These are the real brothers behind 'Saving Private Ryan' - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’

The 1998 movie “Saving Private Ryan” is one of the all-time great war movies. While much of the movie is a fictional account, the premise behind Capt. Miller’s mission is based on a true story. That is the story of the Niland brothers — Edward, Preston, Robert, and Frederick — from Tonawanda, New York.


 

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’

 

The two middle brothers inspiring the “Private Ryan” film, Preston and Robert, had enlisted prior to the beginning of the War. After America entered the war the oldest, Edward, and youngest, Frederick, known as Fritz to his friends, joined up in November 1942.

Because of the tragedy of the Sullivan brothers aboard the USS Juneau earlier that year, the brothers were split up and sent to different units around the Army.

Edward became an enlisted pilot, with the rank of Technical Sergeant, of a B-25 Mitchell bomber flying in the Burma-India-China theatre.

Preston was commissioned into the infantry and assigned to Company C, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division.

Robert and Fritz both became paratroopers. Robert served with Company D, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division. Fritz joined Company H, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division.

 

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’
U.S. Army paratroopers are dropped near Grave, Netherlands while livestock graze near gliders that landed earlier. This was the beginning of Operation Market Garden during World War II, which resulted in heavy Allied losses. (Photo source unknown)

 

As fate would have it, three of the brothers found themselves preparing for the invasion of mainland Europe.

However, before the brothers could start their “Great Crusade” to liberate Europe, Edward was shot down somewhere over Burma. He was listed as Missing in Action, but this usually carried a presumption of death at the time, especially if he had fallen into the hands of the Japanese.

Then, in the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, Robert and Fritz joined over 23,000 Allied paratroopers in cracking Fortress Europe.

Although Fritz’s unit, 3rd Battalion, 501st PIR, was supposed to be the division reserve, the misdrops meant they were thrust into action in ad hoc groups. These forces were able to secure vital causeways, bridges, and locks allowing the 4th Infantry Division, and Niland brother Preston, to exit Utah beach later that day.

This wasn’t quite what happened in Private Ryan, but the movie still draws from these events.

 

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’
U.S. Soldiers of the 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, move out over the seawall on Utah Beach after coming ashore. Other troops are resting behind the concrete wall. (Army Signal Corps photo)

 

Elsewhere, Robert Niland had landed outside of Ste. Mere-Eglise with the rest of the 505th as part of Mission Boston. After the 3rd Battalion was able to capture the town early in the morning, the 2nd Battalion linked up with it to establish a defensive perimeter.

When a strong German counter-attack came from the south, Robert Niland and the rest of D Company’s 3rd platoon were left to guard the northern approaches to the town in a small village called Neuville.

When two companies of Germans came at their position, they fought tenaciously to hold them off to buy time for their comrades to the south. When the position became untenable, Robert Niland, along with two other paratroopers, volunteered to stay behind and cover the platoon’s retreat toward Ste. Mere-Eglise.

While manning a machine gun in the face of the German onslaught, Robert Niland was killed in action.

 

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’
One on the 210mm gun of the German Crisbecq Battery in Normandy, not far away from Utah Beach. (U.S. Army photo)

 

That very same morning, Lt. Preston Niland led his men onto the shores of Utah beach as part of the seaborne invasion of Normandy. Though casualties were relatively light for the men of the 4th Infantry Division on Utah beach, the battles beyond would be much tougher.

Despite having made if off the beaches, the men of the 4th Infantry Division still had numerous gun batteries of Hitler’s Atlantic Wall to clear. The task of capturing the Crisbecq battery, which had already sunk the destroyer USS Corry, fell to Lt. Niland and his men.

On June 7, Niland led his men against the German position. During the heavy fighting Niland fell mortally wounded. The rest of his unit was repulsed. The battery would not fall until several days later to units of the 9th Infantry Division.

The Niland brothers’ parents received all three notifications in a very short amount of time. Their only condolence was a letter from Fritz informing them that “Dad’s Spanish-American War stories are going to have to take a backseat when I get home.”

Fritz was unaware of the fate of his brothers. If only the brothers could have known that their story would turn into Saving Private Ryan, one of the most classic war films in history.

Also read: 10 brothers who received the Medal of Honor

When the War Department received word of the tragedy orders were dispatched to return Fritz Niland to the United States. That task fell to the regimental Chaplin, Father Francis Sampson. Sampson located Fritz, who had been searching for his brother in the 82nd and began to paperwork to send him home.

Returning to the United States in 1944, Fritz served for the remainder of the war as an MP in New York.

 

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’
The Preston and Robert Niland rest side by side in Normand American Cemetery. (Photos via Wikipedia user Nilington)

 

Then, in May 1945, the Nilands received some rather unexpected news. Edward was found alive in a Burmese POW camp when it was liberated by British forces.

He had survived bailing out of his plane, several days in the jungle, and nearly a year as a prisoner of the Japanese. During his captivity he had lost significant weight and returned to New York at a meager 80 pounds.

The other two Niland brothers, Preston and Robert, are buried side-by-side in the American cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer.

MIGHTY HISTORY

3 historic wars that are still technically alive today

International diplomacy is a sort of constantly evolving, tangled mess. So much so that, in some cases, we could technically still be at war with a country that we’re now allied with. For instance, America never ratified the treaty that ended World War I, but invading Germany to finally settle the century-old grudge match would get fairly complicated since it’s now a NATO member. Here are three wars that we never bothered to wrap up on paper (but please don’t try to go fight in them):


These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’

U.S. Army infantrymen fight during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive of World War I.

