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

The time Colonel Sanders shot a man in a gunfight over a sign

The world of American small business was a very different place a hundred years ago. Business in America has always been a sort of fight to the death, but in the days before we were all connected by things like the internet, television and the rule of law, things could go south in a hurry.

That fact is especially true in the South, which has always moved at its own pace. Back in the 1920s, taking a guy to court to stop painting over your business’ sign wasn’t the easiest way to get things done. Shooting him wasn’t either, but that’s what happened to Harland Sanders. 

Kentucky Colonel Sanders in the 1970s, in character
Kentucky Colonel Harland Sanders in the 1970s, in character. (Dan Linsay, Wikipedia)

Everyone’s favorite chicken mascot used to be a real guy and yes, he did served in the U.S. military — only he wasn’t a colonel. He was an enlisted teamster who lied about his age to join at 16. After a year in Cuba, he returned home and was discharged. 

Like many veterans, he bounced around from job to job before finding his true calling: entrepreneur. He opened a Shell station in North Corbin, Kentucky. This is where he first started serving food to hungry travelers and locals. But he found competition in the oil business could be a little bit aggressive. 

A competing gas station owner named Matt Stewart ran the local Standard Oil station in North Corbin. As a business tactic, he would paint over Sanders’ Shell Oil sign that told motorists where to find the station. He repeatedly warned Stewart to stop, until one day Sanders caught his competition in the act. 

Maybe you’ve heard about the hot tempers of old time Southerners. Harland Sanders was no different. He threatened to shoot Corbin for painting over the sign, which is a nicer way to say what Sanders actually said, which was that he would “blow [his] g-d head off.” 

But when Sanders approached Stewart that day accompanied by two Shell Oil managers, it was Stewart who opened fire on Sanders. Stewart killed one of the managers, while Sanders retrieved the dead man’s gun. Sanders and the remaining manager returned fire, wounding Stewart. 

When the dust settled, Stewart would survive getting shot by Sanders, but he was on his way to prison for murder. Sanders, acting in self-defense, was not charged. With his competition eliminated, Sanders’ business thrived. He was able to pursue his true passion, the one that would soon involve 11 herbs and spices. 

He became a Kentucky Colonel by Gov. Ruby Laffoon in 1935 for founding the restaurant next to his gas station. His colonelship was later reaffirmed in 1949. In the 1950s, he was able to found and grow Kentucky Fried Chicken, his claim to fame. The days of shootouts with the competition long behind him.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’

It’s African-American History Month and a fitting time to recall the black soldiers of the New York National Guard’s 15th Infantry Regiment, who never got a parade when they left for World War I in 1917.

There were New York City parades for the Guardsmen of the 27th Division and the 42nd Division and the draftee soldiers of the 77th Division.


But when the commander of the 15th Infantry asked to march with the 42nd — nicknamed the Rainbow Division — he was reportedly told that “black is not a color of the rainbow” as part of the no.

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’

Children wait to cheer the Soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment as they parade up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919, during a parade held to welcome the New York National Guard unit home. More than 2,000 Soldiers took part in the parade up Fifth Avenue. The Soldiers marched seven miles from downtown Manhattan to Harlem.

(National Archives)

But on Feb. 17, 1919, when those 2,900 soldiers came home as the “Harlem Hell Fighters” of the 369th Infantry Regiment, New York City residents, both white and black, packed the streets as they paraded up Fifth Avenue.

“Fifth Avenue Cheers Negro Veterans,” said the headline in the New York Times.

“Men of 369th back from fields of valor acclaimed by thousands. Fine show of discipline. Harlem mad with joy over the return of its own. ‘Black Death hailed as conquering hero'” headlines announced, descending the newspaper column, in the style of the day.

“Hayward leads heroic 369th in triumphal march,” the New York Sun wrote.

“Throngs pay tribute to the Heroic 15th,” proclaimed the New York Tribune.

“Theirs is the finest of records,” the New York Tribune wrote in its coverage of the parade. “The entire regiment was awarded the Croix de Guerre. Under fire for 191 days they never lost a prisoner or a foot of ground.”

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’

Soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment parade up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919, during a parade held to welcome the New York National Guard unit home.

(National Archives)

For that day, the soldiers the French had nicknamed “Men of Bronze” were finally heroes in their hometown.

In the early 20th Century, black Americans could not join the New York National Guard. While there were African-American regiments in the Army there were none in the New York National Guard.

In 1916, New York Gov. Charles S. Whitman authorized the creation of the 15th New York Infantry to be manned by African-Americans — with white officers — and headquartered in Harlem where 50,000 of the 60,000 black residents of Manhattan lived in 1910.

