Story behind Saving Private Ryan to be presented at Daemen October 2

Story behind Saving Private Ryan to be presented at Daemen October 2


Hosted by the Daemen College Center for Veterans and Veteran Family Services


September 24, 2013



Contact:  Mike Andrei

                Director-College Relations

                (716) 839-8472


            Daemen College Assistant Professor of Business Administration Bridget Niland will present the story of the Niland family, one that still inspires, and also influenced the writing of Stephen Spielberg's 1998 movie "Saving Private Ryan." 


           Niland’s talk will be presented by the Daemen College Center for Veterans and Veteran Family Services. The event will begin 6:30 p.m., October 2, 2013, in the Wick Center Social Room on the Daemen campus, 4380 Main Street, in Amherst. It is free and open to the public.


           On D-Day, June 6, 1944, Preston, Robert, Francis (Fritz), and a cousin, Thomas, landed in Normandy, France. All took part in the first waves of the invasion. The three brothers fought in different Units on D-Day; a fourth brother, Edward, fought in the Pacific as a member of an air crew.


            On May 16, 1944, Michael and Augusta Niland received the news that their son Edward had been shot down over Burma and was missing. Robert was killed on D-day in Neuville, a city not far from the beaches. Preston was killed the next day near Omaha Beach.  Fritz had been dropped between Omaha and Utah beaches, while Thomas was involved in a glider unit that landed in France. 


           Army officials, hearing of the deaths, determined that the Nilands would not suffer the death of their last child.  Father Francis Sampson, chaplain of the 501st Regiment, found Fritz and began the paperwork necessary for his return home. He stayed with his men a few more days until he was shipped back to England, and finally to the U.S., where he served as an MP in New York until the end of the war.   


           Steven Spielberg has noted that the Nilands’ story and the story of the five Sullivan brothers were his inspiration behind "Saving Private Ryan." The Sullivans, from Waterloo, Iowa, were assigned to the USS Juneau in February, 1942, and remained with the ship through her Atlantic operations and subsequent combat actions in the Guadalcanal Campaign. All five died when the Juneau was torpedoed and exploded on Nov. 13, 1942.

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