(U.S. Army)

America never agreed to the final terms of World War I

Yup, we’ll just go ahead and knock out this one that we hinted at in the intro. America signed, but never ratified, the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I.

Oddly enough, though, this wasn’t because of issues with the lay of the land in Europe as the war closed, or even land claims or military restrictions around the world. The actual issue was that American President Woodrow Wilson wanted to establish the League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations, and he used the treaty to do it.

But isolationists in Congress didn’t want America to join the league, and so they shot down all attempts to ratify the treaty at home. And America only officially adopts treaties when ratified, not signed, so America never actually agreed to the final terms of World War I.

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’

Gurkha troops march to escort Japanese prisoners of war at the end of World War II in 1945.

(Imperial War Museums)

Japan and China never made peace after World War II

There are a number of still-simmering tensions between combatants from World War II, including the Kuril Islands Dispute between Russia and Japan.

(This author even once made the error of saying that Russia and Japan were still at war, which is only sort of right. While the two countries never agreed to a treaty ending the conflict, they did agree to a Joint Declaration in 1956 that had a similar effect. Essentially, it said they couldn’t yet agree to a treaty, but they were no longer fighting the war.)

But there was an Allied country that never reached peace with Japan: China. And China arguably suffered the worst under Japanese aggression. But, because of the civil war in China at the time, there were two rival governments claiming to represent China, and no one could agree on which government to invite. So China didn’t take part in the peace process at all.

So China and Japan never technically ended their hostilities, and Japan’s almost-peace with Russia is not quite finished either.

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visits the Demilitarized Zone on the Korean Peninsula in 2015.

(Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

The Koreas are, famously, still at war.

The ongoing state of conflict on the Korean Peninsula is probably the most famous issue on this list. The Korean War sort of ended on July 27, 1953, when the United Nations and the Delegation of the Korean People’s Army and the Chinese People’s Volunteers signed the Korean Armistice Agreement which instituted a truce between North and South Korea.

But, importantly, no national government agreed to the armistice or the truce. The militaries involved essentially agreed to stop killing each other, but the larger governments never came together to hash out the real peace. And this is a problem since the two countries have a much more tense relationship than any other group on this list.

America and Germany are not suddenly going to revert back to 1918 and start killing each other again. But South and North Koreans at the border still sometimes shoot at one another, and people have died in border clashes.

MIGHTY MOVIES

The world’s most iconic infantry clerk is dead at 91

Hugh Hefner, the iconic founder, Editor-in-Chief, and Chief Creative Officer of Playboy — and one time U.S. Army veteran — is dead at 91.


His military service is a testament to the mentality of vets from the Greatest Generation. Despite an IQ 0f 152, he still opted to join the U.S. Army right out of high school in 1944, a time when victory in Europe wasn’t necessarily assured.

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’
Basic Trainee Hugh Hefner. That sounds really weird to say aloud.

But Hef never made it to Europe. Instead, he was an infantry clerk stationed in Oregon and then Virginia. While he did learn the basics of using the M1 Garand and tossing grenades, he never had to do it on the battlefield. He spent the war drawing cartoons for Army-run newspapers.

He left the military in 1946, honorably discharged and destined for greater things — notably supplying reading material for U.S. troops (and everyone else) for every American war since 1953.

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’
Veteran, then ship’s captain. Any ship.

“I came out [of the Army] like a lot of other fellas believing that somehow we had, we had fought in a war, the last really moral war and that we would celebrate that in some form,” Hefner once said in an interview. “I expected something comparable [to the Jazz Age] after world war two and we didn’t get that, all we got was a lot of conformity and conservatism.”

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’
Luckily Hef could spare Playboy bunny Jo Collins for the the 173rd Airborne in Vietnam, 1966.

Hefner left the Army to encounter the Cold War as a civilian and he didn’t like what it was doing to American society. He blamed things like Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee as a sign of repression in the U.S.

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’
A soldier in Vietnam reads Playboy in the late 1960s.

“When I was in college at the university of Illinois the skirt lengths dropped instead of going up as they had during the roaring twenties and I knew that was a very bad sign,” Hefner said. “It is symbolic and reflective of a very repressive time.”

In Hef’s mind, sexual repression and dictatorship went hand-in-hand, and he opted to do his part. His work helped fuel the sexual revolution of the 1960s — and fight an element of feminism he sees as a “puritan,” “prohibitionist,” and “anti-sexual.” Hefner funded challenges to state regulations that outlawed birth control and he sponsored the court case that would become Roe v. Wade.

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’
A sailor reading Playboy in the 1950s.

“One of the great ironies in our society is that we celebrate freedom and then limit the parts of life where we should be most free,” he told Esquire in 2015.

In that same Esquire interview — at age 76 — he said of his death: “My house is pretty much in order. When it comes, it comes.” But he also said, “I wake up every day and go to bed every night knowing I’m the luckiest guy on the fucking planet.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

George Washington was nearly impossible to kill

Despite having two horses shot out from under him, history would have been much different if George Washington was born a 90-pound weakling. As it was, he was an abnormally large man, especially for the American Colonies. At 6’2″ and weighing more than 200 pounds, he was literally and figuratively a giant of a man. This might be why nine diseases, Indian snipers, and British cannon shot all failed to take the big man down.


It’s not just that the man was fearless in battle (even though he really was). Washington suffered from a number of otherwise debilitating, painful ailments and diseases throughout his life that would have taken a lesser man down — but not the man who founded the most powerful country ever to grace the Earth.