When the New York National Guard went to war in 1917, so did the 15th New York. But when the unit showed up in Spartanburg, South Carolina, to train, the soldiers met discrimination at every turn.

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’

New York City residents cram the sidewalks, roofs, and fire escape to see the Soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment march up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919, during a parade held to welcome the New York National Guard unit home.

(National Archives)

To get his men out of South Carolina, Col. William Hayward, the commander, pushed for his unit to go to France as soon as possible. So in December 1917, well before most American soldiers, the men from Harlem arrived in France.

At first they served unloading supply ships.

But the French Army needed soldiers and the U.S. Army was ambivalent about black troops. So the 15th New York, now renamed the 369th Infantry, was sent to fight under French command, solving a problem for both armies.

In March 1918, the 369th was in combat. And while the American commander, Gen. John J. Pershing, restricted press reports on soldiers and units under his command, the French Army did not.

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’

Soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment parade up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919, during a parade held to welcome the New York National Guard unit home.

(National Archives)

When Pvt. Henry Johnson and Pvt. Needham Roberts won the French Croix de Guerre for fighting off a German patrol it was big news in the United States. A country hungry for war news and American heroes discovered the 369th.

The 369th was in combat for 191 days; never losing a position, never losing a man as a prisoner, and only failing once to gain an objective. Their unit band, led by famed bandleader James Europe, became famous across France for playing jazz music.

When the 369th arrived in Hoboken, New Jersey, on Feb. 10, 1919, the New York City Mayor’s Committee of Welcome to the Homecoming Troops began planning the party.

On Monday, Feb. 17, the soldiers traveled by ferry from Long Island and landed at East 34th Street.

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’

Sgt. Henry Johnson waves to well-wishers during the 369th Infantry Regiment march up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919, during a parade held to welcome the New York National Guard unit home.

(National Archives)

They marched up Fifth Avenue and passed a reviewing stand that included Gov. Al Smith and Mayor John Hylan at Sixtieth Street. The official parade route would cover more than seven miles from 23rd Street to 145th Street and Lennox Avenue in Harlem.

“The negro soldiers were astonished at the hundreds of thousands who turned out to see them and New Yorkers, in their turn, were mightily impressed by the magnificent appearance of these fighting men,” the New York times reported.

“Swinging up the avenue, keeping a step spring with the swagger of men proud of themselves and their organization, their rows of bayonets glancing in the sun, dull-painted steel basins on their heads, they made a spectacle that might justify pity for the Germans and explain why the boches gave them the title of the “Blutdurstig schwartze manner” or “Bloodthirsty Black men,” the Times reporter wrote.

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’

Wounded Soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment are driven up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919, during a parade held to welcome the New York National Guard unit home.

(National Archives)

Lt. James Reese Europe marched with his band, the New York Tribune noted, while Sgt. Henry Johnson, who had killed four Germans and chased away 24 others, rode in a car because he had a “silver plate in his foot as a relic of that memorable occasion.”

“He stood up in the car and clutched a great bouquet of lilies an admirer had handed him,” the Tribune wrote about Johnson. “Waving this offering in one hand and his overseas hat in the other, the ebony hero’s way up Fifth Avenue was a veritable triumph.”

“Shouts of ‘Oh you Henry Johnson’ and ‘Oh you Black Death,’ resounded every few feet for seven long miles followed by condolences for the Kaiser’s men,” the New York Times reported.

Along the route of the march soldiers were tossed candy and cigarettes and flowers, the newspapers noted. Millionaire Henry Frick stood on the steps of his Fifth Avenue mansion and waved an American flag and cheered as the men marched past.

When the 369th turned off Fifth Avenue onto Lennox Avenue for the march into Harlem the welcome grew even louder, the New York Sun reported.

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’

Soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment parade up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919, during a parade held to welcome the New York National Guard unit home.

(National Archives)

“There were roars of welcome that made all the music of the day shrink into itself,” the Sun reporter wrote. And although the 369th Band had 100 musicians nobody could hear the music above the crowd noise, the reporter added.

People crammed themselves onto the sidewalk and into the windows of the buildings along the route to see their soldiers come home.

“Thousands and thousands of rattlesnakes, the emblem of the 369th, each snake coiled, ready to strike, appeared everywhere, in buttonholes, in shop windows and on banners carried by the crowd,” the New York Times reported.

“By the time the men reached 135th Street they were decorated with flowers like brides, husky black doughboys plunking along with bouquets under their arms and grins on their faces that one could see to read by,” the Sun reported.

