Saving Private Ryan
, the 1998 Oscar winning war epic from legendary film maker Steven Spielberg
, is widely considered to be the most realistic depiction of the D-Day landings ever bought to the screen. A box office smash in the cinemas, no expense was spared in recreating the horror experienced by the American troops on Omaha Beach, and the film’s opening scene has gone down in cinema history as one of the greatest sequences ever made. The film unfolds to tell the story of the daring rescue of Private Ryan, the last surviving brother in his family. But just how accurate really is the landing scene? And was there a real Private Ryan?
In Saving Private Ryan – The True Story
, Historians, eye-witnesses and weapons experts reveal amazing new insights into the detail of Spielberg’s graphic depiction of the landings. Veteran Harley Reynolds was one of the first men to make it off Omaha Beach on D-Day and gives us his powerful eyewitness testimony. Pete Niland tells why his family story is thought by many to be the inspiration for the film, and why his uncle is the real Private Ryan. We take to the seas in one of the last surviving landing boats, see the real effects of an exploding mortar shell on the human body and test whether a sniper really can shoot an enemy straight their scope as shown in the film.
Saving Private Ryan is loosely based off the Niland Brother's experiences during WWII
The Allied invasion to liberate Europe is the backdrop to the main plot of film, which revolves around Tom Hanks
’ character Captain Miller and his small unit of men as they are sent to rescue Private Ryan played by Matt Damon
. Ryan is the last of four brothers left alive, the others all killed in action. Although the story of Captain Miller’s rescue mission is fictional, the story of the Ryan brothers and the military policy that leads to Private Ryan being bought home are based on incredible, and tragic, true stories.
The sole survivor policy was introduced in 1942 and it’s this ruling that allows Matt Damon
’s Private Ryan – the last Ryan brother - to be rescued from the frontline. This policy, designed to prevent an entire family being wiped out, was bought into force after the tragedy of the five Sullivan brothers. Professor of military history Geoff Wawro uncovers the dramatic events that led up to all five of the Sullivan brothers being killed in the South Pacific and the creation of the army policy.
One family which benefited from the sole survivor policy and was spared the ultimate tragedy of losing all their children were the Niland family. In a case that is strikingly similar to Saving Private Ryan, three of the four Niland brothers took part in the D-Day landings, but only one came back. The surviving brother, Fritz Niland was bought home from the front, but the real story has an incredible twist not even Hollywood could imagine.
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