This essay contains spoilers. Please don't continue unless you want to know key details about the film.
|Tom Hanks||:||Capt. John H. Miller|
|Tom Sizemore||:||Sgt. Mike Horvath|
|Edward Burns||:||Pvt. Richard Reiben|
|Barry Pepper||:||Pvt. Daniel Jackson|
|Adam Goldberg||:||Pvt. Stanley Mellish|
|Vin Diesel||:||Pvt. Adrian Caparzo|
|Giovanni Ribisi||:||T-5 Medic Irwin Wade|
|Jeremy Davies||:||Cpl. Timothy P. Upham|
|Matt Damon||:||Pvt. James Francis Ryan|
|Ted Danson||:||Capt. Fred Hamill|
|Paul Giamatti||:||Sgt. Hill|
|Dennis Farina||:||Lt. Col. Anderson|
|Joerg Stadler||:||Steamboat Willie|
|Max Martini||:||Cpl. Henderson (as Maximilian Martini)|
|Markus Napier||:||Maj. Hoess|
|Neil Finnighan||:||Ramelle Paratrooper|
|Peter Miles||:||Ramelle Paratrooper|
|Paul Garcia||:||Field HQ Major|
|Seamus McQuade||:||Field HQ Aide|
|Rolf Saxon||:||Lt. Briggs|
|Loclann Aiken||:||Soldier on the Beach|
|John Barnett||:||Soldier on the Beach|
|Maclean Burke||:||Soldier on the Beach|
|Victor Burke||:||Soldier on the Beach|
|Aiden Condron||:||Soldier on the Beach|
|Paschal Friel||:||Soldier on the Beach|
|Shane Hagan||:||Soldier on the Beach|
|Paul Hickey||:||Soldier on the Beach|
|Shane Johnson||:||Soldier on the Beach|
|Laird Macintosh||:||Soldier on the Beach|
|Brian Maynard||:||Soldier on the Beach|
|Martin McDougall||:||Soldier on the Beach|
|Mark Phillips||:||Soldier on the Beach|
|Lee Aaron Rosen||:||Soldier on the Beach (as Lee Rosen)|
|Andrew Scott||:||Soldier on the Beach|
|Matthew Sharp||:||Soldier on the Beach|
|Vincent Walsh||:||Soldier on the Beach|
|Grahame Wood||:||Soldier on the Beach|
|Crofton Hardester||:||Senior Medical Officer|
|Martin Hub||:||Czech Wehrmacht Soldier|
|Raffaello Degruttola||:||Goldman (as Raph Taylor)|
|Nigel Whitmey||:||Pvt. Boyd|
|Sam Ellis||:||Pvt. Hastings|
|Erich Redman||:||German #1|
|Tilo Keiner||:||German #2|
|Stephan Grothgar||:||German #3 / Voice on Bullhorn|
|Michelle Evans||:||Jean’s Wife|
|Martin Beaton||:||Jean’s Son|
|Anna Maguire||:||Jean’s Daughter|
|Nathan Fillion||:||Pvt. James Frederick 'minnesota’ Ryan|
|Leland Orser||:||Lt. DeWindt|
|Michael Mantas||:||Paratrooper Lieutenant|
|David Vegh||:||Paratrooper Oliver|
|Ryan Hurst||:||Paratrooper Mandelsohn|
|Nick Brooks||:||Paratrooper Joe|
|Sam Scudder||:||Paratrooper #1|
|John Walters||:||Old French Man|
|Dorothy Grumbar||:||Old French Woman|
|James Innes-Smith||:||MP Lieutenant|
|Harve Presnell||:||Gen. George C. Marshall|
|Dale Dye||:||War Department Colonel|
|Bryan Cranston||:||War Department Colonel|
|David Wohl||:||War Department Captain|
|Eric Loren||:||War Department Lieutenant|
|Valerie Colgan||:||War Department Clerk|
|Amanda Boxer||:||Mrs. Margaret Ryan|
|Harrison Young||:||Ryan as Old Man|
|Kathleen Byron||:||Old Mrs. Ryan|
|Rob Freeman||:||Ryan’s Son|
|Thomas Gizbert||:||Ryan’s Grandson|
|John de Lancie||:||Letter Reader (voice) (uncredited)|
|James Embree||:||German Paratrooper (uncredited)|
|Declan Geraghty||:||Soldier (uncredited)|
|Taylor Murphy||:||Sergeant Blaine (uncredited)|
|Abbe Muschallik||:||Ryan’s Granddaughter (uncredited)|
|Nina Muschallik||:||Ryan’s Granddaughter (uncredited)|
|Paul Sacks||:||Soldier Signalling to Relief Column (uncredited)|
|Mac Steinmeier||:||Waffen SS Soldier (uncredited)|
|Vincent Ventresca||:||Soldier on Beach (uncredited)|