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’

“Let them take cover in the woods! We’ll fight the indians in straight lines, in tight formations. That’ll show them who’s boss.” It didn’t show them who’s boss.

He should have died at the Battle of the Monongahela

Near what we today call Pittsburgh,a British force under General Edward Braddock was soundly defeated by a force of French Canadians and Indians during the French and Indian War. Braddock died of wounds sustained in the fighting, but Washington survived despite having two horses shot out from under him. When all was said and done, he also found four musket-ball holes in his coat.

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’

“C’mon guys… let’s make this quick. Suuuuuper quick.”

He had dysentery the whole time

During much of the French and Indian War, Washington reported bouts of dysentery, an infection that causes (among other things) persistent diarrhea. He suffered from this while dodging bullets at the Monongahela River. The discomfort from it actually made him sit taller on his horse.

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’

“This is way easier when you don’t have dysentery!”

He trotted 30 yards from enemy lines

During the 1777 Battle of Princeton, Washington rode on his horse as bullets fired from British rifles 30 yards away whizzed around him. When troops worried about their leader getting shot, he simply said, “parade with me my fine fellows, we will have them soon!”

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’

America would get two more epic swings at German troops.

Trenton was cold as hell.

Crossing the Delaware was actually much more dangerous than the stories would have you believe. Giant chunks of ice were in the dark water that night and each threatened to overturn the longboats. Washington set out with three boats to make the crossing, and only his made it. Falling into the water likely meant a slow, freezing death for any Continental, even if they managed to get out of it.

Two Continental soldiers who survived the crossing stopped to rest by the side of the road and were frozen by morning.

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’

Paintings: the Presidential Snapchat filter.

He had six of the most lethal diseases of his time.

Normally, if you’re reading about someone in the 1700s contracting tuberculosis, dysentery, pneumonia, malaria, smallpox, or diphtheria, it’s because that’s how they died. Not only did Washington survive all of these conditions, he knew how to inoculate his army against smallpox, claiming the British tried using as an early form of biological warfare. It was the first mass military inoculation in history — and it worked.

In the end, Washington was felled by what modern doctors think was a case of epiglottitis, an acute bacterial inflammation of the little flap at the base of the tongue that covers the trachea.

Like the Rebel Alliance finding an exhaust port in the Death Star plans, life found a way to take down one of history’s greatest. It took 67 years and whole lot of trial and error.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Viking raiders gave each other these hilarious nicknames

At some point in our military life, most of us pick up a nickname. Most of the time, that nickname is hilarious…to everyone else. How we came by it is a story for the ages. But that seems to be the way it’s been in any armed force for a long time.


After Vikings raiding villages during the Middle Ages, they would then write their exploits in great sagas that detailed their deeds and combat adventures.

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’
So hard to relate to.

But the problem with that was they didn’t have name tapes on their raiding gear. And if they did, a LOT of them would read “OLAF.” How do you tell the story of what two (or more) Olafs did on a single Viking raid, when none of them have last names?

Nicknames, of course.

People of all times and periods of history have used nicknames, says Paul Peterson,  a who wrote his University of Minnesota doctoral dissertation on Norse nicknames. Even he wrote that the names Norse men had to choose from was small so nicknames became necessary.

Like military nicknames and callsigns, they came from stories of the person in real life or descriptions of the Viking in question – like “Hálfdan the Generous and the Stingy with Food.”

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’
I found my new nickname.

But they are a critical piece to the warrior’s story and even influence the plot. For example, “Ǫlvir the Friend of Children” earned his nickname because he wouldn’t catch children on spears, which was a custom of the time.  That could be a critical piece of literary characterization.

Times have definitely changed since “Þórir Leather Neck” earned his nickname. Today, Marines wear that title with pride, but Þórir was being made fun of for the goofy cowhide armor he tried to make.

And then there are the less family-friendly nicknames.

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’

Like you and your buddy who nicknamed someone “Fartbox” and made it stick, the Vikings of yesteryear were no more mature. Nicknames included Kolbeinn Butter Penis, Herjólfr Shriveled Testicle, Skagi the Ruler of Sh*t, and Hlif the Castrator of Horses.

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’
Dammit, Hlif.

And then there were the badass nicknames like Ásgeirr the Terror of the Norwegians, Þorfinnr the Splitter of Skulls, and Tjǫrvi the Ridiculer.

The Medievalists tells us that the best source for Viking nicknames comes from the saga that details the colonization of Iceland in the 9th and 10th Centuries.

MIGHTY MOVIES

The 5 best military movies of the 1980s to watch while you’re stuck at home

Recently, we delved into the 5 best military movies of the 1990s, so it only seemed right that we give the 1980’s the same treatment, especially now that most of us are stuck in our houses without much else to do than take a trip down cinema’s memory lane.

Whenever you’re compiling a list of movies like this, it’s inevitable that you’ll miss some really good picks. In a decade like the 1980s, when there was a laundry list of great films depicting military service or a time of war, the chances that you’ll miss a doozy becomes that much more significant. After all, how do you choose between Clint Eastwood’s “Heartbreak Ridge,” and Robin Williams’ “Good Morning Vietnam?” Easy, I didn’t include either — and I’m sure that’ll ruffle some feathers.


That’s what’s so great about film and analyzing its value or impact. A movie that means the world to you may not have had any impact at all on the next guy. It’s value to you isn’t diminished by his opinion and it doesn’t have to be. Everybody can have their own favorites.

