D-Day was June 6th, 1944. The 75th anniversary is this week, and if there’s one movie that has changed the perception of the invasion it’s The Longest Day. So, we’ll chat with author and historian Marty Morgan to find out how much The Longest Day got right…and what it didn’t.
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Dan LeFebvre: [00:02:53] So I know we’ll get into the historical accuracy of the movie the longest day, but one thing I like to do here on the show sometimes is give a little bit of context at the movie. Doesn’t give. And since the longest day was released in 1962 it was only 18 years after the events depicted in the movie. So I’m sure the filmmakers assumed, everyone was familiar with what D-Day was.
Well, this year is the 75th anniversary of D-Day. So we’re a lot more removed from those events. And I’m sure there’s some who are listening to this who may not know why D-Day was such a pivotal moment during World War II and world history overall. Marty, can you give us a quick overview about what D-Day was and really why it was such an important part of World War II?
Marty Morgan: [00:03:45] The D-Day invasion, June 6th, 1944, saw the establishment by the Western Allies of a front in Northwestern Europe. By forcing a beachhead in Northern France, the Western allies were thereafter able to carry out coalition ground maneuver warfare effectively against the Germans first causing them to abandon, nor what Normandy then eventually, causing causing them to abandon occupied France.
Pulling back to basically the German border, which accelerated the end of the national socialists. Third Reich. By contributing a major fighting force to the campaign that was already being waged against the Germans by the Soviet union. And in that way, it contributed meaningfully to the end of Nazi Germany.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:04:44] In The Longest Day, they mentioned it’s the fifth year of World War II. Is that about accurate?
Marty Morgan: [00:04:50] Depends on which ally you are for..for most of the Western allies, yes, warfare was in its fifth year. For the United States of America, it wasn’t quite that long because American intervention in the second world war did not begin until late 1941 so for the US it was still shy of the fourth year.
That’s not even to suggest that the United States didn’t play a critical role and the operation, because the United States would eventually contribute the largest fighting force. Although that fighting force was not the largest fighting for force on Tuesday, June 6th, 1944, that was the British First Army was bigger. I’m sorry, the British Second Army was bigger than the US First Army But, the tide eventually changed and US forces eventually outnumbered ally fighting forces.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:05:41] Hmm. Interesting. I know there’s a lot of focus on the US which I guess you I get because it’s Hollywood, but they do a pretty good job, I think, of showing that it’s not just the U S involved, it’s all the different allies that they do.
Marty Morgan: [00:05:59] One thing that I still admire about this movie, when I watch it, I’m still sort of amazed that this is something that could happen because I’m not sure that a movie like that could be made today. Well, when you consider the second unit production, so they were, there was filming simultaneously going on with multiple directors.
Filming multiple different aspects of the overall storyline of the film, to to focus on the French, to focus on the British, to focus on the Americans, and then also the focus on the German side of the action. And to this day, this is one of the things that I admire, not the longest day, but the interesting thing to me is that while that goes farther than you would expect to see today, I think.
Because today what we have settled into are more nationalistic narratives of what happened during the second world war, where each country is sort of telling its own story rather than attempting to tell an aggregate story of everybody all in one action together. But as much as I like to emphasize what an accomplishment that wasn’t The Longest Day from over 50 to over 50 years ago.
It leaves out something that’s critically important and that it leaves out a very large number of partner nations from the allied multinational coalition force. And it leaves out the very interesting number of foreigners wearing German uniforms that fought Tuesday, June 6th, 1944.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:07:30] What other countries were involved in that?
Marty Morgan: [00:07:32] Well, on the allied side. We fight the Normandy campaign with 14 member nations rather than sitting here and like you suffer through me listing all 14 there are 14, and one thing that I’ve been a tour guide in Normandy for almost 20 years now. And one thing that I find quite interesting is when I begin explaining this, it frequently comes as a surprise, as a surprise to most people.
That we have settled comfortably and to a sort of, simplified narrative where we typically, we take, typically recognize the American, contribution to the day and in the British contribution. Every now and then someone will mention the Canadians, but it typically stops right there. Americans, British, Canadians, and then someone will from time to time, put her on a catchall saying and the other allied nations.
And that leads out a very large number of nations that that bled on June 6th and during the campaign that followed. So that core exam, not that I would ever dream of taking anything away from the British Canadians, but just to call emphasis on it on June 6th itself. Where I’m just flashing. The ones coming to mind were overlooking Norwegians, Dutch, Belgians.
When we look at the overall campaign from June six 1944 till about August 20th right before the liberation of Paris, we’re really overlooking the critical contribution to the Polish, the cheque brigade, Belgium, the free French. Strange. Strangely, I find that I have to remind people that the. That, the free French participated in their own liberation.
The grand Duchy of Luxembourg contributed to battalion. Well, there I was just writing last night about an Australian who was killed in ground combat fighting alongside Americans. And so the the most, my nationality of the forest is something that I find is not frequently acknowledge and the longest day doesn’t really do that again, not that I’m taking pot shots, that movie.
I think by the time you and I are done talking, I will have taken a lot of pot shots at the movie, but on that subject, I want to go kind of light on them because I think they did a pretty good job of trying to bring in the, the other actors that are frequently overlooked. But at the same time by bringing in those other actors, some mistakes were made in the movie.
One big mistake that I find glaring is the fact that the movie brings an enormous amount of emphasis onto the story of the French resistance. I’m not saying that there’s not a story there because there is definitely a fascinating rich and dynamic story, but the reality of the print resistance at Normandy was one of a resistance force that was effectively castrated into inactivity.
There is effect. There was effectively no resistance, no active resistance activity and normally, but the call, but what the movie the longest day would have you believe on the watch.
Yeah. There’s, there’s quite a bit of, scenes in there with the French resistance showing them, destroying communications and, even kind of working behind the scenes.
But then you even see. I guess it’s not really French resistance, but you see French, landing as well,
right? There’s a depiction of the French conducting the landing because there, there’s a, there’s a, there’s a, an emphasis that I find quite commendable in the movie on the command knows that landed keepers, commandos that landed with the British on, that would be sort of beach on June 6th.
and while that’s commendable, there are also depictions of active French resistance fighting. You know, people, people scuttling around in the darkness, curing and Sten gone and setting off explosives. And that is something that happened in other parts of France as a part of the Normandy invasion. Just not enormity.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:11:37] Interesting. Well, you mentioned sword beach and I want to kind of get an overall of the, the movie now that we kind of talked a little bit about the history side of it overall. In the movie I went through and I actually counted, there’s eight different kind of title screens or text screens that kind of give some structure to the film.
And I’m, I’m kinda curious, I’ll go through these real quickly and I’m, I’m curious how well the movie did cause it, it starts with Normandy, and we have the British glider assault and the orange river, and that’s where they drop the, Rupert dummies. and then it goes to con, and then it goes to same Eric Leeds, and then it goes to Omaha beach to Utah beach, gold, Juno beaches.
It merges together, which I thought was interesting, was the only one that they actually merged together. And then sword beach and then a point the Hawk. So is that basic structure of the movie and the overall operation pretty accurate?
