Saving Private Ryan

New today Question: When the squad comes across the radar site and there's a big discussion about whether to attack it or not, why doesn't Jackson just kill them with his sniper rifle? He claims to be a "fine instrument of warfare", so why not give him the opportunity to test that theory?

Pie Man

New today Answer: On paper, that does sound like a good strategy. However their is the human element to take into factor. The moment one of those German soldiers would have fallen and the rest heard the shot, they would all have taken cover and gotten out of shot for Jackson. This would allow them to be at the ready and not have given the rest of the the US squad the small element of surprise they were able to accomplish.

Quantom X Premium member

Question: After Capt Miller gets briefed on his new mission to rescue Pvt Ryan and enlists Upham for the mission, there is a long shot of the beach. What are those Zeppelin-like things that are floating around, tied to the ground? What are they good for?

00:39:50

Chosen answer: These were barrage balloons, commonly used during the war. They are used to stop low level bombing and low level fly bys by enemy fighter planes. The cables attached to the balloons are designed to cut through the wings of the aircraft and to bring them down, so any pilot would have to fly above them, and the balloons would also restrict the view from above.

Question: When they are preparing to attack the machine gun emplacement guarding the radar, Captain Miller asks 'Who's going left?' There's a long silence and finally Jackson responds that he'll do it - he'll go left. What is the significance of going left? I'm assuming that it is more dangerous, but if this is the case, why? Also, why does Captain Miller ask for volunteers for someone to go left? (As he picks himself and Mellish to go middle and right, respectively).

bbarrington

Answer: Most people are not ambidextrous so running left means you'll have shoot left or use the right shoulder to shoot as you're running left which is much harder to do, try this out.

Chosen answer: There's no tree cover to the left. Whoever goes that way will likely be spotted and targeted before the others and get gunned down, but it's their best chance that one of them will make it into grenade range of the nest before they're all killed. It's not a job anyone sane would volunteer for, and the Captain is trying to get someone to volunteer so he doesn't have to potentially order TWO men to their deaths on a mission that all of them, including him, think isn't worthwhile.

Captain Defenestrator Premium member

Question: What do the soldiers have in their mouths during combat? Shortly after Miller's team disables the machine gun nest at Omaha Beach you can see Tom Sizemore take something out his mouth and drop it and later when Edith Piaf's song is playing he takes something out of a bag and puts it into his mouth again.

Answer: During landing scene he puts chewing tobacco in his mouth... later we see him take it out and then still later he takes more from the same pouch.

Chosen answer: They're chewing gum, or maybe tobacco.

Thomas Norris

Question: When the higgins boats were blown to bits, before we see Jackson in the front of the boat, when the ramps go down, the whole people in screen were shot, also where Jackson was, but later Jackson is there with Miller at the seawall, how could this be?

Chosen answer: Jackson could simply have been slightly wounded, or even missed completely, and was simply knocked to the floor by those around him who were hit. He could even have just hit the deck when the guns opened up.

Tailkinker Premium member

Question: Jackson, the sniper of Miller's crew, states that if he was in a mile of Adolf Hitler, he would kill him. So, as they were driven to the beach, why didn't Jackson and other snipers try to pick off the the German guys who were firing the at the boats as the Americans left them?

Chosen answer: Sniping needs stability - the movement of the waves under the boat would disrupt their aim so badly that they wouldn't have much hope of hitting anything.

Tailkinker Premium member

Question: Why do the soldiers (Mellish and Reiben) air kiss when they talk about sleep in the church scene?

Answer: Mellish was pulling his chain with the comment about his mom before. The air kisses were meant to be sarcastic.

lionhead

Question: In the opening Omaha beach scene, we see soldiers being mowed down as soon as they leave the LCVP's. Was this really the case in 1944? Were the bunkers really that close to to the shoreline?

Chosen answer: Yes, this was the case unfortunately. Many soldiers lost there lives before exiting the boats. Several Normandy survivors say that the scene was the best interpretation of what actually happened on that day.

Toolio

Question: In the last battle, Upham is seen running around with cartridges of ammunition. Why don't the people who need it just have it close by, instead of having him carry it all over the place?