So with the understanding that this list won’t be exhaustive and will probably make some folks mad — here’s my list of the best military movies of the 1980s.

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’

(Tristar Pictures)

Iron Eagle

Right out of the gate, including this movie on the list requires a disclaimer: In order to be a good military movie, you don’t need to be realistic. “Iron Eagle” is a lot of things, but realistic isn’t one of them.

For those who haven’t seen it, “Iron Eagle” is the story of a young man named Doug Masters who aspires to be a pilot like his father, U.S. Air Force fighter pilot Col. Ted Masters. When Col. Masters is shot down over the fictional Arab nation of Bilya, Doug enlists the help of another fighter pilot, Colonel “Chappy” Sinclair. The two hatch a scheme to steal two F-16 Fighting Falcons and somehow fly them all the way to the Middle East, take on an entire Air Force, land on an enemy airstrip, and fly Doug’s dad home.

This movie is about as realistic as my chances of being elected president in 2020, but that doesn’t matter. This silly romp is a blast to watch, especially if you enjoy ironically watching ridiculous movies.

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’

(MGM)

Red Dawn

While it maybe a bit slow paced compared to high budget action movies of today, “Red Dawn” earns its spot on this list thanks to solid acting from its young cast (some of whom went on to successful careers in Hollywood) and its semi-serious approach to depicting an America that’s not only at war… but losing it.

“Red Dawn” can certainly be categorized as pro-American propaganda, but if you ask me, that just makes it all the more fun. Despite the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia remains one of America’s primary diplomatic opponents on the world’s stage, making it that much easier to revel in the Wolverine’s efforts to take back their town from the combined Cuban and Soviet occupational forces.

If you can watch this movie and not scream “Wolverines” at the top of your lungs, you’re a better movie-goer than I am.

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’

(20th Century Fox)

Predator

What do you get when you take two future governors, a Hollywood script writer, and Apollo Creed and stick them in the jungle with a bunch of guns? You get what is perhaps the greatest piece of action satire of all time.

You might be surprised to hear me refer to “Predator” as a satire film, but when you take a step back and really look at the framework of this movie, you’ll realize that it is a pretty clever deconstruction of the big-budget action movies of the 80’s. It’s got all the same ingredients of an 80’s thrill ride, but delivered in a way that takes the wind right out our action hero’s sails. After using traditional action movie tactics to easily wipe out a village of bad guys, Dutch’s vaguely special operations crew are then faced with a far worthier opponent: a monster that doesn’t yield to the tropes of action movie heroes.

What follows is a rapid transition from action movie to slasher flick, and a movie that doesn’t just hold up over time, but offers an insightful critique of movie culture in general.

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’

(Paramount Pictures)

Top Gun

While “Top Gun” may take the number two spot on this list, it’s ranked number one in terms of recruiting. “Top Gun” offered many Americans their first glimpse into the world of Naval aviation, and in particular, the Navy’s very real Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor Program.

With a long awaited sequel slated to drop later this year, Top Gun’s appeal clearly stands the test of time, even if Maverick is admittedly a pretty bad pilot that has no place in the cockpit of an F-14 Tomcat. This movie led to a boon in Navy recruiting, with some recruiters setting up tables right outside cinema doors to engage with excited young aspiring pilots while their blood pressure was still high.

Once again, “Top Gun” proved that you don’t have to be realistic to be great. Here’s hoping the new one can do the same.

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’

(20th Century Fox)

Aliens

After the massive hit that was “Alien,” the much anticipated sequel somehow managed to add a platoon of Space Marines and still retain the chilling vibe the “Alien” universe is known for. Now, this movie may not take place in a fictional Arab nation or involve existing military branches, but who doesn’t love a story about Space Marines fighting alien monsters?

This movie might be the least “military” of the lot, but it’s also the most fun to re-watch again and again, which earns it a whole lot of extra credit in my book. For Marines like me, we may not want to associate with the cowardly yelps of Bill Paxton’s Pvt. Hudson, but let’s all be honest with ourselves… a few yelps are warranted when you’re being hunted by a slimy space monster with acid for blood.

That does it for my list of the best military movies of the 1980s, so the question is: what’s on your list?

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

Articles

Here’s what inspired the invention of the machine gun

After creating successful inventions like the mouse trap and the curling iron, inventor Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim would construct a device so lethal, every country couldn’t wait to get their hands on it.


In 1883, Maxim was enjoying an afternoon of shooting his rifle with his friends in Savannah, Georgia, when an idea literally hit him. As Maxim was firing, the recoil was continuously jabbing into his shoulder causing him discomfort and fatigue.

Then it suddenly occurred to him, use one problem to fix the another.

Related: 5 countries that tried to shoot down the SR-71 Blackbird (and failed)

Maxim went to his workshop and drew up plans that would allow the force of the rifle’s recoil to reload the weapon automatically. He discovered that when the round his fired, the bolt can be pushed backward by the recoil. When the barrel is then pushed forward by a spring, it will discharge the spent shell and chambering another round without assistance.

Thus the Maxim machine gun was born.

With his latest creation in hand, Maxim found himself in the machine gun business and on his way to London to released his newest invention.

After his arrival and a few widespread publicity stunts, his machine gun made a serious impact around the world with countries preparing to enter World War I.

Although many men were training with bolt action rifles and fixed bayonets, those who were in the company of the Maxim machine gun without a doubt had the upper hand.