Marty Morgan: [00:12:39] You know, this is hard for me to answer that in one word. And I’ll tell you why.
And that’s because if I, if I applied the test of the DJ historian to this, I just sounded like an old fuddy duddy and a party pooper, because I’ll, I, I can’t help but kind of see the problems with the structuralization and the period ization of the film. What I tend to do when I watch movies, just so that I’m not having a terrible time.
Every time I watch a war movie is I, I tend to step out of that if I can. I think longest may presents bigger problems and that’s just because longest day single handedly created not just a few, but an enormous number of deep mythologies that in over 50 years have not been. Brought into clearer focus, have not been straightened out.
And I believe that the film did more to create mythology than it did to create fact.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:13:36] Interesting getting, you don’t have to go into every single one of those, but you can’t. Can you give kind of some of the top ones that you’re,
Marty Morgan: [00:13:43] yeah, sure. The big ones that I pick on, or st Mary Gleason point the hoc, and if you can tolerate a 30 seconds on each, I’ll give you that.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:13:51] yeah, for sure.
Marty Morgan: [00:13:52] Okay, cool point. The hoc creates an enormous problem, and what it does is it film establishes a narrative where whereby the mission is depicted as having been a failure. So then in the film, the way that it begins is, first of all, there is an exaggeration of the reality of the firefight that takes place.
There’s an exaggeration of the way that the Rangers, the second raid battalion, reached the top of the bluff. And then there is a diabolical exaggeration of the actuality of the way the battle ended. Now, one big mythology that’s created about point the Hawk and the longest day is about grappling hooks and ropes and the way that the Rangers reached the top of the bluff because the film depicts what effectively did not happen that day.
And that is that the Rangers did not fight their way to the top. Using grappling hooks and ropes. one reality is that the Western Naval task force fire support group, the Naval force offshore, it bombarded appoint the hoc before Dawn from 5:45 AM until 6:30 AM and then it ceased fire as a part of that bombardment.
The battleship USS Texas using its 14 inch main guns. delivered some, an artillery concentration. One round fell short, impacted the face of the, of the blood. That’s really clips there, I should say. Less impacted the face of the cliff. The explosion of the 14 inch round created such an avalanche of debris that there was actually a natural ramp that got the Rangers within 20 feet of the top of the bluff.
And so that when the Rangers didn’t land, they land from nine British made LCA assault landing craft. When they landed on all nine of those landed craft landed on them on that would be the East side of the point within view of this debris pile. Almost all of the Rangers climb that debris pile, and then when they reached the top of the debris pile with only about 20 feet left to the top.
They climbed hand over hand using a Ronald where where water outflow had eroded the face of the cliff to some, to some extent, the famous one of the famous Rangers from that battle with a man named Linda , who I knew quite well before his death and Lomell climb hand over hand. So in the film you see this deeply exaggerated battle of Germans.
Spraying machine gun fired down on the Rangers as they came off the land and craft tossing grenades off. which by the way, is something that really did not happen. It didn’t depict that. It depicts Rangers climbing Batman style up these ropes that were launched by rocket equipped get grappling hooks, which by the way, is something that did not happen.
And then it depicts this. this battle, this is ground battle that is way out of proportion to what actually happened. the, the reality of the first engagement appoint the Hawk when the Rangers reached the top of the bluff was that they engage the enemy. Part of the enemy force withdrew to the South of the coast road and then part of the enemy force withdrew into the command and observation bunker and buttoned it up.
They wouldn’t come out for two more days. W, w meanwhile, the Rangers moved through the battery site and there was, there was an exchange of fire. It didn’t last long. It didn’t last nearly as long as it is depicted in the movie. And then what, what I find to be the most aggravating thing that the movie did is that the movie features, first of all, the features, it’s, I think near six or seven minutes with, with no dialogue of just, just knock down, drag out gunfight.
And greatly exaggerating the proportions of the actual gun fight that took place. And then the range Rangers, three ranger characters, one of whom was the singer Fabian, who was kind of a known guy at the time. kind of, well, maybe Justin Timberlake of his day, but I can say it follows him and two other Rangers as they enter a bunker, I should say, a case mate that’s, that was on top of the bluff.
And as they move in, they may exchange some dialogue that’s critical to the distortion that occurs in the movie. And the dialogue they exchange is one of the Rangers walks into this, this, this bugger, and says, look, they haven’t even mounted the guns yet. And then it cuts to another ranger who dramatically takes off his helmet, wipes his brow and says, you mean we came all this way for nothing?
And then scene ends. And no point during the film does it double back. To then tell you what happened after that and what happened after the Rangers sees to the immediate vicinity of the coastal gun battery on top of the block was that the Rangers moved inland to move onto the second phase of their mission, which was to set up a roadblock of the coast road to prevent German reinforcements from circulating from West to East using that coast road from the vicinity of grown comp to threaten the landings of the U S army fifth Corps in Omaha beach.
The Rangers set up that roadblock. And in doing so, Len will mill observed deep tire tracks and a, cattle path leading down a head trail, followed them, found the guns that had been moved. The Germans had been using six French, made 155 millimeter long range guns. One of them had been badly damaged in a bombing raid in April, and the Germans had moved five of those guns.
About 1200 meters from the point Len will melon another ranger of inject who found them disabled them. And all of this was done before 10:00 AM. And so my argument there is that a and D and ending the scene with the words you made, we came all this way for nothing is making it look like the ranger mission was an unnecessary mission that did not achieve its objective when in actuality the Rangers.
Found the guns and silenced them even though the guns were not where they were supposed to be at the point. The Rangers then I should mention going beyond 10:00 AM on Tuesday, June six 1944 the Rangers set up an outer perimeter stretching beyond the coast road South of those drums. That was counterattacked twice during the night of June 6th and June 7th.
During which time the Rangers sustained a very large number of casualties. The Rangers were then pushed all the way back to the battery site. The Rangers had been told that they hold, they’d have to hold their position for about six hours. They ended up having to hold their position for about 48 hours, and by the time that help got there from Omaha beach, only 79 of the original 225 Rangers, walked out under their own energy.
so in the movie. It’s kind of powerfully short changes the actuality of the points of hop battle.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:20:49] Yeah, I’d say so. Now you also mentioned st Mary Glee’s and that’s, that’s where, red buttons, I believe is playing John steel private John Steele, and he gets his parachute gets hooked on the church roof.
Is that the scene that you’re referring to?
Marty Morgan: [00:21:04] Because to this day. The movie the longest day. I’m saying the movie on purpose, not the actual battle, but the movie itself is, is memorialized in the town of st Hara at least because a mannequin hangs from a parachute from the Southwest, the Southwest corner of the bell tower.
Oh, wow. Yeah. Yeah. To this day, right now as we speak, there is a mannequin commemorating John steel and a point that I often make. Is that what the mannequin and st Americans needs today is commemorating? It’s commemorating the movie the longest day, and it’s not commemorating thanks. That actually occurred in st Mary Gleason on June six and that’s because I’m in my almost 20 years of leading towards enormity.
