The Longest Day, by Cornelius Ryan, is a detailed account of the invasion of Normandy during World War II. Ryan, a war correspondent who also flew bombing missions in the Air Force, recreates the hours that preceded the invasion as well as the invasion itself. Through interviews of thousands of D-Day survivors, both Allied and German, maps, diaries, reports, message pads, casualty reports, letters and photographs. Ryan retells the personal stories, battles and losses of these men fighting for their beliefs. Many different accounts have been published about D-Day, however, Ryan's version was heavily researched and documented to not only include the important accurate battle facts but also the personal stories of survival.
Many personal acts are believed to have a direct impact on the outcome of the battle of Normandy. While waiting to attack, soldiers did not want to tempt fate. Soldiers intentionally lost money at cards, they became religious and they talked of their families. Despite being told that probably eighty-four percent of the soldiers would become casualties, commanders walked miles on broken ankles, soldiers raised flags in the middle of battles, men continued to fight as their friends lay dying around them. One soldier killed his enemy and then rummaged through his pockets to find personal information on the soldier. It was ironic that when asked, this soldier was going to mail personal belongings to the dead soldier's family. These acts reinforce that this was was personal and difficult on both sides.
1. Why do you think it was important for Ryan to tell of the personal stories of these soldiers?
2. Would you be able to kill someone in battle and send their belongings to the dead man's family as the soldier did in the story?