This post was written in 1998, after my first viewing of Saving Private Ryan. The film deeply touched me, as it did many viewers, because of its ultra-realistic portrayal of combat in France in June 1944. This article examines the film and its historical accuracies and inaccuracies. Sparking a renewed interest in World War II, Saving Private Ryan changed the way historical war films looked at the horrors of combat through the most realistic combat scenes ever filmed. However, historians would recognize several minor flaws that are of interest to any student of World War II.
The opening scene is simply one of the greatest 30 minutes of filmmaking is history. I think every man, woman, and child on earth should see the first 30 minutes. It’s the rest of the film that people could miss. I'm a cinephile and a amateur historian, and I’ve read cover to cover every World War II book I’ve ever got my hands on. Spielberg made me realize how stupid and wasteful war is all over again. It is the most accurate war sequence ever recorded, and I’ve seen really, REALLY gruesome combat camera film from the front lines.
First off, the ads were wrong. "The Last Great Invasion of the Last Great War"? Waht the hell does that mean? Well, if they said the GreatEST Invasion of the GreatEST war, they might be right. Here’s a partial listing of invasions after Overlord June 6, 1944. Overlord was the largest amphibious invasion the world will probably ever see, but saying it’s the "last great invasion" seems to me to do a disservice to the hundreds of thousands of men and women who assaulted or supported or suffered or defended through the following assaults and too,too many others:
• Southern France, August 1944
• Operation Market-Garden, September 1944 (airborne, not seaborne — except for one river crossing by a regiment in a canvas boat)
• Crossing the Rhine, April 1945 (airborne and seaborne)
I would also add the June 1944 Red Army Offensive, and the invasion of Berlin, which culminated four years of vicious fighting that caused 10+ times as many Russian and German casualties as the Western Allies’ War.
• Saipan, June 1944
• Philippines, Fall 1944 (campaign)
• Iwo Jima, February 1945
• Okinawa, April 1945
Operation Olympic, the invasion of Japan, would have dwarfed Overlord if the Japanese had not surrendered. Thank God they did, because some Americans were preparing for the possibility of killing every Japanese man, woman and child to secure the home islands. Racism in the Pacific War was legendary.
The film follows the 2nd Ranger battalion, Company C, as they land next to the Vierville draw on Omaha Beach at about 6:45 AM on June 6, 1944. They were a strictly segregated (gender, sexual preference, and race) highly trained unit, a miracle of American training, since their unit, their mission, and their equipment didn't exist 2 years before. Capt. Miller (Tom Hanks) is lucky (well, sort of) to be a veteran of North Africa, Sicily, Italy, while most of his men had never been in combat before. The real Company C commanding officer (CO), Captain Ralph Goranson, didn't have combat experience. He also survived the war.
Everything their training had prepared them for is wrong. The naval and aerial bombardments fell too far inland or into the sea. They have no shelter, few tanks, no artillery, and few heavy weapons. The unit landed next to them, Company A, 116th regiment, 29th infantry division, took 99.9% causalties by the time the 2nd Rangers landed. The men of a entire town in West Virginia died in 15 minutes.
There are no other Allied troops anywhere for 2 miles, except for what’s left of Company B of the 116th.
