Movie Debates: Saving Private Ryan: what would _you_ do with Steamboat Willie?

Well, I decided to try again, even tho my Total Recall poll crashed and burned (perhaps because, as Arnie himself says, “It doesn’t matter” if he is in VR or the real world). This one is more along the lines of a counterfactual than a supposition about the nature of events in the movie. Spoilers will follow.

Anyway, in [del]Shaving Ryan’s Privates[/del] Saving Private Ryan, one of the crucial scenes of the movie involves Miller’s squad capturing a German soldier (“Steamboat Willie”, tho that was a moniker hung on the character by fans, as it’s not in the script) at a radar installation. Since their mission would not allow a POW to tag along with them, the choice boiled down to either executing the man on the spot, or setting him on a path towards American lines, hoping/assuming he gets plucked up by an Allied patrol.

Of course, as these types of things are often wont to go, he eventually hooks up with the armored SS company which assaults the town where Ryan is at, and Willie himself ends up fatally shooting Miller.

So, you’re Miller. What do you do? Assume no omniscience (he doesn’t know that Willie will end up helping the German attack). I’d pack up Upham with the prisoner and send them both packing back to HQ (since he’s the most expendable member of the squad and not a combat vet at all).

Upham may not be a combat vet but he is a warm body. Shoot the enemy and proceed with the mission.

Cap his ass and carry on.

I would have taken off and nuked the site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.
Seriously, I’d have to go with shooting him.

Seeing as executing an unarmed soldier that surrendered is cold blooded murder, I’d let him go. Upham should be charged with murder after killing Willie at the end of the movie.

Shoot him and move on. He proved that he would do the same…

Anything wrong with a wound that might or might not kill him, but definitely leaves him unfit for combat?

Slight hijack, SPR takes place right after D-Day, so how well known would Nazi atrocities be to the rank and file? Speaking only for myself, my decision could easliy be different the day before liberating Birkenau than the day after.

While the reality of WWII would probably be that the guy would take a dirt nap, we are not supposed to be barbarians, and we are supposed to follow the rules of the Geneva Convention. The man was fighting his war, just as the Americans were fighting theirs. He was Wermacht, not a Nazi, and he had surrendered. Killing him would qualify as a war crime. Send him to the rear with escort for interrogation.

I can’t say I wouldn’t have shot him, but I definitely wouldn’t have made him dig the graves first. That’s barbaric and was something the Nazis would have done (and in fact did). I think that’s what made Hanks’ character ultimately relent.

I’d either have shot him without giving him the opportunity to surrender, or I’d have disarmed and marched him (restrained if possible) until I could hand him over to other Allies.

Or, I’d have let him go but first asked “So tell me Steamboat Willie, whatcha plannin’ on doin’ with that there uniform when the war’s over?”

Wasn’t he digging the grave for Miller’s guy Wade(Giovanni Ribisi), not himself?

Right. But I still wouldn’t have had him do that if I was going to shoot him; too much like slave labor.

I havent’ watched SPR in a while: did this scene happen before or after they met up with [the officer played by Ted Danson]'s troops in the French village?

I’m not sure Miller had made any kind of decision on Willie’s fate past the gravedigging. Seemed to me that he was willing to just let the men handle it, which, realistically, is probably fair, if not necessarily right. Love and war, my friend.:stuck_out_tongue:

What would happen if a modern Special Forces detatchment ended up with a prisoner in a similar situation?

After. They’re on the way to Ramelle.

After. This is pretty much the last scene before they meet the real Ryan.

I’d strip him to his skivvies, burn his uniform & boots, and send him walking back towards allied lines.

There’s no easy answer of course, which is I suppose the point. If you were taken prisoner by Germans and ordered to turn yourself in- honor system - to the Nazis there’s no way you’d have done anything other than try to find other Allies and the first time you heard German you’d most likely hide, not surrender, so it’s foolish to think a German soldier is any different.

Perhaps the most ‘humane’ thing to have done, though it wouldn’t seem humane, would have been to handicap him. Shoot him in a leg or break his arms perhaps- it’s dirty work and a lot of pain, BUT he has a more than decent chance of recovering AND he’d be out of commission for a while.

Hmm. That’s an interesting idea.

“Tie him up, gag him, leave him in radar station”- not an option?

I don’t get why its kill him or bring him a long.

Well of course it’s not (see option 4?)-if you can Kobayashi Maru this one successfully, my helmet’s off to you.

This was my thought also. You would think that the “Army manual” would cover this type of situation. In general, I agree that you are not supposed to shoot in cold blood an enemy soldier who has surrendered. Either you make him prisoner, or else you disarm him and let him go.