Saving Private Ryan was the icebreaker for new generations to find out about World War Two and Normandy.
The opening scene of the movie, and the end of the movie, had the Normandy US Cemetery at Colleville sur
Mer as 'setting'. The fictional character, 'Private Ryan', visited the graves of the men that were send out
to 'get him out of there', since all his brothers were reported to be KIA in various Theaters of Operations.
In 1998 Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks visited the Colleville sur Mer Cemetery. The story of 'Private Ryan'
was based on the story of the Niland brothers. Four brothers, Preston, Robert, Frederick and Edward Niland had
answered the call of duty. Robert was killed on June 6th at Ste Mere Eglise, Preston was killed on the 7th of
June at Utah Beach Zone. Edward, who was an Army Air Force pilot, was reported missing in Pacific in that same
week. The top brass decided to withdraw the fourth brother, a paratrooper with the 501th PIR, from Normandy.
The movie gave a lot of young people a first, uncensored, realistic view of World War Two and it introduced
the Normandy Cemetery. Ever since 100.000's of visitors have travelled to the beautiful Cemetery, overlooking
Omaha Beach. Some searched for Captain Miller, but he was a fictional character. Two of the Niland are buried
at Colleville sur Mer. Lieutenant Preston Niland 22nd Infantry Regiment of the 4th Infantry Division rests at
Block F, Row 15, Grave 12. Next to him, Grave 11, is the final restingplace of Tech Sergeant Robert Niland of
D-Company 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne. The third brother, Edward, wasn't killed and
returned home from captivity almost a year after his bomber was shot down over Burma. It did take a lot of time
and took some bureaucracy to overcome before the 4th Niland brother was sent back to the US. For the rest of WW2
Frederick (nicknamed 'Fritz' by his friends), served as a MP in New York. Niland was a Sergeant. Not a Private !
© Paratrooper Research Team - Faces Beyond the Graves