Contrary to the popular myth, the 116th was already starting up on the bluff when the Rangers were ordered by General Norman Cota ("Rangers Lead the Way!" — this is the Ranger motto to this day) to form up and take the heights. The regular army unit, the 116th, proved just as tough as the 2nd Rangers.
While this going on, 2nd Ranger Companies A and B were landing elsewhere, instead of backing up companies D,E, and F, who were scaling cliffs (called Point du Hoc) to get to heavy guns the Germans had that could dominate the American beaches. Only 20 of 70 men from D company survived the first wave up the cliff. The A/B/C companies landed on Omaha because the signal was too late to reinforce the du Hoc Rangers.
Miller and Sergeant Horvath (Tom Sizemore) order "drop the ramp!" and the machine gun fire starts. The MG42/3 series shot 1200 rounds per minute, twice as much as the American equivalent. It terrified inexperienced Allied soldiers because of its b-u-u-r-r-p-p. The machine gun in the film is firing too slow. The sound seems to me to be an American .30 Browning rather than a German MG42. Today’s MG42, used by the West Germans, has a selectable fire switch to reduce ammo consumption.
In the real battle, one MG42 gunner spent 12,000 rounds. By midday. The battle lasted into the evening, and shells were still coming in for several days.
But back to the film. The Rangers are the cream of the American Army, but they are there as part of a national force. Throughout the film, Spielberg forgets to point out that there were other nationalities on both sides of the fighting. (Exception: The German raising his hands, who gets shot after his pillbox falls, is saying he’s a Czech, not a German. Hitler stuffed Russian POWs, conscripts, anybody to fill the Atlantic Wall. Koreans, impressed by the Japanese, captured by the Russians, impressed by the Russians, captured by the Germans, impressed by the Germans, were captured by the Americans. Nobody could figure out who they were, until somebody tried every language in the translator’s book. The Americans sent them to a POW camp in the States. The Koreans were nonchalant about their latest capture.
Other than that Czech, Spielberg ignores the British Coxswain who drove the Rangers to the beach, the Norwegian and Free French and English ships shelling the pillboxes, the British tankbusters and aircraft attacking the German rear artillery, and anyone else of the multinational Allied Army. (Americans, Canadians, British, Free French, and Polish troops went ashore on D-Day. Where are they in the film?)
Moreover, where are the Hispanic and Native American troops in the assault platoons? Only Japanese- and African-Americans were in segregated units. The Japanese 442nd Regiment was being wasted in Italy, the most decorated unit in the U.S. Army. But black troops went ashore on D-Day, sometimes under fire, to bring ashore supplies. Many black sailors made the fleet run. Where were they? (ed. note: Can anyone name a black character in Spielberg’s films?
During my 2nd viewing, I realized that during a confusing editing splice (for me and some others, anyway) the action cuts from Miller’s boat to another boat, where everybody on board is machine-gunned in a split-second, and then back to Miller, who yells "Over the Side!" and jumps. Many boats were wiped out as they dropped the ramp, as the fire was pre-sighted exactly on them, sometimes a year before the battle.
So they are being machine-gunned in the water, and begin crawling towards the beach. Then they start getting mortar fire. They crawl up on top and wipe out the Pillbox, it seems. But then the pillbox is still firing on the beach in a later scene, right?
Actually, they used a weapon called a Bangalore Torpedo to blow a hole in the barbed wire to run past the front of the pillbox. Then they tried to outflank it and were stopped by a second machine gun nest.
Here is where Spielberg begins to bend physics. Miller has a Thompson submachine gun, which fires 0.45 caliber pistol ammunition, with an effective range of about 50 yards. (I won't complain about the possibility that Miller might have had his ammunition drop out of his gun the first time he fired — the D-Day men were issued 30-round clips for Thompsons, instead of their familiar 20-round ones. They were two heavy and fell out the first time you fired. You had to take out 2 rounds to make the clip work. His works.) He sends some men through, then orders the sniper to take out the pillbox. The sniper uses an M1903 bolt-action rifle, the standard US infantry weapon in World War I. (and on Guadalcanal in 1942) He’s got sniper training, several scopes and the film seems to indicate he’s very good at his job (more on that later.) His effective range is over 1000 yards, maybe 1500 yards if he’s really, really good. (That’s almost a mile.) He crawls forward (!), shoots up the sandbags, and the Germans and their gun fall forward into a ditch, where Miller and his men shoot up the Germans as they land.