At 145th Street the parade came to its end and families went looking for their soldiers.

“The fathers and mothers and wives and sweethearts of the men would no longer be denied and they swooped through police lines like water through a sieve,” the Sun wrote.

“The soldiers were too well trained to break ranks but when a mother spied her son and threw her arms around his neck with joy at getting him back again, he just hugged her off her feet,” the paper wrote.

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’

The color guard of the 369th Infantry Regiment parades up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919, during a parade held to welcome the New York National Guard unit home.

(National Archives)

With the parade over, the men were guided into subway cars and headed to the Park Avenue Amory, home of the 71st Regiment, for a chicken dinner and more socializing. The regimental band, which had begun playing at 6 a.m. and performed all day, finally got a break during the dinner and the men lay down to rest.

The New York Times noted that the band boasted five kettle drums presented to the unit by the French Army “as a mark of esteem.” They also had a drum captured from a German unit that had been “driven back so rapidly that they lost interest in bulky impedimentia.”

The New York Times estimated that 10,000 people waited outside the armory and “all the spaces about the Armory were packed with negro women and girls.” The soldiers inside ate quickly and came back out to find their families.

“I saw the allied parade in Paris and thought that was about the biggest thing that had ever happened, but this had it stopped,” Lt. James Reese Europe, the band’s commander, told the New York Sun reporter as the party ran down.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How doughnuts have a storied history in the trenches of WWI

Necessity is the mother of invention — and war is often the catalyst. Sure, we can look at all of the obvious military advancements that trickled down to the civilian sector, like fixed-winged aircraft, GPS, the microwave, and the can opener, but it’s a little-known fact that a lot of contemporary American foods also got their start on the battlefield.

The doughnut, one of the most American deserts known to man, got its start when troops needed a tactical desert to get their minds off the horrors of WWI.


These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’

Looks just like the line at your local Krispy Kreme — some things never change.

(National Archives)

During WWI, the Salvation Army actually deployed overseas with the troops, offering a wide variety of support for the troops. This support ranged from preparing home-cooked meals to sending money back home to sewing their uniforms when needed. The organization was entirely independent from the Armed Forces, but they followed units around the battlefield — oftentimes going to the front lines with them.

Two women assigned to assist the US Army’s 1st Infantry Division, Ensign Helen Purviance and Ensign Margaret Sheldon, endured the hellish environment of Monte-sur-Soux, France, just as the soldiers did. It rained for thirty days and supplies were running thin. They needed to come up with something — anything — to boost the abysmal morale.

They searched the countryside for ingredients and came back with eggs, milk, yeast, sugar, and a bit of vanilla. Perfect ingredients to make a cake, but that wouldn’t be enough for all the troops. They made some dough, used a wine bottle to work it, and cooked the cake batter on a frying pan in some grease. They served it up — and the soldiers loved it.

Soldiers would gather from all around when they smelled the doughnuts being cooked. It was said that the lines were so long that troops would miss duty or formation because they just wanted a single doughnut. One soldier eventually asked Ensign Purvaince, “can’t you make a doughnut with a hole in it?” She obliged this request by cutting the middle of the doughnut out with an empty condensed milk can and used the rest of the batter for other doughnuts.

Doughnuts quickly spread across the U.S. front and other Salvation Army officers started making them for the troops in their care. It didn’t take long for the women making the sweets to be given the nickname of “doughnut girls” or “doughnut lassies” — despite the numerous other ways in which they aided troops.

So, when National Doughnut Day rolls around on the first Friday of June, know that it’s about more than the glazed treat you used to cheat on your diet this morning. It’s a day in honor of the women who served on the front-lines with the troops, preparing tasty treats in hopes of cheering them up.

To learn more about Doughnut Girls or real meaning behind National Doughnut Day, check out the video below.

MIGHTY TRENDING

4 close call moments with war correspondents caught on film

War correspondents put their lives on the line to document the evolution of conflict wherever it unfolds. This dangerous profession built on the ethos of truth has claimed many brave souls the world over. Between 1992 and 2018, 299 journalists have died in the midst of firefights, 170 died on dangerous assignments, and 849 were assassinated — too commonly by their own governments.

We as warfighters are groomed for the trials of combat with training, weapons, and a band of brothers. However, these civilians dance with death untrained, unarmed, and relatively alone. It is difficult for civilians to earn the respect of seasoned veterans, but these reporters do not have that problem. This list is of the lucky ones, the ones who went all in at the roulette wheel of life and broke even.