Also Read: This Air Force jet landed itself after the pilot ejected

Check out the Largest Dams‘ video below to see how the machine gun changed ground warfare forever.

(Largest Dams, YouTube)
Articles

The ‘Chosin Few’ gather to dedicate a monument to Korean War battle

It’s a measure of the men who are the “Chosin Few” that they all stood when the Marine Corps color guard trooped in with the American flag.


Now all well into their 80’s, as young Marines and soldiers they fought in one of the toughest and most iconic battles in American history — the Chosin Reservoir Battle in North Korea in 1950.

There was a row of wheelchairs and walkers for these men as they gathered to dedicate the Chosin Few Battle Monument in the new Medal of Honor Theater in the National Museum of the Marine Corps. Yet, when the flag trooped in, they struggled out of their chairs and steadied themselves on their walkers in respect to the flag. Not one remained seated.

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford speaks to South Korean media before the dedication of the Chosin Few Battle Monument at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Va., May 4, 2017. (DoD photo by Jim Garamone)

‘The Toughest Terrain’

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke of that dedication in his remarks. Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford knows the story of the battle, as all Marines do. The 1st Marine Division, two battalions of the Army’s 31st Infantry Regiment and British Royal Marines from 41 (Independent) Commando were attacking north, chasing a defeated North Korean Army up to the Yalu River, when an estimated 120,000 Chinese Communist troops attacked and surrounded the force around the Chosin Reservoir.

Also read: These 7 Korean War atrocities show how brutal the fighting really was

It was a battle “fought over the toughest terrain and under the harshest weather conditions imaginable,” Dunford said, and Marines since that time have been living up to the example the Chosin Few set in 1950.

“It is no exaggeration to say that I am a United States Marine because of the Marines who served at Chosin,” Dunford said. “In all sincerity, any success I have had as a Marine has been as a result of attempting to follow in their very large footsteps.”

One set of footprints belonged to Joseph F. Dunford, Sr. who celebrated his 20th birthday while carrying a Browning Automatic Rifle with the Baker Bandits of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines in the ridges over the reservoir Nov. 27, 1950.

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’
This blown bridge at Funchilin Pass blocked the only way out for U.S. and British forces withdrawing from the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea during the Korean War. Air Force C-119 Flying Boxcars dropped portable bridge sections to span the chasm in December 1950, allowing men and equipment to reach safety. (U.S. Air Force photo)

“He spent the night in close combat as three regiments of the Chinese 79th Division attempted to annihilate the 5th and 7th Marines,” the general said.

Growing up, Dunford’s father never discussed how he spent his 20th birthday. “He never spoke of the horrors of close combat or the frostbite that he and many Marines suffered on their march to the sea,” he said. “I was in the Marine Corps for seven years before we had a serious conversation about his experiences in the Korean War.”

The Legacy of Chosin

Still, even as a youngster, the general knew what pride his father felt in being a Marine and a member of the Chosin Few and vowed to join the force. “I am still trying to get over the bar that he set many, many years ago,” Dunford said.

So, his father was his reason for joining the Marine Corps, but it was another Chosin veteran that was responsible for him making the Corps a career.

Also read: 14 amazing yet little-known facts about the Korean War

Dunford served as the aide to Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Stephen Olmstead on Okinawa, Japan, in the early 1980s. Olmstead was a private first class rifleman at Chosin in G Company 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines. “I would say that to a young lieutenant, there was something very different about General Olmstead — his character, his sense of calm, a father’s concern for his Marines, a focus on assuring they were well-trained, well-led, and ready for combat. He knew what they might have to experience.”

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’
Marines at Hagaru perimeter watch Corsairs drop napalm on Chinese as Item Company 31/7 moves around high ground at left to attack enemy position. (Photo: US Marine Corps)

Olmstead’s example was a powerful one for young Lieutenant Dunford, and he started to think about making the Marine Corps a career. “I wanted to serve long enough to be a leader with the competence, compassion, and influence of General Olmstead,” he said.

The Chosin Few have this effect on the Marine Corps as a whole, Dunford said. Their real legacy is an example of valor, self-sacrifice, and camaraderie that units hand down as part of their DNA, he said.

The battle was a costly one, with U.S. forces suffering more than 12,000 casualties — including more than 3,000 killed in action. The nation awarded 17 Medals of Honor, 64 Navy Crosses, and 14 Distinguished Service Crosses to Marines and soldiers for heroism in that battle. 41 Commando received the same Presidential Unit Citation as the Marines of the 1st Marine Division.

Young Marines all learn about the battle, from recruits in boot camp to those striving to be officers at Quantico.

Now they have a monument to visit.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What the crew of this German warship did after 9/11 will give you chills

The immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States left the country in great fear and sorrow. The surprise of such an offensive onslaught and the immense loss of civilian life shook America to its core, as well as its allies and military partners in North America and abroad.


America, however, was never alone in its time of need, and numerous heartwarming displays of support from foreign countries made American citizens and members of the military well aware of that.

One such display came from the Bundesmarine – the German navy – days after the attacks.

Ensign Megan Hallinan recounted the incident while serving aboard the USS Winston Churchill (DDG-81), an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, in a now-famous email to her father.

At the time of the attacks, the Churchill was the US Navy’s newest destroyer, having just been commissioned into service in May of 2001. On a visit to England for the 2001 International Festival of the Sea, the Churchill made a port call in Plymouth, along with the USS Gonzalez — another Arleigh Burke warship — and the German naval vessel Lutjens, a former West German navy destroyer.