I went through an evolution just about all the other tour guides have gone through with that. It says, you. Are required to relate the details of the, of the st Merrick lease, John steel story over and over again. And as the years go by, the more you tell the story, the more it doesn’t make sense of, the more that everything doesn’t add up.
And that has led me now to be able to boldly announce my position on all of this, which is a not insignificant investment of time and resources. After 18 or something years, I’m, I feel very comfortable in saying that the scene in the lobby today is something that absolutely did not happen. The scene depict depicting the character John steel played by red buttons suspended from the bell tower of the church is something that didn’t happen.
And I’ll make this short to the point, but bear, you can, when you begin examining the John Steele st Meredith’s story. You very quickly recognized that there are three popularized versions of the story and the first pocket rides version is that which is depicted in the motion picture along the step that was then massaged a little bit and, and, and a little bit was added to it when, the late Stephen Ambrose who was an author and story and from right here lived right here.
Steven Ambrose added to it. and retold the story and added two German perspectives and then another historian for the 60th anniversary. and the more to it, the reality is the notion of anybody being suspended anywhere on the roof or bell tower of the church at st Mary’s. It doesn’t stand up.
There’s absolutely no proof whatsoever that any of it actually happened. All that they’re all that they have to go on are a few personal accounts and all of those personal accounts disagree with one another to significant levels. The most, the biggest was John steel himself. Red buttons. And that is John steel’s submitted a written personal account to Cornelius Ryan when Cornelius Ryan was writing the book the longest day, and John steel’s written account differ significantly from what is depicted in the movie.
And one critical way, and that is John steel was in the years after the day when he told the story of being suspended from the bell tower. He was telling everyone that he was suspended from the Northwest corner of the bell tower. The movie depicts red buttons suspended from the Southwest corner of the bell tower, which was a production decision made by Darryl Zanuck, who produced the film.
And it was because the Northwest corner where the incident supposedly actually happened. It faces a street that has buildings on it, and so there’s very little room for anything. Whereas the Southwest corner faces an open church market square where there’s plenty of room or. Bringing in, production lights, bringing in wind machines and bringing in cranes because they had to use cranes to depict paratroopers coming down in the center of the village.
And so Zanuck made the production decision to move the entire scene around to the Southern side of the church. And that is what is memorialized to this day in st Mary’s leads. and a point that I make is that. Neither thing actually happened. There were, nobody was suspended from the North West, you know, the Northwest corner or the Southwest corner.
I believe that nobody, landed on top of the church that night. We do know a couple of things and what we do know is that it was effectively one stick of paratroopers, meaning one airplane for one, he 47 security transport full of paratroopers, 15. Then. And they were from the more section of the second, the tune of F company of the pocket of the parish.
You get the G regiment of the 82nd airborne division, and that, that wants to compare. Troopers began jumping just to the West side of town as the aircraft passed overhead at low altitude and they were jumping one after the other as the aircraft roared over st mere uglies. And. It appears that nobody landed on top of the church.
And the reason that it appears that I say that is, there are a number of personal accounts written by French civilians who were in st Marin that night. They were written in the immediate years after, after D-Day. Absolutely. None of them mentions a paratrooper suspended by parachute from the church.
The mayor of st Mary’s lease himself, Alexander Renaud. He wrote a book in 1949 in which he makes no reference to a paratrooper suspended from the church in st Mary leaves. And you would think that if there was anybody who would refer to that, that, that it would be the mayor that the mayor would have, would have, put his story in writing long before.
Cornelius, Ryan or Darryl Zanuck got there. but that’s not the case. In addition to that, there are two passes made during the day. On June 6th by aircraft were photo reconnaissance aircraft and photo reconnaissance aircraft were buzzing all over the Normandy beach heads on June six attempting to assess how well the battle was going.
They paid particular attention to the area where the two American airborne divisions landed the 82nd airborne, a modern birthday one. And that’s because there would be really no other effective means of assessing how well the airborne divisions were feeling. And so photo recon aircraft flew over the beachhead and in both of the photo reconnaissance images that were collected of st Marilee’s on June six there’s absolutely no sign anywhere of any parachutes.
So that could be challenged by saying, well, maybe it had all been cleaned up by then. And while that might be the case. I’m on the weighing the evidence and I learned a lot of weight to the, the absence of a rep reference to a paratrooper suspended from the church in multiple French accounts. I lay a lot of weight on the photo reconnaissance image because the photos just don’t lie and I weigh a lot less.
I give a lot less weight to personal accounts because one thing that is clearly observable. And John steals personal account that he sends him to Cornelius Ryan is that John steel is engaging in a case of obvious advocacy. He’s advocating his story to Cornelius Ryan. In other words, he’s up actively saying, you should include me in your book because I had this extraordinary, interesting incident, and, and critically John steel gets the timing wrong.
So he says that he. because Cornelius Ryan sent out what was effectively a questionnaire. And in the questionnaire he says, where were you at? Midnight on? Where were you at? 12. Oh 1:00 AM on D-Day. And, and John Steele says, I was hanging from the church steeple and singer police. Well, he definitely was, he wasn’t even in France yet because, the sticks for the 505th parachute infantry regiment didn’t land until long after midnight.
In fact, it was almost an hour after midnight. Before the five o’clock period, she never treated, began coming down by parachute. I’m going to just cut to the chase. The longest day, created a false narrative. The narrative of John steel suspended the church by his parents. She and persists to this day in the form of a mannequin that pangs as we speak.
From the church steeple, and that is an incident that it’s a complete fantasy and did not happen.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:29:47] Wow. Now you mentioned the photo. A recon didn’t show any parachutes. Does that mean that nobody landed in st Mary’s
Marty Morgan: [00:29:55] at all? I think people did land there. And I think that by the time the photo recon passed, kind of complicates the story.
But I think that there’s a really good reason why I don’t see evidence of parachutes and both images. And that’s because on D-Day, paratroopers all jumped using a new version of the parachute canopy, which was made of camouflage nylon. A 28 panel camouflage, nylon main shoot. Their reserve shoots were white silk, and then some of the equipment bundle parachutes or white silk.
Not all of them, but some of them. So Nope. People jumped on June six using a white silk parachute and other photos, other aerial photo recon images that were collected that day. I see white silk parachute, in the fields. Which I believe to be equipment bundles. the, interestingly enough, the mannequin that Hanks from st Mary’s lease, is suspended by a white sequence.
So parachute. And my first reaction to that is, well, when, one thing we definitely do know is that John Steele, when he jumped at night and he did jump that night, just for the record, he did not jump with a white silk parachute. And I should mention another thing, if you don’t mind, another critical diversion on this subject.
And that is that there is an effect of, piling on that I have observed, meaning that as time has gone by after the movie came out, and I can’t emphasize this enough, when that movie came out, it reached the entire world. That movie was so powerful and that image of John Steele played by red buttons suspended from the church.