Why wouldn't he hit them from Miller’s position? And what did he hit, a bomb? Why did the sandbags collapse? I didn't get this, and for the first time I was aware I was watching a film.
After they get behind the pillbox, they flame it out, and begin working around the enemy trenches. My Dad has issues with Mellish the Jewish trooper crying, but I don't. Lots of men broke. Usually the loud, capable guy in training was first to go. The quiet, unnoticeable guy was usually the best warrior.
As they begin to mop up, we see the beach in a wide shot that focuses onto one man, whose musette bag says he’s named RYAN. Our main theme is set up.
No, but there was a Sergeant Frederick "Fritz" Niland (1920–1983). His four brothers were killed, one on Utah, one in New Guinea, one in Italy (Ryan’s brothers were fictionally killed on Utah, Omaha, New Guinea) Pvt. Niland’s brother was one of only 197 casualties on Utah beach. Compare that to 2500+ Omaha casualties. Over 50,000 men went ashore in the following hours on each beach. Niland was easily found, and returned to his Mom.
Some people think of the Sullivan brothers, 5 men who volunteered on the condition they would serve together, inspired the film. That’s wrong, Spielberg drew heavily on Ambrose. Ambrose found the Niland story. They went into the Navy and 4 of them were killed when their ship, the USS Juneau, was hit by a torpedo in the Solomons and sank. The task force commander left the survivors in the water and sailed away without a radio signal to help them. Out of 700 survivors, only 10 lived through the sharks and starvation over 7 days. The eldest Sullivan brother died looking for his brothers.
Back to the film. Miller is given the task of finding Ryan out of hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers, somewhere out there with the 101st Airborne Division. Okay, this is another physics problem for Spielberg. The 82nd Airborne’s zones were closest to Omaha, so the Utah beach men should gone after Ryan. However, if you consider that it was a dangerous mission behind enemy lines, I could understand sending Rangers. However, Paratroops from the 101st or 82nd would have a better chance or finding him, and were just as prepared to look for him. Also, a Captain to look for a Private? I would think the job would go to a Lieutenant, but maybe all of them were dead by June 10-11, when the Ranger team shoves off.
Anyway, off the Rangers go. Talking, smoking, questioning orders. By the crap the platoon gives green translator Cpl. Upham, they seem to be combat-experienced, and after Omaha, they seem fantastically well-adjusted after 5 days of unrelenting combat. The problem is that no battle-hardened platoon would talk and smoke and bitch while on patrol behind enemy lines. They would shut up and walk as quietly as possible. If they were making noise later in the picture when that German 222 half-track came up, they would have died.
For me, Spielberg missed the real story, assaulting Omaha. I guess he was worried about people thinking he was remaking "The Longest Day," but I would have just followed this one Ranger company until the end of the Normandy Campaign, or through first week, or something like that. The second half of the film seriously impacts the message I think Spielberg is trying to impart.
They come to a village where the 82nd Airborne has taken up residence. This house-to-house cat-and-mouse game was very gripping, but lacked the gut punch of the opening. It is very accurate, until Caparzo gets shot trying to move a little girl to the next village. The American sniper takes out the German sniper that killed Caparzo, with a shot through the German’s eye. this is actually based on a real-life event, not in WWII, but Vietnam. An American shot a VC sniper through the eye. That’s why you don't uncover your scope until you’re ready. The scope reflects light, and your enemy uses it to sight his rifle.
I really found the idea that a dogface would disobey a direct order, and continue to disobey, very unbelievable. Spielberg’s motivation is obviously to show what film historian Stephen Ambrose calls "citizen soldiers" — civilians who were drafted into the Army but gave great service. Spielberg also wants to show Carparzo’s humanity and Miller’s sense of purpose.