When you dance with the devil, you don’t get to choose when the song ends.


CNN: CNN reporter caught in firefight

Ben Wedeman is caught in the middle of a counter attack

Ben Wedeman from CNN was reporting in Qawalish, Libya during the Libyan Civil War. The conflict started on Feb. 15, 2011, and ended with the assassination of Muammar Al Gathafi in the city of Sirte on Oct. 20, 2011. It was a full-scale civil war between Muammar Gaddafi’s government and the anti-Gaddafi forces sparked by protests.

The footage seen here is from a rebel offensive in an attempt to reclaim al-Qawalish. Rebel forces closed in on Brega, supported by NATO air and sea strikes aimed at government targets. Gaddafi’s forces engaged the rebel counterattack with a flanking maneuver pinning Ben Wedeman in the crossfire. The bombardments mentioned in the video are from NATO hitting targets in the vicinity of Brega, Gharyan, Sirte, Tripoli, Waddan, and Zliten during this time as well.

Watch as Sky News crew survives Islamic State suicide bomb explosion in Mosul

Sam Kiley survives a VBIED attack

A vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) has enormous destructive potential and is the preferred weapon of the Islamic State. In March 2017, the third phase of the battle for Mosul, Iraq was underway. Fierce house to house fighting had turned the city into a graveyard of twisted metal. Up to this point, more than 3,500 civilians had been killed since the beginning of the assault on western Mosul.

Inclement weather slowed the advance of Iraqi troops, but they could take solace that the major districts in the city were now under their control. However, these victories did not mean safety. ISIS was determined to keep the city, and deployed their suicide bombers. Sam Kiley narrowly survived a VBIED attack because, luckily, someone parked a bulldozer next to his vehicle.

Fox News journalists attacked by Georgians

Steve Harrigan is attacked by the defeated Georgian army

Between Aug. 7 and Aug. 12, 2008 The Russo-Georgian War took place between Georgia, Russia, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia. Russian troops marched on the city of Gori, Georgia after the capture of Tskhinvali, the South Ossetian capital. In these 5 short days, over 1,500 civilians were killed before a ceasefire was called. Georgian troops, frustrated with the outcome of the conflict, continued to shoot at Russians and any civilians in their path.

Fox News’ Steve Harrigan is at the wrong place but luckily gets out at the right time.

Ukraine: Fleeing artillery fire during ceasefire

Ian Pannell caught between artillery fire during ceasefire

On Feb. 20, 2014, Russia invaded Ukraine. Russian soldiers without insignias captured strategic locations and infrastructure in the Ukrainian territory of Crimea. Russia then annexed Crimea after a corrupted vote to join the Russian Federation. Friction and intense fighting evolved from the mixed reaction to the new Russian presence.

A year later, on Feb. 14, 2015, the second Minsk ceasefire came into effect between Russia and Ukraine.

The following were the terms that were agreed upon:

1. Immediate and full bilateral ceasefire
2. Withdrawal of all heavy weapons by both sides
3. Effective monitoring and verification regime for the ceasefire and withdrawal of heavy weapons
4. From day one of the withdrawal begin a dialogue on the holding of local elections
5. Pardon and amnesty by banning any prosecution of figures involved in the Donetsk and Luhansk conflict
6. Release of all hostages and other illegally detained people
7. Unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid to the needy, internationally supervised
8. Restoration of full social and economic links with affected areas
9. Full Ukrainian government control will be restored over the state border, throughout the conflict zone
10. Withdrawal of all foreign armed groups, weapons, and mercenaries from Ukrainian territory
11. Constitutional reform in Ukraine, with adoption of a new constitution by the end of 2015

No provision has been fully upheld in the Minsk II treaty. Thus, to this day the region is plagued by conflict and the growing threat of the former Soviet Union returning under Vladimir Putin.


Feature image: screen capture from YouTube

Articles

Why World War II soldiers mutinied in the days after V-J Day

On August 14, 1945, the Japanese Empire accepted the United States’ demands for surrender. On September 2nd, the documents formalizing the agreement were finally signed aboard the USS Missouri. World War II in the Pacific was finally over. 

Over the course of four years, the U.S. transported an estimated 7.6 million troops overseas to fight World War II. In September 1945, it was thought that they could get those troops back to their homes in time for Christmas. For many GIs, that didn’t happen and they were reasonably upset. 

If there had still been a war to fight, there’s no doubt American troops would have fought on without real complaints (soldiers will always grumble over the quality of food). But with no enemy left to vanquish, boredom and homesickness quickly set in. As 1945 turned to 1946, the men in uniform overseas began to make themselves heard. 