Steeple was powerful and memorable. And to this day, people remember it very, very fondly, which is why I don’t just, I don’t just deny the story lightly. I’ve put decades of research into this, digging up every possible shred of evidence that I could find. just, and I believe me, I wanted to find something that supported the story and it just didn’t.
but there is this one account that I found recently, and I’m going to look it up while we’re talking. I haven’t found it just yet, but I’ll keep, I’ll keep nosing around. the, a pylon effect began and this pylon effect is that other people, the story itself of John steel suspended by his parachute from the church.
People I think created a gravity. And, and once the movie came out and the entire world saw the movie, and that became one of the most memorable parts of the movie. I think other people got kind of sucked into that gravity and other people either deliberately misrepresenting their story or suffering from creative memories, which is a real psychological phenomenon.
That is no joke. I think other people suddenly imagined these incidents that did not happen. And there’s one account that I found recently. That, that conforms to that. And an interesting way, and it was an account from a book written by a soldier from the fourth infantry division. And as you might know, the fourth infantry division conducts the APOE censorious landings on Utah beach, just after Dawn on June six.
And then eventually elements of the fourth division moved up and through, They moved up and through st Mary’s uglies. And so this one man wrote a book that was effectively his memoir of his time in combat during world war II. This one veteran in the fourth division, and in it he wrote, he wrote kind of powerfully about how as he approached st Mary’s uglies, he saw a man suspended from a white silk parachute hanging from the church steeple.
And, and he doesn’t get there on June 6th he’s not there until June 7th and I find it to be such a critically important and fascinating aspect of this story because regardless of what did or did not happen, John steel was definitely not hanging there on June 7th because by John steel’s own account, he was hanging from the church steeple only for about an hour.
And regardless, he was not hanging there by a white cell parachute. But yet this man from the fourth division, he writes a personal memoir in the 1990s in which he says, during the day on June 7th he sees a man suspended from the church bell tower at st Mary uglies by a white silk parachute. And th that is something that just doesn’t add up.
Maybe you getting my gist here. When I say all of these stories kind of crowding among each other, none of them agree, all of them complicate one another. And I think what that means is that it’s a story that actually did not happen.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:34:42] Yeah. And even even in the movie, you can eat red buttons version of John Steele.
You see him later on at the end of the movie, and he’s not on the church anymore.
Marty Morgan: [00:34:53] That’s right. And the, the interesting nuance that’s added early a few minutes ago, I mentioned to you how there are three distinct popularized John Steele church steeple stories. it’s a bell tower, not a steeple, I can’t say steeple, but the three distinct versions.
There’s the movie version. There’s a second version and then a third version. The second version of the story was authored by the late Stephen Ambrose and dr Ambrose and that version found two Germans, one named Rudolf Mae and run one and the other one named Ruby a. I can’t think of his last name right now, but two Germans who came forward to dr Ambrose, who by the way, was writing that book in the 1990s.
More than three decades after the longest day. And these two Germans came forward and the story that they told was, we went up the tower, where we could see an American hanging from the church steeple. We went up the tower, we pulled him into the tower and took him prisoner. John steel would later even say, tell the story of how he was taken prisoner by two Germans.
They were, he was taken down, taken prisoner, and the two and the Germans that had taken him prisoner only an hour later before Dawn on June 6th they then surrendered to him. The thing that interests me a lot about that is John steel himself or claims that he was shot in the foot while he was descending under his open parachute canopy, but before landing, and.
Just to tell you how current my research activity is on this. I had somebody go to the church steeple at st uglies two weeks ago, and they, they obtained permission to go up into the bell tower and I’ll save you the gratuitous description, but it is an actual impossibility. Of pulling a man up and end of the bell tower, a man, certainly Amanda has been shot in the foot, and then taking him down, through the bell tower and out outside of the church.
It’s an absolute impossibility just because the space involved, it’s very tight. It’s very confined in the last stretch of it is a ladder that leads up from the platform when the bells are, and I just don’t think any of it’s true. And so what I’m saying is that I believe that these two Germans. Came out of the closet to dr Ambrose in the 1990s.
And what they did was then associated themselves with this now sensational and very, very popular aspect of the DD story. And I did, I believe that they did that, simply so that they could suddenly be consequential so that they’re part of something famous. In other words, I’m saying that I doubt every word that they’ve said.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:37:44] Yeah, I mean that that is definitely one of the most emotional parts of the longest day with, you know, most one of the most popular movies about D. so I could see how you’d want to be attached to that. I mean,
Marty Morgan: [00:37:56] that’s,
Dan LeFebvre: [00:37:58] I mean, it makes sense.
Marty Morgan: [00:37:59] It totally does. This is why I say that in the story created gravity, and when, when the story was in the written book, I believe that it was far less interesting and compelling, but then when it became that scene, and let’s face it in the movie the longest day, that is a centerpiece of the film.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:38:14] It is.
Marty Morgan: [00:38:15] And that created a memory paradigm that is still with us today. And I believe that none of it’s true if it’s, if it’s worth it. I just found. The, the account that I was referring to is written by a man named Robert Stanburg. And Stenberg was in the fourth division during the war. And, I found, I found the, I found what he described, this is, these are his words.
As I write this story, I can vividly see the whole sequence. My Fieldglass was fixed on the church tower to see if the Germans had put a piece of. Of artillery into the Belfry to shoot down on us. No indication I was scanning from left to right. I saw a large white spot and saw our ropes hanging down from the Spire.
There was a man hanging in a harness. He looked like LIS. I do not recall whether the guy looked like red buttons in the movie the longest day. All I know, we got him very much alive. We got him down and the reality is that can’t possibly be true. By any version of the story. And I had friends who are involved with homicide investigations and they all believe in this one maximum.
And that is the closer you investigate something, the innocent get more innocent and the guilty get more guilty. And I believe that the deeper I dig into the story of st Mary’s lease and what happened there before Dawn on D day. And the more every story just adds clatter and and feedback. None of the stories harmonize.
None of them link up, none of them link up with any other evidence that’s available. And what I consider to be the salient point of all of this is that every bit of that story comes to us from personal accounts only. And I hate to say it, but people will sometimes exaggerate things. You heard in your first, you can’t always trust people,
Dan LeFebvre: [00:40:13] but you can trust the movie though, right?
Marty Morgan: [00:40:17] I can’t tell you how many times I have, I, I’ve stood in the, in front of the church at st Mary Louise and people start to ask me stories about it, and. As the years went by, just like everybody else, I told the movie version of the story year after year until I started to look into it and I was like, ah, that just can’t be, it just can’t.
It doesn’t work. And as I’ve gotten older, and I’ve done more and more work on this, I’m telling my tour groups. what I have found and what I, and you just heard what I found, there’s absolutely no evidence whatsoever supporting the popularized stories, any of the three versions, personal accounts only.
And I tell people that, and people have this look like, but, but, but, and I can tell what they want to say next and what they want to say next is, but it was in the longest
Dan LeFebvre: [00:41:02] day.
Marty Morgan: [00:41:04] And by the end, by the, by the way, one thing that I frequently get now too. Is, but what, but I saw it in saving private Ryan. Yeah.
