The Real "Private Ryan"

The real "Private Ryan" was Sgt Fritz Niland (left) of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. An extract from Stephen Ambrose's "Band of Brothers - E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne, From Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest" reads as follows:

"The previous day, Niland had gone to the 82nd to see his brother Bob. Fritz Niland had just learned that his brother had been killed on D-Day. Bob's platoon had been surrounded, and he manned a machine gun hitting the Germans with harassing fire until the platoon broke through the encirclement. He had used up several boxes of ammunition before getting killed. Fritz Niland next hitched a ride to the 4th Infantry Division position, to see another brother who was a platoon leader. He too had been killed on D-Day, on Utah Beach. By the time Fritz Niland returned to Easy Company, Father Francis Sampson was looking for him, to tell him that a third brother, a pilot in the China-Burma-India theater, had been killed that same week. Fritz was the sole surviving son, and the army wanted to remove him from the combat zone as soon as possible. Fritz's mother had received all three telegrams from the War Dept on the same day. Father Sampson escorted Fritz to Utah Beach, where a plane flew him to London on the first leg of his return to the States."