John Wayne’s ‘The Longest Day’ Featured Several WWII Veterans

by Samantha Whidden
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Nearly 20 years after the Allied Forces stormed the skies and beaches of Normandy, France for D-Day, John Wayne made an appearance alongside U.S. WWII veterans for the 1962 film “The Longest Day.”

According to Groovy History, among those who starred with John Wayne in “The Longest Day” were those who actually were serving during D-Day. Richard Todd, who portrayed the role of Major John Howard, parachuted into Normandy as part of the reinforcement during the epic historical event.  

Todd was reassigned from his original plan prior to conducting the Normandy landings, and shockingly enough, his original plan was shot down. This killed everyone on board. The actor also offered to play himself, however, noting, “I don’t think at this stage of my acting career I could accept a part that small.”

Along with Todd, an estimated 23,000 troops as extras participated from America, Brian, and France for the film. It was also reported that during the scenes in Ste. Mère-Eglise all traffic, stores, and even the power were shut off to help the paratroopers navigate the drop. However, although they were used in the film, the actors with real war experience allegedly thought less of John Wayne due to his refusal to join in the war effort. 

“The Longest Day” follows the events of D-Day as told on a grand scale from both the Allied and German points of view. Robert Ryan and Richard Burton starred alongside John Wayne and Todd.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower Reportedly Walked Out of John Wayne’s ‘The Longest Day’ Due to Historical Inaccuracies 

Although it involved a lot of WWII veterans, some people at a problem with John Wayne’s “The Longest Day” due to historical inaccuracies. Of those people was the President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower. The world leader walked out of the film after a few minutes. 

Among those inaccuracies included John Wayne, who was 54-years-old at the time, playing Lt. Col. Benjamin Vandervoort. The military leader was 27-years-old on D-Day. Robert Ryan was also reportedly 15 years older than General Gavin was at the time of the operation. 

However, despite those details, producer Darryl F. Zanuck sought a lot of help for his project. He ended up hiring three different directors to handle the scenes of the German, American, and British military forces. He then hired numerous military consultants who oversaw their lives being portrayed in the film. 

The 1962 film won one Academy Award in 1963, which was Best Cinematography, Black and White. It also won an American Cinema Editors award for Best Edited Feature Film; and David Di Donatello Award for Best Foreign Production. It received nominations for the Academy Award for Best Picture; the Directors Guild of America’s Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures; and the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture in Drama. 

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