Chosen answer: Because before a battle gets underway you can never predict exactly who's going to need it. You could split the available ammunition equally between all the soldiers, but then you could easily find yourself in a situation where the enemy attack from a particular angle, so only certain soldiers can shoot back. End result, those soldiers run out of ammunition while other soldiers still have a full load that they can't use. Far better to give each soldier a moderate amount, but keep a quantity in reserve along with a soldier assigned to resupply those who run low.

Tailkinker Premium member

Question: Why do they have rifles and equipment wrapped up in plastic before they actually fight?

Chosen answer: The bags were meant to keep sand out of the actions and magazines as long as possible before they needed to be used in combat.

Question: What is said between Upham and Steamboat Willie right before Willie gets shot? It's all in German and a very dramatic scene, one of my favorites. All I have is VHS and I can't find a complete script on the web.

Chosen answer: Upham surprises the group of Germans, yelling at them to put their hands up and their weapons down. Willie says, "I know this soldier. I know this man." Upham says, "And shut your trap." Willie says, "Up-ham," and Upham shoots him.

Question: Why did Upham tell the soldiers to drop their weapons instead of shooting them? Why did they surrender instead of shooting him? And why did he then let them go?

raph

Answer: Upham was not a hardened war vet like the men in his squad. He seen Steam boat Willie shoot Miller which made him furious because of how desperately he tried to save Willies life at the Radar tower so he felt betrayed and guilty for not listening to his squad so he finished the job he didn't have the heart to do before by killing Willie. He let the others go because he didn't have a problem with them. The surrendering Germans knew the Americans were inbound after tank was destroyed so they gave up immediately.

Chosen answer: He was alone and probably couldn't have shot them all before being shot himself. However, he was in a perfect position to make them surrender as none of them wanted to be the one to get shot for aiming their rifle at him. He didn't let them go, he told them to start walking in one direction as his prisoners.

lionhead

Question: Would the military really have sent a rescue mission to save one man during world war 2?

Chosen answer: No, not really. There is no evidence of any such mission. While the U.S. military does have a policy of excusing the last remaining members of a family from combat after their siblings have been killed-known as the Sole Survivor Policy, officially implemented in 1948 but followed de facto before then - they never sent a unit into enemy territory to "save" anyone. The real soldier upon which the film is based, Frederick Niland, was simply taken out of active duty and sent home when it was learned that his three brothers were dead (though his eldest brother, Edward, was later revealed to be alive in a Japanese POW camp and ended up outliving Frederick).

Question: After the D-day battle and Capt. Miller is informing the Colonel about the types of mines, what was the purpose of Capt. Miller taking such a long pause during his discussion?

Chosen answer: Their discussion was talking about a mission they recently completed and that it claimed a lot of troops lives. Throughout the film every death seems to affect Miller and was probably reflecting on the tragic situation.

Lummie Premium member

Question: My tape ran out right at the end due to all the ad breaks and new bulletins so I missed the last 5 minutes. I saw right up to the bit after old Private Ryan does his speech to the grave and then his wife, presumably, comes up and says, 'James' and kaput. Can anyone tell me what happened in those dying minutes?

Chosen answer: James asks his wife if he is a good man. She assures him that he is. He then salutes the grave and the camera zooms in on the American flag fluttering in the wind and then the film ends.

Question: Almost after the D-Day battle is over, Caparzzo picks up a Hitler Youth Knife and hands it to Mellish. Then Mellish calls the knife a "shabbat challah cutter." What does that mean?

Chosen answer: I do not know the exact signifigance for the Jewish faith but Shabbat Challah is a Jewish Bread and the Challah Knife is used to cut the bread. So using a knife from a Nazi you killed for this would be a pretty good F You to Hitler and the Nazis.

pross79

Question: I noticed that during the whole film, when bullets hit the soldiers' bodies, dust comes out (even on a wet Omaha Beach). Why is that?

Chosen answer: It is eiderdown that blows into the air when they get hit by a bullet. They used eiderdown because it was a very warm filling for their assault jackets. Eider is still rarely used in the manufacture of some sleeping pillows and quilts.

Question: What did Miller mean when he said, "Give me Rieben on B.A.R."? What is "B.A.R."?

Chosen answer: The BAR is the Browning Automatic Rifle; it was the automatic rifle of this area for US forces, when he says, "Give me Rieben on B.A.R." he is picking squad members, he would want people with certain specialties in the squad, a medic, a sniper, a demolitions expert, a automatic rifleman, which is the BAR, etc.

pross79

Question: Does anybody have an explanation to the apparent violation of orders by Miller's team? Their orders are to find and bring back Pvt Ryan, yet they engage themselves in one battle after another, repeatedly jeopardizing their mission. One would expect the mission objective to be exclusive, and that engagements with the enemy should be avoided of possible.