Because that movie created a lot of problems too, for the DDA story. And I have to make this observation, although you didn’t ask for this, I’d like to make it anyway. And that is that coming from the perspective of the guy who has led the day tours every single year and Norman the multiple times for 18 years now.
I, I have to tell you that most people are getting their history and the Normandy invasion from those two movies. There’s a third movie that loons large off the horizon, and that’s band of brothers, but, and that’s not a movie. It’s a mini series for cable television. But the longest day saving private Ryan and bandit brothers.
Each of them in themselves created separate mythologized narratives of the D day invasion. And I find it a little frustrating because I find each year, and it’s getting worse with each passing year, I’m spending more and more time talking about those movies than I am talking about things that actually happened.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:42:15] Yeah, well, I could see that. I mean, like you were saying it, it adds on and it keeps adding on and it’s unfortunately, that’s, that’s how it goes.
Marty Morgan: [00:42:23] That’s the way it works. I had written a book about DNA way back in 2004 and I had hoped that the entire world would read my book and that, and then as I led tours there, that people would just ask me intelligent questions about my book and that didn’t happen.
And that’s because a hell of a lot more people have watched the longest day than will ever read my book. And the reality is that movie did more to promote interest and enthusiasm and the DNA story than any project ever.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:42:53] Yeah, I could see. I could see that. So I’m curious. Speaking of, speaking of the movie, that one key aspect that we talked about kind of the.
The allied side of it. But something that was interesting to me when, when I was watching it, is that it really kind of implies that the Germans were just completely caught off guard. Like a, we see, I believe it’s a plus. Got the, the guy who is the first to see the allied ships off in the distance. And when you see some of the scenes, there’s really, there’s like almost nobody defending the beaches at all.
and then it talks about how, Hitler was sleeping and so they couldn’t pull in the panders cause they didn’t have permission. And w was any of that like were the Germans completely caught off guard by this invasion?
Marty Morgan: [00:43:38] Absolutely not. Absolutely not. And that the scene you just referred to is one of my favorite scenes in the movie, and it’s depicts Verner pool.
Scott, as he looks out from a coastal bunker, it was filmed. That’s a cool thing about the movies. They filmed a lot of it on location enormity and the PLU scat scenes were filmed on location at a coastal coastal artillery battery that’s called a long surveyor. He was not actually there. He was at least kind of near it, but he was not there.
Nevertheless, it depicts him looking out and he’s looking through his binoculars right at Dawn’s first nautical Twilight, and we see ships rolling up the horizon. And you know, he speaks to the famous line of dialogue in Bustian and he picks up the field telephone and shouts into normality, Normandy and it, to me, I sit through it and I just giggle about it now.
because it is such an absolute pile of rubbish. Can I give you a couple of examples of where I’m coming from on that?
Dan LeFebvre: [00:44:34] Oh, yeah.
Marty Morgan: [00:44:34] as an example, the 82nd airborne division flew to Normani and I think it was 320 seat 47 true carrier transport aircraft the night of June. Fifth slash June 6th when those aircraft took off from their embarkation airfields, they had to assemble.
They had to assemble into effectively a division sized formation that was miles long. It was effectively in three big phases, and as those aircraft began assembling, they flew down toward Wilcher and the UK and assembled Mir and the skies above and near the city of Bristol. As they did that, keeping in mind that they have not yet even formed up into one big formation and not a single airplane has yet turned and flown out over the channel as they were assembling in the sky over wheelchair, the Germans were already detecting them on radar.
German radar sets tracked the aircraft, and in fact, there’s a famous episode, that relates to, as the Germans are tracking. The aircraft as they’re assembling, and that’s not even the first part of the invasion that the Germans were tracking. as they were assembling the German division commander for the German 91st look, my division was man named, they’ll helm folly, and he was South away from his command post.
He was in the city of rent and they received a phone call. Oh, at the hotel and Ren, where he was saying stay. That alerted him to the fact that very large formations of aircraft’s had been detected, assembling of the skies over the United Kingdom and also falling before the sun set on before the sun was completely down on June 5th folly had already been advised that very large formations of aircraft were assembling.
Now, of course, he to him, to his knowledge, that could easily be a bombing raid on the way to Berlin, but still he took the precaution of putting his division on full alert because of it so that nobody was caught by surprise. If anybody was caught by surprise, it was the only surprise really came in the form of this is the main effort.
Because as I believe you’re well aware of the Germans expected that an invasion might come at Kallai 200 miles up the coast from Normandy. The Germans had reason to be concerned about possible landings at Corsica or Sardinia. They had reason to believe that landings might occur in Southern France. The Germans have reason to believe that there might even be landing on the West coast of France on the of escape.
Some Germans thought it could come at any of these places. And as they looked at that developing picture, the highest ranking leadership and the German military believed that the landings would come across in the vicinity of Kallai. and of course, that’s not what happens. So when there is an early detection late in the day on June 5th of something’s going on, the first thought was, cautious.
I should say, I’m a cautious suspicion as the night wore on that cautious suspicion quickly gave way to total confirmation. And I say that and, and I would invite you to consider this because every June six right after midnight, I like to think about this and that is that shortly after midnight, beginning at about 1215.
Hundreds and hundreds of troop carrier aircraft passed over the Cochin fin peninsula in the area where the 101st airborne division and the 82nd airborne division would ultimately parachute in hundreds of airplanes passed over the drop zones at extremely low altitude. So that from the perspective of, say, the German 91st bull plan division, which was headquartered very near st Merrick Lee’s.
The, the divisional command post called general ballet, who as I mentioned, was away about 90 miles away. And Ren, they called general Falaise shortly after midnight with a report saying several other, several, several dozen multi-engine aircraft just looped directly over the command post at extremely low altitude.
And general valet responded to that by saying, I’m on the way immediately got in a car and drove through. Roads and Brittany enormity through the night to get back to the command post. He got back to it right after Dawn. And as he pulled up to his headquarters, he was shot by two paratroopers from the 508th parachute, infantry regiment and killed, Jack Schlegel and Malcolm Brandon, two five Oh eight paratroopers.
So when hundreds upon hundreds, and by the way, when I say hundreds upon hundreds, I made over 800. American troop carrier aircraft flew over the coatings in peninsula and then out over Utah beach during the predawn hours, starting just after midnight and continuing until almost 3:00 AM. And after 800 plus aircraft’s live directly overhead at extremely low altitude.
There wasn’t anybody that was confused about what was going on.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:49:49] Yeah, I would say that’s kind of a,
Marty Morgan: [00:49:51] an indicator. Yeah. And if I could mention one other example, stop me if you’re getting bored with this. Oh, no, no, no. Thank you. I was friends with a German soldier who was a machine down Omaha beach on DDA, France.
Gocco. Who was one of the greatest gentleman I’ve ever met in my life, even though he operated a machine gun against Americans on D-Day, and he died in September of 2005 he was a great guy. He was a big help to Steven Ambrose. He could not have been more hospitable and approachable when I reached out to him, but Gocco and his personal account, which is no secret, it was published with Ambrose’s book.
