The Longest Day

Friday, June 04, 2010


In 1959, a reporter named Cornelius Ryan published The Longest Day, about the June 6, 1944 invasion of Normandy known as D-Day. In the Columbia Journalism Review this month, author Michael Shapiro argues that Ryan’s book, now largely forgotten, was nothing short of revolutionary.

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Comments [5]

Chris Boese from Brooklyn

The Longest Day (and this story about its reporting) is a tremendous, especially the reporting part. But you got me checking on the creative non-fiction genre. Surely Ryan set a precedent with his amazing research, what sociologists would note gets closer to ethnographic style interviewing.

But the 1959 publication date is also beat by a very well-written piece of non-fiction war history, The Reason Why, Story of the Fatal Charge of the Light Brigade, by Cecil Woodham-Smith, published in 1953. Perhaps not an exemplar of reporting, but in a genre that runs to John Hersey's tremendous Hiroshima as well.

Jun. 08 2010 06:42 PM
Erik Filkorn from Richmond, VT

I highly recommend two other Ryan books--"A Bridge Too Far" (similarly made into a large movie) and "The Last Battle" which is a good read in close proximity to seeing the movie "Downfall". The detail and the scale help to put you in the shoes of people on every side and every level. I also remember appreciating the "Where are they now" section in the back that shows what the sources were up to at the time the interviews.

Jun. 07 2010 09:12 AM
Constance Gibb

Not to take anything away from Cornelius Ryan and the Longest Day, which is a wonderful book, but Ryan did not invent this genre. Walter Lord wrote and published both A Night to Remember and Day of Infamy before The Longest Day was published.

Jun. 06 2010 11:11 AM
Brooke Gladstone from Brooklyn, NY

Hey Jerrold. Shapiro discussed Ryan's other works, but we limited the edited discussion to "The Longest Day." It wasn't his omission but our choice, because the segment was tied to D-Day. Shapiro's contends that "The Longest Day" is remembered largely through the film, and Ryan's breakthrough reporting technique has been overlooked.

Jun. 05 2010 10:45 AM
Jerrold Gustafson from South Bend, Indiana

Thanks for the kind look back at Cornelius Ryan and "The Longest Day."

I do have to take exception to Michael Shapiro's opening comment that the book (and by extension Ryan) have been "forgotten."

Has he never read "A Bridge Too Far" and "The Last Battle?" These books - identical in form to TLD - are equally monumental accomplishments - for those interested in the history of World War 2 Cornelius Ryan is hardly "forgotten;" his is a major achievement and a ground-breaking form.

Shapiro might also have mentioned Cornelius Ryan's posthumous "A Private Battle," the memoir of his fatal illness. Sadly, Ryan died young at age 54.

Jun. 05 2010 07:59 AM

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