Airborne Ranger

Chosen answer: Miller is a good officer. He won't carry out his orders at the expense of having American soldiers die. Losing Ryan at the battle would have doomed his unit. He knows that not losing this town is more important to the war effort than saving Ryan.

Grumpy Scot

Question: Rumor has it that the soldier Captain Miller helps to get on shore in the beginning of the film is one of the Ryan brothers. Supposedly you can see his name on his uniform at some point. Since I don't have the movie I can't check for myself. Anyone who can verify this?

Chosen answer: In the trailer, this scene is shown as the death of Sean Ryan, but in the film the soldier is washed away, and the real Sean Ryan (the one with the pack marked "Ryan. S") is too far from the shoreline to be washed in again. The trailer also shows the deaths of Peter and Daniel Ryan, which are not shown in the film, but 20 minutes of the film was edited out, so it is possible the deaths of all three brothers were filmed, but not shown. There's no guarantee that the soldier Miller helps is Sean Ryan (as Sean was the only Ryan brother who fought on Omaha; Peter was killed on Utah, and Daniel was killed a week ago in New Guinea), but it very well could be.

Answer: Its not. If you pay attention to the Soldier Miller is helping onto the beach you can see he is not wearing a pack as is the soldier lying dead on the beach with the name Ryan. S stamped on it.

Question: Why was CPL Upham treated so badly by the other soldiers? they were only Privates (E-2), but a Corporal is E-4. They should've seen him as a superior and respected him, shouldn't they?

wolf8265

Chosen answer: Upham isn't a soldier, he's a clerk, recruited from another unit because of his linguistic skills. His rank is irrelevant; untested in combat, he would not receive any respect from the other soldiers until he proved himself worthy of it.

Tailkinker Premium member

Question: Why, when the radar attack, the 7 of them attack it, but some men get blown up. Who are these people?

Chosen answer: They aren't attacking the radar, technically, they are attacking the German machine gun nest guarding it. "Steamboat Willie" is the only surviving gunner.

Question: There is an entry stating that military members can't just choose which orders to obey. Is that actually true?

Answer: Article 90, 91, and 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice makes it a crime to willfully disobey a superior commissioned officer, superior non-commissioned office, warrant officer's legal order or fail to obey any general lawful order. Punishment for not following lawful orders during wartime can include death. The keyword being "lawful" orders. Military personnel do not have to obey unlawful orders. Military courts still hold individuals responsible for their actions, even if following orders. Thus, following unlawful orders can result in court discipline and the phrase "I was just following orders" has never worked. An unlawful order is the only time a military personnel can choose not to follow an order. Of course, just like in civilian life, they can always choose what orders to follow and not to follow and simply risk the consequences of a court martial.

Bishop73

New this month Answer: Unless the order contravenes a standing order issued by the higher ups, or violates a treaty the government signed (the Geneva Convention, for example) then it has to be followed. Sometimes soldiers will disobey an illogical order and it turns out OK - but they will have to justify it at tribunal at some point if necessary.

Answer: Of course it is. When you join the military you get given orders and you follow them. You don't get to pick and choose to follow only the ones you like or the ones you agree with. The military is basically "do as you are told"

The_Iceman Premium member

Question: In the radar site scene, after Miller lets Steamboat Willie free, Reiben wants to leave the mission, and Horvath is holding his gun on him, Jackson also pulls his gun on Horvath, his superior. Nobody seems to care about it. Doesn't it count as a serious violation of military law or something?

Answer: It certainly does, not only on Reiben's part but also Horvath's. However, Capt. Miller was in no place to arrest or write up anybody as they were behind enemy lines and thus, no Allied Military Police to place anybody in custody, he even offered Reiben the option to put in for transfer. Miller understood the men's frustration with the mission and the loss of Wade and Caparzo, so instead of citing orders like he did after Caparzo was killed, decided to defuse the situation by inquiring about the men's pool on what he did as a civilian, then telling them. It worked, as Horvath and Reiben lowered their weapons and calmed the other men.

