landing boats (so many seasick and vomiting men) to the paratroopers who dropped behind enemy lines during the middle of the night, scattered across the countryside, but with orders to seize control of strategic bridges or disable crucial gun emplacements, all before the assault on the beaches began. There are accounts from the German side as well. Commander of the German forces defending Normandy, Rommel, was on a few days home leave when the invasion began, and many of the other senior commanders in the area were away on training exercises. For many hours after the attack began, the Germans believed the Normandy event was only a diversionary tactic, and that the actual invasion would occur further north. Hitler was allowed to sleep, and was not made aware of the attack until nearly noon. The book also gives us a perspective of the French who had been living under the German occupation for so many years, with accounts from both ordinary French citizens and from members of the Resistance.

The title of the book comes from this quote from Rommel: "The first 24 hours of the invasion will be decisive....The fate of Germany depends upon the outcome...for the Allies, as well as for Germany, it will be the longest day."

I learned a lot from the book. For example, I hadn't previously been aware of the extensive use of gliders in landing men and equipment inland from the beaches in the night before the invasion. The book detailed descriptions on how the landings went on each of the 5 beaches, and how far each landing group had progressed by the end of the day. Of course, casualties were heavy. One of the most moving parts for me when I visited the beaches was the cemetery on the bluff above Omaha Beach.

I read this on Kindle. My only complaint about the book is that I wished for detailed maps so I could better understand the logistics. I think there are newer print copies of this book with this added material, and it would be worthwhile seeking those editions out if you want to read this. It's hard to believe that this was written barely 15 years after the end of WW II.

Recommended 4 stars ( )
  arubabookwoman | Jan 31, 2021 |
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» Add other authors (22 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ryan, Corneliusprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Chafer, CliveNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
De Falco, AntonioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Edinga, HansTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"Believe me, Lang, the first twenty four hours of the invasion will be decisive... the fate of Germany depends on the outcome... for the Allies, as well as Germany, it will be the longest day."

-Field Marshal Erwin Rommel
to his aide. April 22, 1944
First words
The village was silent in the damp June morning.
"Blessent mon coeur d'une langueur monotone."
As they approached Le Havre, Priller climbed for cover in the clouds. They flew for a few more minutes and then broke through. Below them was a fantastic fleet-hundreds of ships of every size and type, stretching endlessly, it seemed, all the way back across the Channel. There was a steady procession of landing craft carrying men toward shore, and Priller could see the white puffs of explosions on and behind the beaches. The sands were black with troops, and tanks and equipment of all sort littered the short line. Priller swept back into the clouds to consider what to do. There were so many planes, so many battleships offshore, so many men on the beaches, that he figured he’d have time for just one pass over the beaches before being shot down. There was no need for radio silence now. Almost lightheartedly, Priller spoke into his microphone. “What a show! What a show!” he said. “There’s everything out here-everywhere you look. Believe me, this is the invasion!” Then he said, “Wodarczyk, were going in! Good luck!” They hurtled down toward the British beaches at over 400 m.p.h., coming in at less than 150 feet. Priller had no time to aim. He simply pressed the button on his control stick and felt his guns pounding. Skimming along just over the tops of men’s heads, he saw upturned, startled faces. On Sword, Commander Philippe Kieffer of the French commandos saw Priller and Wodarczyk coming. He dived for cover. Six German prisoners took advantage of the confusion and tried to bolt. Kieffer’s men promptly mowed them down. On Juno Private Robert Rogge of the Canadian 8th Infantry Brigade heard the scream of the planes and saw them “coming in so low that I could clearly see the pilots’ faces.” He threw himself flat like everyone else, but he was amazed to see one man “calmly standing up, blazing away with a Sten gun.” On the eastern edge of Omaha, Lieutenant (j.g.) William J. Eisemann of the U.S. Navy gasped as the two FW-190s, guns chattering, zoomed down “at less than fifty feet and dodged through the barrage balloons.” And on H.M.S Dunbar, Leading Stoker Robert Dowie watched every antiaircraft gun in the fleet open up on Priller and Wodarczyk. The two fighters flew through it all unscathed, then turned inland and streaked up into the clouds. “Jerry or not,” said Dowie, unbelievingly, “the best of luck to you. You’ve got guts.”
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The classic account of the Allied invasion of Normandy The Longest Day is Cornelius Ryan's unsurpassed account of D-day, a book that endures as a masterpiece of military history. In this compelling tale of courage and heroism, glory and tragedy, Ryan painstakingly re-creates the fateful hours that preceded and followed the massive invasion of Normandy to retell the story of an epic battle that would turn the tide against world fascism and free Europe from the grip of Nazi Germany. This book, first published in 1959, is a must for anyone who loves history, as well as for anyone who wants to better understand how free nations prevailed at a time when darkness enshrouded the earth.

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