Royal Navy personnel and crews from all three vessels were involved in friendly activities, from exploring Plymouth together while on liberty to playing sports and cookouts. Following the attacks, the Churchill and Gonzalez put out to sea again with their crews on high alert.

Lutjens was recalled as well, steaming out of Portsmouth just around the same time its American counterparts were underway.

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The guided-missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill on patrol in the Persian Gulf (Photo US Navy)

According to Hallinan, the Churchill constantly maintained high alert levels, conducting drills to keep the crew sharp and ready for action should the need arise. Among the drills planned was a man-overboard exercise which would test and train the crew on its ability to respond quickly and effectively to rescue or recover any shipmates who might fall overboard.

The drill was delayed when the Lutjens, transiting nearby, hailed the Churchill and made a special request. Its crew wished to pass the American destroyer on its port (left) side to bid its US Navy partners farewell. The commanding officer of the Churchill readily agreed to the maneuver.

As is tradition, the Churchill’s crew began manning its rails and the port bridge wing to wish its foreign comrades well on their voyage home. As the Lutjens pulled in closer, a unique sight met the eyes of the sailors aboard the American vessel.

The Star Spangled Banner was flying with the German flag at half-mast on the Lutjens, its crew manning their ship’s rails in their blue dress uniforms. As both vessels steamed alongside each other with sailors from both navies rendering honors with crisp salutes, a banner came into view on the German warship.

Its message was simple, but spoke to the hearts of each and every American on the Churchill that day.

“We Stand by You.”

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German destroyer Lutjens alongside the USS Winston Churchill with the banner flying on its starboard side (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

As Hallinan recalls in her email, many sailors on the Churchill fought to retain their composure, especially given the horror of the events which had befallen their countrymen and women. The Churchill would go on to support the Global War on Terrorism with numerous deployments overseas, along with the Gonzalez.

The actions of the Lutjens crew will forever be remembered by the crew aboard the Churchill that dark day in September, as well as the rest of the U.S. Navy, grateful for the unwavering support from its allies following 9/11.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The insanely lucky sub that changed naval warfare in one fight

U-boats were still in their infancy in 1914, and most naval officers looked down on the fleet. At best, they were considered defensive weapons that could help hold an enemy fleet away from the coasts. But then, on Sept. 22, 1914, a German U-boat saw a cluster of three British warships and managed to sink them all in under 90 minutes without suffering damage.


The September engagement took place while the war was less than two months old. The three British cruisers were old and considered unreliable. They were so fragile, in fact, that many naval leaders had argued they shouldn’t be assigned to the North Sea at all, but they were overruled. The three vessels and their escorts became known as the “Livebait Squadron.”

Despite the ships’ flaws, though, the crews did know how to mitigate their risk of submarine attack, mostly through zigzagging and posting lookouts to watch for periscopes or surfaced vessels, but they didn’t take those precautions.

The seas were rough, too rough for their destroyer escort, and so the British officers assumed they were too rough for submarines. This wasn’t entirely off base. Submarines rode close to the surface or even above it most of the time, and the water tossed around the boats quite easily. America’s future Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz, who spent a lot of time on submarines early in his career, would complain about how badly the boats were battered by the waves.

But for the crew members of the German boat U-9, it was just a cross they had to bear. It wasn’t like they could slip back to Germany every time the waves got bad. So, on September 22, they were still in their assigned zone, riding close to the surface and sucking up any pain, when the Livebait Squadron came into view.

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A painting depicts the HMS Aboukir sinking after being hit by the U-9 in 1914. The other two ships would sink within an hour.

(National Museum of the U.S. Navy)

And when they spotted the three British cruisers, none of them zigzagging to make their shot harder, they decided to go ahead and rob the Royal Navy of one of those big, important ships. The captain, Kapitänleutnan Otto Weddigen, ordered two torpedoes fired at the lead vessel, the HMS Aboukir.

One of them struck home, setting off a massive explosion that unquestionably doomed the ship. But no one had spotted the tell-tale stream of bubbles from the torpedo as it had raced to the ship in the rough seas, and so the ship’s captain just assumed he had hit a mine. He signaled to the other ships for assistance.

On the German U-boat, it must have looked like a gift from heaven. If the cruisers had realized they were under attack and set up to sink the U-boat, then the U-9 would have had to choose between bailing on the fight, diving for a few minutes or hours, and risk sinking in the engagement. But since the cruisers just lowered their lifeboats and didn’t prepare for combat, the U-9 could take another consequence-free swing at Livebait.

Weddigen fired next at the HMS Hogue, dooming that ship as well. By this point, the remaining ship, HMS Cressy understood it was under attack and deployed torpedo defense batteries and began to sail in a zigzag pattern, but it stayed in the area to try and rescue more sailors. This was a mistake.

At 7:20 and then 7:30, Weddigen fired torpedoes that sank it, and then watched it drop beneath the waves. Low on ammo and already successful beyond his wildest dreams, Weddigen turned for home.

On the surface, Dutch and English ships raced to save all the sailors they could, including 15-year-old Kit Wykeham-Musgrave of the HMS Aboukir. He had barely survived the suction of the first ship sinking, had been rescued by the crew of the Hogue and made it onboard right before that ship was sank, and then climbed onto the Cressy only to have it shot out from under him as well.

Almost 1,400 enlisted men and 62 officers would not be so lucky, drowning in the rough and cold water of the North Sea instead.