Scott215

Question: What exactly killed Sergeant Horvath? I reviewed the scene carefully but I couldn't tell what exactly pierced his back - was it a piece of shrapnel, or did he get shot by one of the Wehrmacht German troops?

Joey221995

Answer: Horvath was shot in the back by attacking Germans trying to seize control of the bridge. He was shot a total of 3 times. Once when he went toe to toe with the German. His German attacker's gun was jammed/empty of ammo. The German throws his helmet, so does he, beats the German to a pistol draw and gets shot in the side, then throws his .45 cal at other Germans. Another after he fired a bazooka round and Miller is yelling to get off the bridge - he starts falling back and gets hit in the leg. The 3rd was in the back, right after the 2nd when he stood back up.

Question: What kind of explosive were they putting in the socks when making the sticky bomb?

Answer: They say they have enough Composition-B (RDX and TNT) to blow the bridge twice, but when they take the explosives to put into the socks the crates say TNT. So its either Comp-B or TNT that they use.

lionhead

Question: Could you really use tracer rounds in the type of machine guns the Germans were firing during the Normandy scene at the beginning of the movie, as seems to be the case?

Answer: Absolutely. There were tracer rounds in ammo belts for the MG42.

lionhead

Could you fire incendiary rounds as well?

Yes, an MG42 can fire incendiary rounds.

lionhead

Question: Would making a sticky bomb using the method shown in the movie be possible in real life?

Answer: This was based on an actual method that had been developed during the war, though it proved to be too dangerous with uncontrolled explosions to be used effectively.

raywest Premium member

Answer: Yes, they could be possible. But making bombs like that are very dangerous to use so I wouldn't try it out. It's doubtful anything of the sorts were used during WWII, there already were pre-made sticky bombs around that worked a lot better.

lionhead

Question: How accurate is the Normandy invasion scene? Was the real battle as dramatic as shown in the movie?

Answer: Definitely, the scene was praised for its historical accuracy by veterans and WWII experts. Even the landing crafts were real. Not on all beaches this kind of resistance was happening though, like Utah beach.

lionhead

Question: When several soldiers surrender, why was the first one shot? I'm not referring to the end, I'm referring to the opening battle, when several surrendered, and only the first was shot.

raph

Chosen answer: If you're referring to the very end of the film when the Germans surrendered, the guy shot was the same guy they had found earlier at the machine gun nest when their medic was killed. They had let that guy go. Then it turned out he was the one that shot and killed Tom Hanks, so he was killed because of this.

Quantom X Premium member

Answer: In the D-Day scene at the beginning of the battle, when the Germans surrender after a brief Trench Battle, one gets shot. I think this is because one soldier was still very tense and shot the German because he didn't see his hands up in the fight or flight response he was having.

Question: Why didn't they just shoot Steamboat Willie on sight? And once they decided not to kill him, why couldn't they call a chopper to come take him? Also, why were they so intent on committing a war crime by killing him once he'd surrendered? I know he killed Wade, but that's just what happens in war.

raph

Chosen answer: Rules of war are when someone surrenders you take him prisoner and are not allowed to kill him, they followed the rules of war. They are all very emotional from the battle and losing a friend and fellow soldier though and they wanted a scapegoat. They were behind enemy lines so nobody could come to pick up the prisoner, as the lieutenant explained, and helicopters weren't really around in WW2.

lionhead

Question: During the assault on the machine gun nest, when Upham uses his scope to see the action, there is a scene which shows an ally tossing a grenade to the nest, but the enemy catches it and tosses it back. How did the ally manage to survive the blast? The grenade was tossed back straight to him and exploded where he was standing. I paused at the point of the blast and I could see some blood flying along with the explosion.

cryptical

Chosen answer: SGT. Horvath went right, so that was him throwing the grenade, which the German catches and throws back. When Horvath throws the grenade he is actually inside a bomb crater. When the grenade is thrown back by the German soldier, the blast happen on the grassy flat ground outside the bomb crater. So Horvath was sheltered by the blast being down inside the crater. Those are bullet holes in Wade's chest, and not grenade wounds.

Question: This may have been obvious but I wanted to check, the guy that kills Adam Goldberg horribly with the knife and shoots Tom Hanks, he was the guy they let go with 1000 paces, right? Nasty thought. The translating private shoots him at the end as well, right?