In “The Army ‘Mutiny’ of 1946,” author R. Alton Lee wrote that the actions soldiers and sailors took to protest the delays could easily qualify as mutiny, an offense punishable by death under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. 

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’

Crowd of people, many waving, in Times Square on V-J Day at time of announcement of the Japanese surrender in 1945 / World-Telegram photo by Dick DeMarsico. (Wikimedia Commons)

It’s not as though the War Department didn’t plan for how to get those troops home. Before the war in Europe ended, it knew there had to be a plan for demobilization in place to get these soldiers back to the United States. It came up with a point system that counted up a soldier’s time in service, time deployed, time in combat, and whether or not they had children waiting for them. 

Those with more points were given priority in shipping back home. It was generally considered a fair system of getting those who had sacrificed the most back to their real lives. The only problem really was gathering the ships required to transport them. That would take more time. 

With the war (and the national unity that came with it) now over, politicians in the United States were now free to start scoring political points over the government’s handling of demobilization. These weren’t just empty stunts, however, Americans wanted their loved ones back home and they let Congress know how they felt. Representatives were under immense pressure to demobilize. 

As pressure mounted in the United States, deployed service members began to hold protests and demonstrations themselves. Rallies were held in Paris, Manila and Frankfurt. They marched in London to get the attention of former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who met with representatives of the protesting servicemen. They even marched in front of the home of their commanding officers, including the commander of all U.S. troops in Europe, Gen. Joseph McNarney.

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’
Troops from the armies 164th infantry rest at a stand still at Guadalcanal. (Wikimedia Commons)

With the war going on, this kind of discontent would never have exploded into public outbursts. The behavior of U.S. servicemen would have been regarded as a mutiny and agitators would have been arrested or shot. In this winter of discontent, however, its was an understandable frustration.

With American morale at an all-time low, communist agents saw an opportunity to further agitate the dissenting crowds of soldiers. They helped the GIs formally organize their protests to maximize the visibility of the events and embarrass the U.S. and other western powers. 

But the War Department’s demobilization plan was actually working. Regardless of the wait times and discontent within the ranks, servicemembers were going home by the millions. The mutinies reached a fever pitch in January 1946, but by March, it would be a distant memory.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Today in military history: US forces land at Inchon

On Sep. 15 1950, U.S. Marines under United Nations Supreme Commander Douglas MacArthur land at Inchon on the west coast of Korea, dividing the Northern forces in two.

The Korean War began a few months before when 90,000 North Korean troops swept across the 38th parallel and pushed South Korean forces into a hasty retreat. By September, it was not going well for the United Nations forces. American troops were relegated to a small corner of the Korean Peninsula, barely holding off the Communist onslaught as North Korea fought to push them into the sea and out of the war. In what came to be known as the Pusan Perimeter, American and South Korean forces held the line until the Americans could relieve them.

In true joint force action, the Army and Marines, supported by the Navy and Air Force, planned a landing at Inchon, behind the North Korean lines. The enemy around Pusan practically dissipated as the Army broke out of the Pusan Perimeter while Marines were landing at Inchon. Within two weeks, the UN forces had partially retaken Seoul and cut off the enemy’s supply and communications ability.

Codenamed “Operation Chromite,” the U.S. Marines’ amphibious invasion at Inchon was extremely risky, but its success allowed the U.S. to recapture Seoul, the capital of South Korea. 

Unfortunately, the intervention of the Chinese military stalled the U.S. and South Korean advances, preventing them from achieving a decisive victory in the war, which would continue for another brutal three years. 

Featured Image: The UN fleet off the coast of Inchon, Korea.

Intel

Trained Warriors Turned Comedy Killers

We know. War is nothing to joke about. However, we also know that laughter is simply the best medicine… ever. COMEDY WARRIORS is both a funny and poignant look into the lives of five wounded warriors turned comedians. Get a snippet of how these five veterans use comedy under the guidance of professional comedy writers and comedians Lewis Black, Zach Galifianakis, BJ Novak, and Bob Saget among others. Humor heals.


Image Credit: Peter van Agtmael

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MIGHTY HISTORY

This World War II soldier was the real Private Ryan

Sergeant Fritz Niland had more to do with Band of Brothers than Saving Private Ryan – save for being the inspiration for the movie’s central plot. Historian Steven Ambrose even wrote about Niland in his book, “Band of Brothers – E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne, from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest.” Niland, like the fictional Ryan, lost three brothers in combat, and found out about them all in the same day.