But the Rangers weren't drafted, they were volunteers, and they were handpicked for their abilities. Maybe 6 months later, in the frozen hell of the Ardennes, even elite soldiers would break rank, but I found this idea that 5 days after D-Day Miller’s platoon would be openly questioning his orders unreal. Spielberg loves to indulge on sentimentality, and does so here.
In fact, Miller even knowing his men’s names seemed weird for a combat veteran. He remarks to Horvath in the church that he’s lost 97 men under his command. If he’s lost that many, he wouldn't want to know anybody, except maybe Horvath. It would be too painful. He would know that his entire platoon would soon be dead. By May 1945, everybody in that 2nd Ranger Battalion on D-Day was dead, prisoner or wounded.
They move out, stopping at an Airborne aid station. Miller starts yelling Ryan’s name in frustration. I liked this scene, even though I really wouldn't want to follow Hanks into battle at this point. Even on a FUBAR or SNAFU mission, if a Captain started openly questioning his orders, I think he would be relieved by his subordinate, at least during the opening phases of the Normandy campaign. But it was a very human scene, by a gifted actor. I think Hanks makes that scene work in spite of Spielberg’s direction. A lesser actor would have botched it.
As they move to where they think Ryan is, they attack and wipe out a machine gun nest. This was a little weird, with the whole platoon trying to convince Miller to bypass. This wouldn't have happened to Rangers like this, again not until the Winter of 1944, anyway. Yes, platoons did break, but this is a handpicked squad (so Miller says in the beginning of the search) and no way would a Sgt. openly question a Captain like that. Again, this is Spielberg crap, showing the humanity of the platoon and sort of, of Hanks.
The attack is standard infantry tactics, except the Medic going forward to just get killed. He would have waited to see the outcome, help the wounded. Miller would have definitely ordered Upham to advance with everyone else. The Medic got killed, I think, because he was talking about home and his Mom and stuff in the church the night before. Even the first time I saw the film I could see Spielberg drawing big bull’s-eyes on poor "Doc."
If the Medic was popular, as the film indicates, the men would have killed the German survivor outright. Spielberg tries to cover this, but c'mon, you assault a position with grenades and submachine guns, then put the weapons down to run up a hill and beat up the survivor? Unbelievable. Also, the dead German who is burned and blackened is still breathing. Spielberg forgot to tell the actor to hold his breath.
The scene that follows almost ruined the film for me. Again, Hanks’ acting abilities pull it through. Assuming the German survivor was knocked out, wakes up, and the calmer platoon finds him, they would have still shot him, especially the veteran Miller. Because he could come back and bite you in the ass, as he does at the end of this film. The failure of unit cohesion at this point is simply to maintain the audience’s identification with the platoon. Again, I don't believe that a platoon of that high quality would have seriously protested a release order by threatening to go AWOL.
Hanks again saves the day. Entertainment Weekly says he edited his speech to be less open, less revealing. The hemorrhage of emotion he has, speaking to his men about his wife and home, was almost too much for me to take. Only Hanks could have kept it from stopping the film altogether.
I did like his crying alone and hiding it from his men.I thought that worked very well.
Miller releases the German. He is wearing a gray Luftwaffe uniform. Keep that in mind.
Finally, the platoon reaches Ryan, after they blow up a very accurate reproduction of a German half-track, a 222, I think. Ryan’s commanding Corporal (all the paratrooper officers and NCOs are dead) says it was an advance reconnaissance for the 2nd SS Armored Division.
Okay, this is where the film gets into this weird mix of an ultra-realistic battle that never actually happened. The 2nd SS was in the Pas-de-Calais on June 6, and by June 12, when Miller’s team reaches Ryan, it was working its way down to attack not the Americans, but the Canadians on Juno. The Tiger Tanks in the film didn't hit the Americans until much later in the campaign.