Chosen answer: They are two completely different people. The soldier they let go, who (probably unknowingly) shot Miller and who was killed (or murdered, as I prefer) by Upham after he surrendered was a member of the Heer (regular army)— - you can see the insignia on his collar. The man who stabbed Mellish was a private in the Waffen-SS (military arm of the SS) - —you can see the "SS" runes ("lightning bolts") on his collar. They have similar shaved hairstyles, but if you look closely at them in side-by-side screencaps, you will notice the differences. The Waffen-SS character also does not seem to recognize Upham when he encounters him on the stairs; the Heer character seems surprised to encounter Upham when he surrenders.

Question: A question about those sticky bombs they use in the last battle to blow the tracks of the tanks. Were there ever really any bombs made like that from socks, grease and explosives and used for such a purpose or was it something they just made up for the movie?

Chosen answer: There were actual "sticky bombs" used in WWII. Developed by the British, they were nitroglycerin-filled glass spheres, coated with a sticky adhesive, and covered by a protective metal sheathing that was stripped away before being thrown. Designed as anti-tank weapons, the bombs were often more dangerous to the user than to the tank, occasionally getting stuck to the person who was throwing it, or even igniting while being handled or during transport. In addition, Britain trained their Home Guard units in the making of improvised sticky bombs, the most common being glass containers of nitroglycerin inside a bag soaked in the glue compound, and dropped onto enemy tanks from rooftops. The G.I. may have learned of the improvised method, as actual sticky grenades only made it into the hands of very few combat units.

raywest Premium member

Question: Why would an interpreter be necessary for a mission such as Miller's? Is this purely a plot devise to add a character who is 1) inexperienced in combat and 2) not part of a pre-existing group close-knit through combat?

Gordo-from-hell

Chosen answer: If they have to ask the locals for information they will need an interpreter for that.

A Demon Premium member

Question: In the beach scene, they keep talking about something called "dog one exit". What is "dog one"?

killin_kellit

Chosen answer: The Allied forces identified five heavily-defended "exits" off Omaha Beach, which had to be cleared in order for the invasion to proceed inland: Dog One, Dog Three, Easy One, Easy Three and Fox One. The real Dog One was a road off the beach, although the movie portrays it as a stepped footpath.

Sierra1 Premium member

Question: At Omaha Beach, there were large metal things strewn along the water line (they sort of resembled gigantic jacks). First, what are those? Second, were they at the actual Omaha Beach on D-Day?

Chosen answer: Nicknamed "Czech Hedgehogs", they're designed to damage incoming landing craft or to stop tanks making their way up the beach. They were indeed present on D-Day.

Tailkinker Premium member

Question: When they let the German who shot Wade walk away blindfolded, why on earth did they not handcuff him as well? They did not assure that he was picked up by the allied, and he could easily remove the blindfold. After all it was bad judgment as he was the one who killed Capt. Miller.

Chosen answer: Why not tie up him and put him in a ditch? There's a million things he could have done. One reason he just made him walk away blindfolded was to scare him into thinking he was going to be executed. Its not really shown whether they even had handcuffs, so it's hard to determine if they could have done something like that. Their main concern was with the mission, not what would happen to him. Last thing with letting him go, Miller could have been shot by any one of those German soldiers so it's more just ironic that he killed him.

Lummie Premium member

Question: This applies to a lot of war films, but what is a klick?

Chosen answer: It's American military slang for a kilometre.

Hamster Premium member

Question: After the D-Day battle, Capt. Miller and the Colonel are discussing whatever. They keep mentioning something called "the 88's." What are the 88's?

Chosen answer: An "88" is a German 88-millimeter gun, a lethal and extremely versatile gun which was often thought of as the best gun in the war - on ANY side. It could appear on a tank, as an anti-tank gun, as an assault gun or as an anti-aircraft gun.

Phil C.

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Quotes

Private Reiben: You wouldn't shoot the kraut and now you're gonna shoot me?
Sergeant Horvath: He's better than you.

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Mistakes

When they go to find Private Ryan there are eight of them, when they go to a French town and a solider picks up the little girl and he gets killed there are seven, right? Wrong. A few scenes later, the camera shows all eight of them marching on to the next town, only in a far away camera shot so it's hard to see.

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Trivia

The pivotal role of "Minnesota Ryan", the Private Ryan that Captain Miller mistakes for the Private Ryan for whom he is searching, is played by a very young and, at the time quasi-unknown, Nathan Fillion.

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