Sadly, his mother did too.


These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’

From left to right, the Niland Brothers, Edward, Preston, Robert, and Fritz.

No one had to go searching for Sgt. Niland. He didn’t need to be saved. Niland went looking for his brothers after D-Day, while assigned to the 101st Airborne Division in Europe. His brother Bob was in the 82d Airborne, also fighting in Europe. While looking for his brother Bob, he discovered Bob was killed on D-Day. According to Ambrose, Bob Niland’s platoon was surrounded, so Bob manned a machine gun to harass the Germans so his unit could break through. They did, and Bob went through three boxes of ammo before he was killed in action. Fritz then went searching for another brother, Preston.

Preston Niland was a second lieutenant and platoon leader in the 4th Infantry Division. He too landed on D-Day, but with his men at Utah Beach. Fritz discovered that Preston Niland was killed in action on D+1 at Normandy’s Crisbecq Battery. Fritz returned to the 506th with the heartbreaking news. The news got worse from there.

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’

Frederick “Fritz” Niland is buried at Fort Richardson National Cemetery, Alaska.

Upon returning to his unit, Father Francis Sampson informed Fritz Niland that a third brother was killed by the enemy. Technical Sergeant Edward Niland, who had been imprisoned by the Japanese in the China-India-Burma theater was considered killed in action. Fritz Niland was now the sole surviving son of his family. The Army decided to send him home as soon as possible. His mother had received all three War Department telegrams on the same day. No platoon was sent to take him home, instead, Father Samson escorted Niland to Utah Beach, where he was flown home to complete his service stateside.

Luckily, Edward Niland wasn’t actually dead. He’d been held prisoner by the Japanese after being shot down in May 1944. He was held for over a year before being liberated in 1945. Word had not yet come to the European theater when Fritz found out about his brothers. The two surviving brothers actually moved to their native Tonawanda, N.Y. when they left the Army, and Edward actually outlived Fritz by a full year. Edward died in 1984, while Fritz passed in 1983.

Robert and Preston are buried side-by-side at the American Cemetery near Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Navy SEAL Sniper’s top 10 war movies

Everyone has their own opinion of what makes a good war movie. Unfortunately very few can offer anything of substance.

Yes, I’m talking to you, orange grime Cheeto finger-licking video game player in your momma’s basement. You can kick my ass in Call of Duty but in real life, you’d pee your pants in a kill house live-fire training mission.

So lick the cheese off your fingers and take notes, some man stuff coming at you.


Below is my small contribution to the best war movies of all time. I carefully selected my 10 favorites and put them in no particular order other than my #1 of all time, The Great Escape, at the top.

After serving in the SEAL Teams I find it really hard to sit through most action movies without being overly critical of the tactics. For me sitting through a bad action movie is pure torture. Worse than the Notebook. Worse than ingernails on a chalkboard. And like my old chief would say, fucked up as a football bat.

Top War Movie Pet Peeves

  • Sweeping your own guys with a loaded weapon. Just not cool, and a punishable offense in the SEAL Teams. Find a loud mouth Special Ops guys on social media and chances are he’s not really Special Ops, or worse, was kicked out of the community for a safety violation like this.
  • Representing the military as unprofessional. Some of the most professional people I’ve met in my life are from the military and it’s crazy to see that scene in American Sniper where the instructors are yelling at students on the firing line like boot camp kids. Not realistic, and doesn’t represent the high level of professionalism at the SEAL sniper program.
  • Unlimited bullets. Just doesn’t happen outside of video games folks. That ten-round magazine doesn’t last forever, Johnny.
  • Bad unit tactics. Take your pick… oh yeah, on Zero Dark Thirty the producers had the guys talking on target… not going to happen that way! It’s a squeeze on the shoulder or a hushed communication via inter-squad radio. Just corny…
  • Poor mission planning. Parachuting onto the roof of a target for example. Not going to happen unless you’re Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible.
  • The list goes on but you get the idea.

Here’s my top 10.

The Great Escape (1963) Official Trailer – Steve McQueen Movie

www.youtube.com

The Great Escape

What’s not to like about Steve McQueen crushing Nazis?! Plus one of the best motorcycle war chase scenes ever before Red Bull got into extreme sports we had Steve on his bike with no helmet airs!

Apocalypse Now (1979) Official Trailer – Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall Drama Movie HD

youtu.be

Apocalypse Now

Possibly the best war movie soundtrack as well. The infamous quote from Duvall, “Charlie Don’t Surf!”… I’ll leave at that. Great F’ng movie. A close choice for my #1 with the soundtrack alone!