The David climactic battle of world war II. That book came out in 1994 on the 50th anniversary, and goggles, personal account, and Gocco was a machine gunner at the largest, resistance nest or strong point on Omaha beach called WN 62. Gocco was quartered with a French foreign family. And was awakened shortly after 2:00 AM they were put on full alert.
They put on all their gear and they were taken down to the WN 62 bunker complex on Omaha beach right before 3:00 AM where they remained on guard until the sun started rising and they saw the Americans approaching the beach. So France Scotto certainly was not surprised. And the reality too, by the way, is that Verna plus Scott, who’s depicted in the film acting very surprised by being boss.
Y’all know, I’m D, we’re an a. Plus. Scott was not surprised because he put, he was the, the divisional artillery officer for the German three second division, and he went on alert before hours before the sun came up. So attempting to make it look like the Normandy invasion was a huge surprise. and it remained a surprise up until right when the sun came up.
that is an, an incredibly deep distortion of the historical reality of what actually happened.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:51:52] Well, we’ve talked about some of the things that they got wrong. I’m hoping maybe the next is a little bit more accurate, because in my limited research, Indicates that a lot of the beach experiences were very different.
And that’s something that we kind of see in the movie, although the details of of them may be less accurate. But for example, on Utah beach, we see Henry Fonda’s character, Teddy Roosevelt jr explained that they landed a mile and a half South of where they were supposed to go. on sword beach, they establish a foothold pretty quickly.
And then Omaha beach, we see that was according to the movie. They show it as the very first one that was landed and then it’s still the, the longest one for them to be able to, make, get a foothold and advance inland. The experiences from these different beaches really that different.
Marty Morgan: [00:52:40] They really were an appoint, I like to make, when I have tour groups there, and I’ll have the tour group there and just over two months for the 75th anniversary.
a point I make is that five beachheads five different battles and all five of those beachheads. It’s all, they’re so different from one another that it’s almost like they’re from five different continents. And I know it sounds bizarre to say that, but nothing, demonstrates that more penetratingly to be then when on one day I stand on sword beach and then I stand on gold beach.
They’re so very dramatically different from one another. In that at gold beach, I’m with British fit. 50 division landed. there are, there’s high ground to the right that has German heavy armament on it. There’s high ground directly in front of them. There’s a J sloping beach swale. And then beyond that, the terrain is, is actually not that intimidating.
It stands in complete contrast. For example, with Omaha beach where you have a gently sloping beach swale, you have shingle than sand dunes, and then a bluff that is so steep that vehicles can’t drive up, and that bluff is a hundred feet tall and gold beach is next to it is next to Omaha, and they’re barely 10 miles apart from one another and they’re vastly different in terrain.
To go back to what I was originally saying, gold beach, then. Is a completely different in terms of the appearance of the drain from sword beach, because at sword beach, there’s no terrain inland from the beachhead. Whereas at gold, there’s terrain to the right, there’s terrain directly in front of you. At Omaha beach, you’re, you’re hemmed in by terrain that comes almost all the way up to the water’s edge.
Then you get to Utah beach, for example, where there’s a gently sloping beach swale. There are sand dunes, and then there’s two miles of Marsh beyond that, and there’s terrain beyond that, but that terrain is two miles off in the distance there. They’re also very different from one another, and then. When you get to the beach, that usually gets the shaft more than any other ones.
And that is Juno beach where, where the Canadians landed that is at a river mouth. That’s, that’s very heavily affected by the tides with where the Canadians had the land. There’s not much in the way of terrain in front of them, but they’re landing in front of a populated town that has this river that’s right in front of the minutes.
It’s river, a river called the curse soul. And they’re landing in front of the town crystal. So there were actually landing on either side of the town, Krystle surveyor. And so each of the five beachheads are vastly different. The forces that are fighting on those beachheads are fighting battles that are not a little different, but fundamentally different from one another.
And then a further point that I would make is that when you subdivide it within each beachhead. You have forces that are, that are struggling against enemy positions and enemy opposition, and they’re experiencing battles that are vastly different. So that within, just within the mill you have Omaha beach.
Omaha beach is a Cove that’s five miles wide. And there I, I distinctly acknowledge the existence of five separate battles that occur on Omaha beach. And a case could be made for seven, but I tend to fold two of them in with the others. And so there are, I mean, and they’re five different assault courses that are struggling completely independent from one another.
This is during the opening hours of the invasion, by the way. So that if there’s one, I mean, I know I’m supposed to say nice things about the movie now and I’ve made it, I’ve made it criticisms again. But if there’s one thing that I do find, that functions as an epiphany for my tour clients when I take them there, is that when they learn of the diversity of experience across the five beachheads and then within, within each beachhead, there is a further diversity of experience.
And in this way. The movie appearance, the, the way that the movie presents it, it really breaks down. But that circles me back to a critical question that I have to use to criticize myself. And that question is, is it possible for a movie to capture all of that? And I think it might not be.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:57:05] It would be very, very difficult.
That’s for sure.
Marty Morgan: [00:57:08] You know, we have a joke when we, when I say we, I mean me and the other Normandy tour guides, we have a joke and that is that we don’t refer to the 1962 movie about DNA. We don’t refer to it by its name. The longest day we refer to it as the longest movie cause it’s a, it’s a long film.
And if they tried to communicate all of this diversity. It would be 10 times longer than it is, and it’s, and it’s already too long to begin with.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:57:34] Very, very true. Earlier you mentioned the German Luftwaffe. A headquarters was near st Mary Gleason. At the end of the movie, the Germans kind of just pack up their headquarters and leave, which honestly I thought was kind of interesting since the movie ends.
At like seven o’clock in the morning. roughly is kind of the, the last time that we see at least there’s a little bit more movie there, but it just seems odd to me that the Germans are just packing up their headquarters right away.
Marty Morgan: [00:58:03] Yeah. And, and, and, and you’re, you’re onto something there, by the way.
And, and what you’re onto is the fact that. There wasn’t this, this frantic scramble to abandon the headquarters. The headquarters that’s being depicted depicted in the film is Rommel’s headquarters, which was at a place called Naho should you don’t, which is about 50 miles from shore beach, so it’s not right in the immediate area.
Threatened by the invasion and although general, I’m sorry, field marshal. Rommel was not physically present there that day. there was no frantic scramble to abandon the command post. we could wish that that was the case. I wish the Germans had given up that early. I wish, I wish that the Germans had given up Normandy that easily.
I think that a whole bunch of families of people that were killed in the 100 days that followed, I bet they wish that the Germans had runaway that easily because the Germans did. Well, reality is that we had an overwhelmingly, because of, I think the movies because of movies like the longest day, private Ryan band brothers, there’s an overwhelming info emphasis on the events of Tuesday, June 6th to the point where everybody skips what happens beginning at Dawn on Wednesday, June seven and takes the story and picks the story up again on August 25th when Charleston ball walks down, having additionals that we say in Paris.
and the reality is that there is a 100 day long battle and Normandy that consumes lives by the thousands. Over 25,000 Norman civilians are killed during the Normandy campaign. And that’s a story that I, that I like to emphasize. I like to bring it up. Granted, the moving along the state can’t tell everything and it has to pick out stories and tell them.
