The Longest Day: Actors who fought in D-Day

On June 6 ,1944, Allied forces stormed Omaha Beach in the Normandy Invasion, known as D-Day.

A few of those soldiers were established actors or later pursued a career in Hollywood. Here are a few of those men that served in D-Day:

Lt Col David Niven, Royal Marine Commando, Normandy 1944

Lt Col David Niven, Royal Marine Commando, Normandy 1944

David Niven: The British actor was a Lt. Colonel of the British Commandos. He also worked in the intelligence branch and was later assigned to the U.S. First Infantry.
Niven was one of the first officers to land at Normandy. He later was one of 25 British soldiers to be awarded the U.S. Legion of Merit Medal, according to a 1983 book by Don McCombs and Fred Worth.

Alec Guinness in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve

Alec Guinness in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve

Alec Guinness: The British actor operated a British Royal Navy landing craft on D-Day.

Richard Todd during World War II

Richard Todd during World War II

Richard Todd:  Capt. Todd was one of the first British officers to land on D-Day. Todd was part of the British airborne invasion, that took place June 5 through June 7. During Operation Overlord, Todd’s battalion were the reinforcements parachuted in after the gliders landed and captured Pegasus Bridge to prevent German forces crossing the bridge and attacking.
Todd’s battalion was led by Major John Howard, who Todd played in “The Longest Day”(1962). The beret that Todd wears in the film is the one he wore on D-Day.

Robert Montgomery in his Naval uniform during World War II.

Robert Montgomery in his Naval uniform during World War II.

Robert Montgomery: American actor Montgomery enlisted in World War II before the United States entered the war.
Montgomery became a PT boat Lt. Commander and was part of the D-Day invasion on board the destroyer, USS Barton (DD-722).
After serving five years of active duty, Montgomery was awarded a Bronze Star, the Good Conduct Medal, the American Defense Service Ribbon, the European Theater Ribbon with two Battle Stars, one Overseas Service Bar, and promoted to the rank of Lt. Commander. (1904-1981)

Actor Charles Durning during World War II. He served in the United States Army.

Actor Charles Durning during World War II. He served in the United States Army.

Charles Durning: American actor Durning served in the United States Army. He was in one of the first waves to land on Omaha Beach during the D-Day invasion. Durning was the only soldier in his company to survive, according to KPBS broadcasting.
Durning was wounded nine days after the landing and earned a Purple Heart. Durning was also awarded the Silver Star.

Actor James Doohan was shot several times during the Normandy Invasion.

Actor James Doohan was shot several times during the Normandy Invasion.

James Doohan: Canadian actor Doohan served in the Canadian Army.  Doohan was in the Juno Beach invasion on D-Day. During the invasion, Doohan was shot in the leg, chest and lost his right middle finger.

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D-Day, 6th of June

Whenever June 6 rolls around, my mind usually turns to the star-studded World War II film “The Longest Day” (1962). The film dramatizes the D-Day Invasion on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944.

The film stars every major star you can think of, but the person who stood out to me the most was Henry Grace.

Who is Henry Grace?

Grace played Dwight Eisenhower in “The Longest Day.” But Grace wasn’t an actor. He was set decorator. He was chosen for the film because of his surprising resemblance of our 34th president.

Eisenhower was actually considered to play himself, but makeup artists couldn’t make him look young enough, according to IMDB.

 

Set designer Henry Grace (left) and President Dwight Eisenhower (right)

Set designer Henry Grace (left) and President Dwight Eisenhower (right)

Grace started as a set director in 1934 through 1970, working on films such as “Camille” (1936), “Blackboard Jungle” (1955), “Viva Las Vegas” (1964) and the television show “The Man From Uncle.”

“The Longest Day” was Graces’s only film performance.

Next time you watch the film, make sure to look out for Grace! It’s a very long, but very good movie.

Stars in “The Longest Day”:
longet posterJohn Wayne
Robert Mitchum
Robert Ryan
Henry Fonda
Sal Mineo
Richard Burton
Eddie Albert
Richard Todd
Sean Connery
Alexander Knox
Red Buttons
Richard Beymer
Jeffrey Hunter
Richard Dawson
Fabian
Roddy McDowall
Peter Lawford
Edmund O’Brien
Paul Anka
Mel Ferrer
Tommy Sands
Robert Wagner
and the list goes on

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