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The HMS Aboukir sinks after being hit by the German submarine U-9.

(Public domain)

The German sailors were greeted as heroes in their home port. The entire crew received Iron Crosses Second Class, and the captain was awarded that medal as well as the Iron Cross First Class. But in Britain, the people were furious and demanded that senior Navy leadership be held accountable.

For Weddigen, the success would be sweet. He received his medals from the Kaiser personally and wrote a memoir titled The First Submarine Blow is Struck. (His success on September 22, while revolutionary, was not actually the first “submarine blow” as both the German and British navies had already each lost a cruiser to the other side’s submarines.)

But he would not long enjoy his fame. While the U-9 would rack up 18 kills before retiring in 1916, Weddigen was soon re-assigned to U-boat 29. While attacking British ships in March 1915, the boat was spotted by the famous British battleship HMS Dreadnought which proceeded to ram and sink the German submarine, killing Weddigen.

(A final admin note: Weddigen claims in his memoirs to have fired only four torpedoes that day: one at the Aboukir, one at the Hogue, and two at the Cressy, all of which hit. This might have been true, but his memoirs reek of propaganda and were written in the late months of 1914 when his fame was peaking. Naval historians think it is more likely that he fired six and had four hits.)

MIGHTY HISTORY

How a day in the life of George Washington went

George Washington is widely regarded as the father of the United States.

It’s not surprising why. Not only did the general-turned-president ensure the survival of the Continental Army during the American Revolution, he also laid down a number of massively important precedents in his two terms as US president.

So how did he spend his days? Well, that likely varied a bit when he was commanding his army from 1775 to 1783. And, as it turns out, we know a bit more about the breakdown of his daily schedule when he resided at Mount Vernon, his estate on the banks of the Potomac River.

Here’s a breakdown of how a day in the life of George Washington unfolded at Mount Vernon:



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In a letter to his grandson, Washington acknowledged that an early wake-up could be “irksome.”

Source: “George Washington: The Man of the Age

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(Virginia State Parks / Flickr)

Still, he added that “… the practice will produce a rich harvest forever thereafter.”

Source: “George Washington: The Man of the Age

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(Meryl / Flickr)

Washington himself awoke early, frequently rising at dawn. He would start off his day with a meal of three small cornmeal cakes and three cups of tea, without cream.

Source: “George Washington’s Leadership Lessons: What the Father of Our Country Can Teach Us About Effective Leadership and Character

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He would also bathe, shave, and have his hair brushed by Will Lee, his enslaved valet. When Washington died in 1799, the enslaved population of Mount Vernon was 317.

Source: Mount Vernon, “George Washington: First in War, First in Peace

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Washington would then saddle up and ride around his 8,000-acre estate on horseback.

Source: Mount Vernon

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(Ben Clark / flickr)

He would return home around 7 a.m. to eat breakfast with his family and any guests who had stopped by the estate.

Source: Mount Vernon, “George Washington: First in War, First in Peace

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According to historian James A. Crutchfield, the Washingtons entertained hundreds of visitors every year.

Source: “George Washington: First in War, First in Peace,” “George Washington’s Leadership Lessons: What the Father of Our Country Can Teach Us About Effective Leadership and Character

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Washington would also spend time in the morning catching up reading newspapers and magazines.

Source: Mount Vernon, “George Washington: The Man of the Age

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Washington wasn’t a big eater, although he did enjoy a glass of Madeira wine with dinner. After his main meal of the day, he would continue riding around his estate.

Source: Moland House Historic Park, Mount Vernon, “George Washington: The Man of the Age

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At Mount Vernon, dinner took place at 2 p.m. The first president would prepare for the dinner by changing and powdering his hair.

Source: Mount Vernon

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Topics of conversation typically focused on agriculture, as well as current events. As an afternoon snack, he would indulge in a glass of punch, a draught of beer, and two cups of tea.

Source: “George Washington: First in War, First in Peace,” Mount Vernon

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(Photo by Jeff Nelson)

He spent at least part of his day writing. According to Crutchfield, he was a prolific writer, authoring 20,000 letters.

Source: “George Washington: First in War, First in Peace,” Moland House Historic Park

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(Mariya Prokopyuk / Flickr)

According to historian John P. Kaminski, Washington would have tea with guests at 7 p.m.

Source: “George Washington: The Man of the Age

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During the Revolutionary War, Washington’s habits understandably varied a bit. If he had a free moment in the evening, he would relax with his aides, drinking Madeira wine and snacking on nuts, cheese, and bread.

Source: Moland House Historic Park

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Benjamin Franklin

Dubious signs boasting that “George Washington slept here” have long been a common occurrence at historical buildings throughout the East Coast. But when it came to the man’s sleeping habits, he seemed to adhere to the “early to bed, early to rise” advice of his fellow Founding Father Benjamin Franklin.

Source: Smithsonian, The New York Times

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(Photo by Kai Schreiber)

Washington preferred not to idle away the evening with his guests. And 9 p.m., he would retire to bed, and “read and write until the candle burned low.”

Source: “George Washington: The Man of the Age

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why you don’t hear about the German Navy on D-Day

Think of D-Day. What do you see? Probably the U.S. Navy pounding the shores with artillery as Army soldiers landed in boats driven by Coast Guardsmen as German soldiers rained artillery and machine gun fire while Luftwaffe pilots bombed and strafed the landing zones.

Notably absent: The German Navy. You almost certainly have no idea what the German Navy was doing during the invasion, and that’s because they weren’t doing much.