Platoon Official Trailer #1 – Charlie Sheen, Keith David Movie (1986) HD

www.youtube.com

Platoon

If you can get past Charlie Sheen (he hadn’t lost his mind in ’86) this is a great gritty movie about Vietnam. The same kind of movie you can expect to see rebooted with our modern-day Vietnam of Afghanistan. Drugs, stealing cash off-target, war crimes, hookers, this one has it all. I actually wrote a one-page pitch for a similar war movie called, The Reservation, about guys going haywire in Afghanistan post-2004 when it turned into a complete shit show. Stay tuned…

? PREDATOR (1987) | Full Movie Trailer in Full HD | 1080p

www.youtube.com

Predator

Just look at who’s in the movie and enough said. Ex-Special Ops taking on an alien inter-planetary hunter-kill? Fuck me, I’m in! “Head to the chaupper!” Move over Parasite…Que, the Academy award for manliest movie of the year, Predator.

Black Hawk Down (2001) Official Trailer 1 – Ewan McGregor Movie

www.youtube.com

Blackhawk Down

Based on true events. Great movie but like most great war movies, when you peel it back, usually you find the guys on the ground totally let down by the guys at the top. This time, the name rhymes with “Bill Clinton”… Left our boys hanging in the breeze to fend for themselves in another half-baked country intervention. Fortunately for Delta and the Rangers they did an extremely good job at it while Bill was getting a his daily brief from a White House intern. Epic movie, but I was triggered for sure.

The Hunt for Red October Trailer

www.youtube.com

The Hunt for Red October

You may ask yourself why a sniper picked this one. Well, before I was a sniper I was an anti-submarine warfare operator and search and rescue swimmer helicopter aircrewman. (Have they now changed it to aircrew person? What the hell is the politically correct version of it? I wrote about this in The Red Circle.) So before I was born again hard in SEAL Training, I geeked out on Russian submarine profiles and harmonic sounds generated by diesel-electric subs. This is a great movie by one of the best military fiction writers ever, Clancy.

The Deer Hunter – Trailer – (1978) – HQ

www.youtube.com

The Deer Hunter

Want to know why you shouldn’t ask your military buddy, “How many kills you have bro?” Watch Deer Hunter and then STFU. Great movie. Gives a new meaning to Russian Roulette as well. Look at the cast as well, All Star!

Dirty Dozen (1967) Official Trailer – Lee Marvin, John Cassavetes World War 2 Movie HD

www.youtube.com

The Dirty Dozen

Back when it was ok for men to be men and pronouns weren’t weaponized by the hipster elite. The Dirty Dozen. What’s not to like about Americans kicking Nazi ass?! Plus, take a bunch of guys from the brig and put them on a special ops suicide mission and you have the makings of a great war movie. A lot of great actors in this one as well — A list for sure.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYID71hYHzg
SAVING PRIVATE RYAN Official Trailer (1998) Tom Hanks HD Movie | TrueMovies Trailer

www.youtube.com

Saving Private Ryan

The epic and ultra-realistic D-Day scene won me over from the get-go. Plus some good sniper footage as well. Again, common theme here with allied forces kicking Hitler ass. Doom on you Nazi bastards. Great directing and great acting all around. It kicked off the amazing series, “Band of Brothers” (also a must-watch).

The Hurt Locker (2008) Official Trailer – Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie Movie HD

www.youtube.com

The Hurt Locker

Jeremy Renner comes out swinging in this gritty movie that showcases the true toll of war. I have several friends who I lost to similar combat addictions. It’s a real thing and one of the reasons I really liked this movie, because it shows the toll it takes at home.

There you have it. I’d also like to hear from you. What are your top 10? Thanks for listening. Out here. – Brandon

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Austria gave the Ottoman Turks the greatest taunt of all time

Simply put, the 1529 Siege of Vienna did not go the way the Ottoman Empire hoped it would. Sultan Suleiman I, the Magnificent, was coming off a fresh string of victories in Europe and elsewhere when he decided that the road to an Ottoman Europe had to be paved through the legendary city of Vienna. He boasted that he would be having breakfast in Vienna’s cathedral within two weeks of the start of his siege.


When the day came and went, the Austrians sent the Sultan a letter, telling him his breakfast was getting cold.

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’

When you drop sick taunts, you must then drop sick beats.