And the movie definitely picked good stories. And by picking certain June 6th associated stories, it’s leaving out everything that happens after that. Because it wasn’t simply we invaded, everything went great, we had a tough day. But then next thing you know, liberation of Paris, that’s not what happened.
And then what happened in Normandy was that Germans kicked us around and kicked us around hard. And, and the British can certainly testify to that of what happens to them just in when from comp, the Canadians can testify to what happened to them in the vicinity of carp, UK airport, just inland from Gino beach.
From the American perspective, we get slapped around hard during those first few days. We managed to push the enemy back. We achieve an early well, we achieve a success a little later than expected when with the fall of share board on June 25th and then we turn after the fall of share board to push it to the hedgerow country.
When the Germans kick us around really hard all over again, and we really don’t start to see light at the end of the tunnel. Until after the city of Everett is liberated in general, Patton’s third army, is activated and joins the battle and rushes through into Brittany. And that’s not until August.
there’s a hundred days there when the German military fights and fights very well. And there’s a period of time too, when the people that were fighting. Are not the people that are so frequently depicted in movie retailing, like in private Ryan or the German character that is really a comic relief character in the longest day.
A, what’s his name? It’s cafe. The guy that’s depicted going to pick up milk.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:01:45] Oh, he’s the like delivering coffee to please. Same delivery costs,
Marty Morgan: [01:01:48] delivery, delivering coffee where he’s, he’s depicted as a comic relief character. It’s a little bit pudgy, not exactly the best and brightest. Well that departs from the reality of the German force that actually bought Normandy because it was full of some, some tough arm raise.
It was full. I mean, we were facing German regular army divisions from Gus hair. We were fighting facing German regular army divisions that were very good. And then beginning on June 11th, we began to, we began to, to suffer under the opposition of German SS divisions. And the American sector. We start confronting the 17th SS beginning on June 11th, our British and Canadian and Polish and Czech allies, and testify to what the second SS and the 12th SS were doing, farther to the East.
And we were fighting some tough cookies. And it wasn’t until the maneuver battle turned far more dynamic after about August 7th with the failure of the Morton counter offensive. It wasn’t until after that that you could really start to see light at the end of the tunnel. And the only reason that light appeared at the end of the tunnel was because a general withdrawal was ordered.
The Germans withdrew back to the Sen river. That’s not to overlook the family’s pocket battle, which was a bright and shining moment for the ally fighting force. You see, when circle parts of German seventh army and the vicinity of Shenwan fellas. but with the, with the families’ pocket battle, the Germans pulled back from the sand river.
And so a point I like to make is that, we didn’t really beat them and drive them out of Normandy so much as the maneuver battle began to work against their strategic advantage and they decided to pull out. And give up Normandy. If they had really wanted to stay in fight, they could have made things a lot more painful for us.
They pulled back to the sun river and then after the fall of Paris, they pulled all the way back to the German border and that that is, I think, the way that we typically think of what happened in France from the summer of 44 we, I think sometimes don’t recognize it for being long drawn out and painful.
The way that it was June six was just the start of a continuum of long, drawn out, painful slogging attritional maneuver warfare on the ground.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:04:20] From a movie perspective, knowing it’s a movie, I can see how they would want to give it some sort of an ending. I mean, even if it’s not the right one, you know, to where, you know, this made an impact in, in that way.
Marty Morgan: [01:04:33] Right? Yeah. Yeah. There was an image. Eventually there was an abandonment of field Marshall Rommel’s headquarters that are all she Xiang, but it did not occur on June six
Dan LeFebvre: [01:04:43] well, I know, I know. I have one last question for you, and I know you’ve led a lot of tours, and you’ve also worked with film makers and game developers to help make sure that things are more historically accurate.
If you could. Maybe there was something that omitted that you wish was in the longest day or something that we haven’t covered yet. That’s a common perception that you know, one of the ones we haven’t talked about yet, what would you change about the longest day to, to add that in there?
Marty Morgan: [01:05:13] Wow, cool question.
And a very good question. And and also a very tough one. if there was the first thing that pops to my mind, and it’s just, cause I’ve been doing a lot of work on this subject lately, and that is the idea that the fighting force opposing us and Normandy was completely German. And it’s certainly, it’s so much more than noteworthy that the German fighting force and Normandy.
Hi, and I should say it like this, the fighting force, we’re in German uniforms, and Normandy was multilingual, multiethnic and multinational. So we brought this multinational coalition, and the reality is that the forces fighting for the third, right, and Normandy were also multinational and multiethnic.
There were Germans from, there are people in German uniforms fighting there who were from. chairman, the former Czechoslovakia, there were, there were Russians in German uniforms sometimes and mainly in support you that’s, there were, French and German uniforms fighting for the third Reich on their home soil, which I believe adds a fascinating complexity to the story.
there were Germans, there were men in German uniforms from the Soviet central Asian republics. A story that kind of makes its way around the internet every June six now is a story about, about Korean soldiers and German uniform. It’s completely untrue. There were absolutely no Koreans, fighting with the Germans enormity.
There were, however, men from Soviet central Asian republics who had been captured in combat and were what they call . They were German volunteers that got them out of the prison camp, and they, they serve basically in support roles and join the military. and so what that creates then is that you have not just Germans and checks and some polls and some Russians, but you have Georgians, you have men from Azerbaijan.
There are the people that are typically thought to be Koreans, I believe are Mongolians. And there were also Frenchmen and German uniforms fighting there. And I believe. That diversity says a lot about what the German military had become by 1944 and then the other big thing that I wish was in the movie was something that pointed out one important detail, and that is they were not afraid to wake him up.
They woke him up. My God, they actually, they act, they actually woke him up when the phone call from BOM Rouge reached because Hitler was in residence at his private residence at the bear cough near Beck has gotten in Southern Bavaria. And the first phone call that came in, which was just after midnight, he had, there were two people in the house with Adolph and, and Abel was there that night as well.
So there were four people in the house. Two of them. were the, his personal valet and his driver when the phone call came in, it was unusual for a phone call to come in late at night because a dog typically went to bed kind of early. And yes, he was taking sleeping pills that helped him, you know, go to sleep.
But this old false narrative of a drug addled Adolf Hitler, who was passed out cold and everyone was too scared to wake him up. It’s complete false. It. Because the first phone call came in and the Valley’s first reaction was to say, well, he’s, he’s asleep. And the, and it was a switchboard operator that, that forwarded the call.
So when the valet spoke to someone on the other end of the line, it was a switchboard operator said, I have an important call for the fear from field Marshall. and the valet went with this gut reaction. Well, he’s asleep. And so the switchboard operator said, okay, thank you. And disconnected the call and then reported that on Yvonne Rouge dead, who then said, no, get them back on the line.
I need to talk to him. And so minutes after the first phone call, a second phone call came in, the valet answered it. The valet then said, sure, please hold the line. He put the receiver down, went into Adolfs bedroom. Gently woke him, Adolf and the, and the, that lady even said this, that lady even recorded this in a personal account, said he rolled over, he turned on the light, put his glasses on, picked up the phone and started to speak with one wrench.