But it is a very accurate reproduction of street battles on the Western front in 1944-45. The vehicles are the best reproductions I’ve ever seen. The Tiger I has a mock-up turret (it’s a Tiger I because it doesn't have the Porsche turret of the Royal Tiger II) on the chassis of a Russian-designed, Czech built T-34, (the best tank of the war.) It looks very convincing, and the sound effects are great. The Marders (the open turretless tanks) were very accurate, too. It’s great to see a "real" German tank, not an American one painted grey (never) and with a big ’ol German Cross on the side. Spielberg’s tank even has Zimmerit finish to prevent magnetic mines! Unbelievable detail!!
The Germans have accurate uniforms, urban brick mottle tunics over standard grey combat pants. Unlike every crappy war film ever made, these Germans have a more realistic mix of automatic weapons to rifles. The American ingenuity in making Molotov Cocktails (gasoline in a wine bottle) and the sticky bomb is very accurate. I thought the paratroops would have heard of a sticky bomb, but maybe not, since it was still a very green army compared to the one that received the German attack in the Ardennes six months later.
Good Question. Standard Army Doctrine was to dig in against heavy tanks, let them pass over you, and attack their lesser armored rear. Troops never, ever ran away from tanks, for that was certain death. This moment took me out of the film and made me remember I was watching a movie. Captain Miller shoots through the tank’s driver’s viewfinder, but that was covered with glass, and wasn’t open.
Yes, if they could. Many men on both sides lost their hands doing that.
Maybe, but he would have had to have been very, very good. That’s why Americans crossing the Rhine picked up as many of the German panzerfausts as they could. Shorter range than the American bazooka, but better stopping power and one-man operation. Bazookas needed two men.
Especially when his unit was falling apart the day before, right? I found this a little hard to believe; but, sometimes you knew you were going on a suicide mission, and sometimes you did it so your buddies could live. I would have put at least Parker downstairs with the machine gun, with Upham and his extra ammo, because obviously Upham wasn't going to render good service running about. Also, I don't think the paratroopers, who had been in this street fighting even before Miller’s platoon arrived, would have tolerated an ammo runner hanging back. I’ve heard of one story of a sniper aiming down a tank barrel, blowing up the shell about to be fired at him, but I'm not sure that wasn't just an old soldier’s story. The sniper and Parker would have known they were in a dead man’s job, but they would have done it anyway if they thought they had a chance. They also might have accepted the assignment, then found their own way to accomplish it.
A 20-mm (1-inch) machine gun designed to shoot down aircraft. It was depressed to the horizontal, and was devastating against infantry. The paratroopers crawling all over the tank seemed too unreal, but weird things happen in combat, and no tank scared the Allied ground troops than the Tiger, so maybe they would crawl up on to it. NO WAY would a guy, even in a tank that was immobile, would get out when he knew there were enemy infantry on top of it. The sticky bombs blew off the tread, but the Germans could have still used the machine gun to kill every American before the 20-mm came up.
When I see the film 14 times, maybe I will finally figure out how many paratroopers were in this battle. There seemed to be more paratroopers in the battle then were guarding the bridge beforehand. Anybody notice that too?
The most famous D-Day bridge held by the Allies fell at 12:15 AM on August 6th, taken not by US paratroops, but by British glider troops. The Pegasus Bridge was taken and held until relived by Lord Lovat’s brigade coming ashore.
The purpose was to keep the Panzers from driving the invasion into the sea. If you hold the bridege and don't blow it up, then your tanks can get after them when the seaborne troops relieve your position. As I said, the German panzers were attacking the English and Canadians, not the American beaches.
Either "the war is over for you. Shhh. Rest now." Or "Soon I will be joining you. Shshh. Be Quiet." Not speaking German, I haven't been able to definitively confirm this. Sorry to be gruesome, but the German would have tried to cut Mellish’s stomach open, to ensure he was dead. A knife wound to the chest without zigzgging the thrust did not guarantee death.
This has caused more confusion than anything. No, he wasn't; The guy Upham gets released is wearing a grey Luftwaffe uniform, and the guy on the stairs is SS, with urban brick camouflage uniform. The Luftwaffe German does show up later, tho, and shoots Miller. When Upham makes him POW, he says to his comrades, "He’s only a kind man. Not a soldier. He won't shoot. Upham!" Upham then promptly shoots him and lets the others go.