The Sultan had a reason to be cocky going into the Siege of Vienna. He had just brought down the Hungarians, the longtime first line of defense for European Christendom. Hungary lost its king and fell into a disastrous civil war which the Ottomans intervened in. The Habsburgs, who controlled half of Hungary and all of Austria at this time, weren’t having any of it and Hungary was split for a century after. For the time being, however, the Ottomans and their Hungarian allies were going head-to-head with Austrian Archduke Ferdinand I, pushing the Austrians all the way back to Vienna in less than a year.

But Europe’s Christian powers were not going to let Austria fall without a fight and so sent help to the besieged city. That help came in the form of German Landsknechts, Spanish Musketeers, and Italian Mercenaries. It was the furthest the Islamic armies had ever penetrated Europe’s heartland. But Suleiman would fail to take the city.

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’

Look, if you want to have breakfast in church, most Christians will happily oblige you.

(Woodridge Congregational United Church of Christ)

The torrential rains started almost immediately, meaning the Turkish armies had to abandon its powerful cannons, along with horses and camels who were unaccustomed to the amount of mud they had to trudge through. Even so, they still came with 300 cannons and outnumbered the defenders five-to-one. The allied troops inside the city held their own against the Turkish onslaught as the rain continued.

Sickness, rain, and wounds hounded the Ottoman armies until snowfall took the place of the rain. The Ottomans were forced to retreat, leaving 15,000 men killed in action behind.

The Sultan would never get his breakfast in the cathedral. No sultan would ever get breakfast in an Ottoman Vienna.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Polish eagle scouts stole a tank and liberated a concentration camp in the middle of WWII

In the summer of 1944, the Red Army was approaching Warsaw and Nazi Germany was preparing to retreat all along the Eastern Front. That’s when the Polish Resistance launched Operation Tempest, an all-out effort to shake off five years of Nazi occupation before the Germans could destroy the city or round up dissidents. 

For 63 days, Poles fought their occupiers in the streets of the Polish capital in the largest European resistance uprising of the war. Although the effort ultimately failed when the Soviets stopped their advance to allow the Nazis to crush the resistance, there were bright spots. 

The brightest being the liberation of the Gęsiówka Prison by the Zoska scouting battalion — essentially a hardcore group of eagle scouts — who kept the Nazis from liquidating the Jewish population there.

Members of the Polish Home Army, the main resistance force in occupied Poland during World War II, started the Warsaw Uprising on Aug. 1, 1944. Almost immediately, members of the Nazi SD, the intelligence arm of the SS, began to liquidate the Warsaw Concentration Camp known as Gęsiówka. 

To prevent them from finishing their dirty work, a group of teenage Polish scouts known as Battalion Zoska, organized an assault on the camp and its guards. The battalion wasn’t exactly what Americans would call Eagle Scouts, but it’s the closest description that fits. They were more than eagle scouts, but not quite a military unit.

These are the real brothers behind ‘Saving Private Ryan’
Prisoners of Gęsiówka and the Zośka fighters after the liberation of the camp in August 1944

Still, these young scouts had been fighting Nazis as resistance fighters and partisans since 1942, so they had a lot of time to learn. When Operation Tempest was launched, Zoska had 520 soldiers in Warsaw. On the second day of fighting, Battalion Zoska captured a Nazi panzer tank and integrated it into their attack plan for Gęsiówka.

With their new armored platoon, Battalion Zoska began its assault on the concentration camp on Aug. 5. The Nazis were no match for the hardened eagle scout paramilitary force. The full force of Battalion Zoska descended with ferocity on the camp guards. Almost 500 Polish teenagers supported by the main gun of a panzer tank made for a formidable force.

Within 90 minutes, the Germans broke off their defense of the camp. Those who survived the Polish attack (there weren’t many) were scattered into the city or took refuge in a nearby prison still held by the occupiers. The attacking Poles lost only two men in the fight. 

Thousands of Polish Jews died in the days leading up to Battalion Zoska’s attack on Gęsiówka., but there were still 348 Jewish prisoners still alive in the camp after it was liberated. The Zoskas armed them and they joined the rest of Warsaw’s citizens in fighting Nazis to the death. 

The Warsaw Uprising would go on for another nine weeks as the Red Army looked on, hoping the Germans would crush the Polish resistance. Most of the liberated prisoners would die in the fighting, as would most of Battalion Zosk — 70% died in the Warsaw Uprising. 

Those who survived the Nazis were imprisoned in the Gęsiówka camp and other secret prisons by the communist regime in Poland. 

Today, the prison has been replaced by a  museum dedicated to the history of Poland’s Jewish people and a plaque honoring the Polish Jews who died in the camp, along with a memorial to the Polish Home Army and to Battalion Zoska.

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