This Friday will mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day: the day 160,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy, France, in a bid to invade Nazi-controlled territory on the western front. More than 9,000 Allied soldiers died that day in a battle that paved the way for Nazi surrender the following year. Many civilians and Resistance fighters were also involved.
D-Day: Normandy 1944
The Saint Louis Science Center is currently showing a new documentary about the Normandy invasion at the Omnimax. “D-Day: Normandy 1944” is a 43-minute film that gives an overview of the historic day, beginning with the planning process and continuing through the aftermath. Directed by Frenchman Pascal Vuong and narrated by journalist Tom Brokaw, the film uses a combination of techniques to tell the story, including re-enactments, animation and computer generated images.
St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh spoke with Vuong when the film first debuted at the Science Center. Vuong said he first became familiar with D-Day from the film, "The Longest Day," which he watched when he was a boy.
“It was so amazing, so incredible, that this story stayed in my mind for years,” said Vuong. He described his historical documentary as complementary to “The Longest Day” and “Saving Private Ryan,” because his film gives more detail and has a greater focus on accuracy than the feature films do. He chose to use a variety of film techniques in order to demonstrate the broad scope of the day.
Vuong said he hopes his film will be an educational tool for children to understand both the gravity of war, and the importance of freedom.
“I think it can be a start point for kids to consider that peace is not forever, and perhaps we have to fight to protect peace and liberty,” said Vuong. “And perhaps it is better to fight before war than during war.”
The Dead and Those About to Die
Military historian John McManus offers another remembrance of D-Day in his new book, “The Dead and Those About to Die: The Big Red One at Omaha Beach.” He teaches at Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla and is in St. Louis to speak about his book at the St. Louis County Library.
His book focuses on the role of one military unit during the first 19 hours of battle: the 1st Infantry Division. Called the “Big Red One” because of the big red number 1 on their unit patch, the First Infantry Division was an experienced unit involved in some of the heaviest fighting on D-Day. They fought in the eastern sector of Omaha Beach, where things did not unfold as planned.
“Omaha Beach is sort of the classic example of Murphy’s Law, anything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong,” said McManus.
According to McManus, the plan for Omaha Beach was mostly sound. But a lack of communication and not enough time devoted to naval and air force bombardment left the soldiers on the ground facing a strong German defense after swimming through choppy water while weighed down with 80-pound packs.
At Omaha Beach, medics had among the most dangerous job, said McManus. In order to rescue the wounded, medics had to pull the soldiers towards the enemy line. Otherwise the wounded would have drowned.
Three Medals of Honor were awarded for actions taken on D-Day, all to men of the Big Red One.
St. Louis County Library Presents John McManus
Monday, June 2, 2014
St. Louis County Library Headquarters, 1640 S. Lindbergh Blvd.
For more information, call 314-994-3300 or visit the St. Louis County Library website.