D-Day: Where was the Kriegsmarine? – Normandy Landings (Neptune / Overlord)

www.youtube.com

The problems for the Kriegsmarine dated to well before the war. In fact, a lot of it dates back to the formation of the Earth as well as the last few mass extinctions. Germany doesn’t have a lot of natural resources, especially the ones necessary for large ship construction.

Germany had the iron, but most of its coal is low-quality brown coal, and their oil and natural gas reserves are very limited. Worse, they have very limited port access, so what ships they do have can be fairly easily contained with a blockade. Because of these strategic and industrial limitations, Germany has historically maintained a navy smaller and weaker than its rivals. Germany’s navy was so weak in World War II that they even pressed a sailing ship into active service.

But Germany did have a navy in World War II, and its U-boats were small but lethal, so they still should’ve had an impact at D-Day, right?

Well, they could have, but there were more issues. Britain and the U.S. had gone all out to convince German high command that D-Day at Normandy was a feint, creating an entire fake army helmed by Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. that would supposedly land later at a deepwater port on the French coast.

So, many of Germany’s D-Day decisions were made with the belief that a second, larger invasion could be coming somewhere else. And they didn’t want to risk their minuscule naval forces on what could be an Allied feint. Worse, the Allies had learned about how to kill U-boats on the surface in the Atlantic. So, any underwater boats actually deployed would be extremely vulnerable.

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All these ships, none of them German.

(U.S. Army)

So, the submarines couldn’t deploy in broad daylight as D-Day got underway, knowing that any subs spotted leaving the safety of the harbor would be quickly hunted down and killed. One group of three torpedo ships did risk Allied wrath by slipping out to attack at Sword beach, successfully sinking a Norwegian destroyer.

That night, U-boats attempted to slip out and disturb the ongoing landings at Normandy, but they were quickly repulsed with two sunk and four heavily damaged. The Allies had sub-hunting planes that could detect German subs on the surface with radar, even in the middle of a dark night.

So, only U-boats with snorkels — those that didn’t need to surface — were viable. And Germany only had 14 left within range of the beaches. That’s partially because D-Day came in 1944, 13 months after the U.S. and Britain had savaged the German vessels in Black May.

So, for weeks, German U-boats were pinned in, and most of the German Navy was similarly limited. Eventually, they broke out and were able to inflict losses on Allied landing and logistics forces. But only eight Allied ships were lost to U-boats off the coast of Normandy at the cost of 20 German U-boats.

The surface story was similar. The Kriegsmarine was simply too small and too underpowered to take on the Allied fleet, and so it was doomed to failure.

Not that it was a bad thing since, you know, they were trying to stop the invading force that would later liberate the concentration camps.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Our highest honor: Top medals from countries around the world

From simple stars to elaborate medallions, here are 12 of the world’s ultimate civilian awards in all of their splendor.


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Kazakhstan’s Order of the Golden Eagle

The medal shimmers with gold, diamonds, and rubies.

The award has been given to more than a dozen foreigners, but only two Kazakh citizens have received it: Nursultan Nazarbaev and Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev, the only two presidents of Kazakhstan.

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Order of the Star of Romania

The medal comes with the unusual reward of a free burial site and a military salute when the recipient dies.

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Hero of Ukraine

In 2017, Belarusian Mikhail Zhyzneuski posthumously became the first foreigner awarded the title. Zhyzneuski was shot dead in 2014 during the Euromaidan protests. Many countries’ medals come with miniature versions of the honor (seen here on the right) that can be pinned to clothing.

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The United States’ Presidential Medal of Freedom

The medal rewards Americans, and occasionally non-Americans, for “exceptional contributions to the security or national interests of America, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

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Hero of the Russian Federation

This award is usually bestowed for “heroic feats of valor.” Two recent recipients were the Ural Airlines pilots who in 2019 guided their seagull-stricken passenger aircraft into a cornfield. There were no fatalities or serious injuries among the 233 people aboard.

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Japan’s Order of the Rising Sun

The handmade medal represents a dawn sun made from a polished garnet stone surrounded by a star made of gold and enamel which is suspended from the leaf of a Paulownia tree.

Order of New Zealand

The number of ordinary awardees is limited to 20 living people. After a holder of the medal dies, the badge must be handed in and it is then “passed to another appointee to the order.”

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The United Kingdom’s George Cross

Among the hundreds of recipients of this award “for acts of the greatest heroism,” perhaps the most unusual is the island of Malta, which was awarded the cross in 1942 for “heroism and devotion” during the Nazi/Italian siege of the British colony in World War II. The cross was later incorporated into the top left corner of independent Malta’s flag.

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Order of Pakistan

This award is usually announced each year on August 14, Pakistan’s Independence Day. The latest recipient of the award was St. Lucian cricketer Darren Sammy for his “invaluable contribution to Pakistani cricket.”

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Bulgaria’s Stara Planina

The spiky medal was previously reserved for foreign dignitaries but is now also awarded to Bulgarians who have given “outstanding services” to their country.

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Jewel of India

The platinum-rimmed medal is in the shape of a leaf from the Bodhi tree — the same type Buddha is said to have achieved enlightenment under. The Hindi script says “Bharat Ratna” (Jewel of India). A maximum of three people receive the award each year.

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Albania’s Honor of the Nation

This medal is awarded by Albania’s president to Albanians or foreign nationals “as a token of gratitude and recognition for those who by their acts and good name contribute to honoring the Albanian nation.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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