Jen said that the, the valet said he had a brief phone call with bond room shed because of the valet went back into the kitchen where the, where the other phone was in the house and the valet been listened in. He’s dropped on the call. And so that if you’re having this brief phone call with on Runestad and the did all that he could do, and that was fun.
Wrench did sit there, we’d get a parachute landing coming in. We don’t know what the size is yet. There are some radar indications that look like there might be. and if previous assault course offshore. And the fury listens to it and apparently then said to him, okay, well, we really won’t know much until Dawn.
Right on when we should say, well, we’ll know for sure after sunrise and ate off, apparently went back to sleep center. Okay, well let’s talk again then. And went back.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:10:27] So it had nothing to do with the Panzers like we see, like the movie seems to
Marty Morgan: [01:10:30] imply and you know, and, and it sort of does, but it’s sort, it doesn’t, because.
You’re obviously familiar with the fact that there was a little bit of a convoluted command structure and that there was the awkwardness, first of all, of two German, army and I, and when I say army, I mean not SS, but Gus Hare, the German military, the German army, not the military in general, but the army itself.
Two commanders that shared command, and that’s field marshals on runes jet and field marshal, Rommel and field Marshall fund Rouge. That was far longer in rank than Rommel was. but the two together shared command, and neither one of them could order the Navy to do anything, nor could they order the Waffen SS to do anything.
And the Germans had come up with a plan, and by short shrifting it the way that the movie does and makes the Germans look stupid. And the Germans really weren’t that stupid. They’re not as bumbling and as bureaucratic is that film would had you have, you believe, because they came up with a strategy, they could not possibly defend every inch of coastline within Countryman.
They were places on the coast where if a landing was going to happen, it would happen here possibly. And they also didn’t have enough armor to dispatch armor after every single possible landing. And so they came up with a plan. That to me, looks like pretty sober. It makes like, it looks like, it looks like, a coherent plan because what they did is they made a decision to concentrate the armor at rail hubs.
And that in the event of a large scale of both amphibious landing operation, the armor could then be dispatched using the French railroad system toward wherever that landing occurred. So by situating. Access divisions, and that’s SS Pensacola beer divisions, which are mechanize infantry, and then SS armor divisions.
By situating them and near railroad hubs, they could circulate North enormity, even a Normandy order, the sort of the product LA, or they could circulate West toward the Bay of escape. And once again, the Germans considered that there was a possibility of landings on the Bay of the sky. And so it’s a pretty good plan, but what it requires is if a landing begins, you have to quickly identify whether or not that’s the main body or a diversion.
And then once identification has been made, then you start sending those divisions. Moving. A lot has been made over the decades, and it’s almost 75 years now. A lot has been made that the German response to the de de de de invasion was. Faltering and wasn’t decisive because Adolf Hitler refused to release the armored divisions, and that’s really not true.
The reality is that SS divisions began moving within 48 hours of the landings. That paints quite a different picture now, doesn’t it?
Dan LeFebvre: [01:13:27] Yeah, it’s complete opposite of, I mean, not only the, the bumbling, kind of the comedic relief, as you mentioned earlier, but also the whole. The power structure and everything.
It, it, the movie definitely does give off that, the allied or isn’t, are evading and the Germans don’t know what to do.
Marty Morgan: [01:13:44] Right. A point I’d love to mention to Americans is that the 17th SS, that’s the SS division that Americans confront. And while the battle was still happening near the beachhead, the 17th SS gets the order to begin moving on June eight.
The 17th SS experiences. Its first exchange of fire with American units on Sunday, June 11th the 17th assess spent that time. It was slow going. They didn’t swiftly rush all the way up. They were over 200 miles away. They didn’t just rush right up to Normandy. It took them some time because we’re harassing them by air.
We’re doing things like dropping. they were dropping the, the allied version of guidance bombs on things like the railway tunnel at Samuel or on allow more river, which greatly interfered with their ability to move up and move vehicles. but they’re still there by Sunday, June 11th. So in other words.
We’re less than a week after the invasion and the 17th SS is not just getting there, but it is there and engaged with American combat units and ground warfare
Dan LeFebvre: [01:14:48] certainly does paint a very different picture.
Marty Morgan: [01:14:50] It really does stop. The Germans weren’t as buffoonish. As I think many of the postwar retail lines want us to think they were,
Dan LeFebvre: [01:14:59] as they say, history is written.
Sorry. Written by the winners, right.
Marty Morgan: [01:15:03] That that is, that is, we made strange decisions when we wrote the history of the day invasion, and when Cornelia Ryan put it down, he really liked Cornelius. Ryan was a storyteller. Am I often say that storytellers are the worst historians. Because they want to tell a compelling story and compelling stories.
they have a beginning, a middle, and an end. The story stories told by historians sometimes don’t follow that kind
Dan LeFebvre: [01:15:32] of pattern. Well, that’s true. That’s the way life goes.
Marty Morgan: [01:15:35] Exactly. Sometimes historians will just go on and on boringly forever. but Cornelius Ryan wanted to tell a compelling story, and one of the decisions that he made as a storyteller was this bizarre.
image of the Germans being being caught by surprise, which they were not the story. And the story of Germans kind of kind of fumbling and being a little bit daughtering in their response. And then the Germans and their surprise scrambling to, to abandon a command post that they didn’t actually abandon until much later.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:16:07] Wow. Thank you so much for your time. I really, I really appreciate it. I had a lot of fun talking about this and learning about some of the things that it got right and most of the things that it did not,
Marty Morgan: [01:16:17] well, I failed to mention the biggest thing that it got right was that an exposed, literally millions of people to the story of Tuesday, June six 1944 and that serves the greater good.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:16:28] I agree there. If, if, if anything else, hopefully this is something that will encourage people to, to go learn more.
Marty Morgan: [01:16:36] I hope that as well.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:16:37] And on that note, is there anything that you’re working on that you’d like to plug? Let everyone know where they can find out more about what you do.
Marty Morgan: [01:16:44] Well, I’m a second edition of my second book is coming out here in about a week.
It’s called, It’s called the Americans on D day photos of the Normandy invasion. it’s, it’s a compendium of photographs that, that followed the American story from the landings on June 6th up to about. 30 days or so after the invasion, that’s, that’s going to be available on Amazon. It’s already available on Amazon for preorder, but that’s about to come out.
I’m working on also television programs that will be all over the broadcast. when the 75th anniversary rolls around and I’m about to release a big article, discussing John Steele, Cornelius Ryan. and the story of what happened, what actually happened at Sainte-Mère-Église that I’m gonna, I’m gonna post that and go live with that article on, June 5th.
and if anybody wants to learn more, they can visit my website, martinkamorgan.com.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:17:41] Very good. I’ll make sure to add those links in the show notes for this episode. Thanks so much for your time, Marty!
Marty Morgan: [01:17:47] It was a pleasure speaking to you. I’m always happy to talk about the D-Day invasion.