Many people have commented to me on how deeply they either felt for Upham, or how much they hated him. Upham seems to bring out the crux of emotion in people. One woman at Fordham, where I attend college, said, "I'm so glad that F***KIN’ b***ard grew a backbone!" Another woman, coming out of Pvt. Ryan while I was waiting for another movie in Buffalo, NY, said "He was so scared. I was glad he didn't die." At the first screening I saw, the people around me cheered when he shot the German. I can't really comment on Upham’s behavior, since I think it was a very realistic reaction is some ways, but totally inaccurate in others. His job as ammo runner was unbelievable. His ability to survive seemed contrived. But lots of men, from Battalion COs to Privates broke, I think it needed to be addressed, even though Spielberg did it poorly. But so many people hated him for not killing, for not helping Mellish and the paratrooper upstairs, that I think that Spielberg used him very effectively for most viewers. His character seems to be a metaphor for many, many people, either positively or negatively.
As Miller is dying, he pulls his service Colt .45 and shoots the tank in frustration. Then the tank explodes. P-51 fighters fly over. Apparently they blew up the tank. This is another physics impossibility on several astral planes.
1.) These are P-51D model mustangs. On June 13 P-51s didn't have rockets for ground attack, so this guy had to drop a 500-lb. bomb from a wing rack. To put just one bomb on target, and not blow up Miller, Ryan, and the bridge, this was either the greatest pilot or the luckiest one. Ryan says "P-51s! Sir! Tankbusters!" But another American fighter, the Thunderbolt P-47, was much better at ground attack, and had rockets by June 13. P-51s did attack tanks, but it was an air-superiority fighter, and the slightest hit to its engine would drop it out of the sky.
2.) Okay, if you’ve read this far you know I'm obsessive, so I’ll go even deeper. The P-51s were wearing 78th Fighter Group markings (I think, it’s hard to tell without a still shot) Which on 13 June was still using P-47s, not P-51s.
3.) The Tiger’s frontal armor seems to take the hit, but the tank also doesn't disintegrate. A 500-lb. bomb would have left a crater, even on a giant like the Tiger I. In fact, with the weight of the tank (over 60 tons) the bomb explosion, and the other hits the bridge took, it’s pretty amazing it stood.
Hanks says "Earn this" and dies. No less than General George C. Marshall, Army Chief of Staff and Ike’s superior, writes Mrs. Ryan about her dead sons, commenting as live sons of other mothers get to the attack. Ryan then morphs into the old man from the first scene.
Does anybody else wonder about Spielberg, the man who made "Schnidler’s List" (which was good until the ending) and a Jew, making "Saving Pvt. Ryan," about destroying the hatred of the Nazis, and then Ryan’s family looks like statues from Nuremberg? Blond, Blue eyed, perfect? I thought it was surreal. This is what we were fighting for? Blue-eyed blond white children? I dunno.
Well, obviously this movie touched me very deeply, and if you’re reading this, you’re either very interested too or looking for clues to where my sanity went. I wrote this from memory while I was caring for my ailing mother, which after all, is why all of those guys died 54 years ago. So people like you and me can meticulously pick apart films and care for our loved ones.
I’d like to end by thanking my Grandfather, who almost died of malaria on Guadalcanal in November 1942. He wrote me once saying he was so sick that the orderlies, his best friends (he was a medic,) just left him alone to die in his bunk when the shelling got bad. Only by the grace of God did he get off that island, and make my beautiful mother, and she made me. And that, I think, a better way to "earn this" then any film could ever convey. "Saving Private Ryan," about a war that’s actually very different then the Pacific, fought for different reasons at the same time, made me sit in awe of my grandfather and the men who did this. I can't conceive of how they won this war in the face of so many hardships. Or even went to war at all.
25 years of studying the Second World War — Finally, I would like to thank that unnamed college professor that assigned one of my parents The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer. At about 5 or 6, I discovered that book in my parent’s library and read it. From that day one I have been trying to understand why anybody would want to make war. Or how they survived. Or even lived through it.