Saving Private Ryan question

Maybe this has been asked before, but I did a search and didn’t find it.

The scene where Miller and the squad, against the latter’s better judgment, assault the machine gun nest, and Wade get killed:

Wouldn’t it have been a better option to go back to that impromptu rally point where the downed glider was and gather some more men to carry out that assault? Granted it’s not clear how far away it was, but I assume their leaving the rally point and finding the machine gun nest happened on the same day.

Related, wouldn’t it have made sense for Miller to have taken along a few more men from that rally point to reinforce the troops at village they were headed to, where they thought Ryan was, and where there was the bridge. I know there is no way Miller could have known about the dire situation they were in, but rather than just leaving those men to sit around back at the rally point, he could have got them back into action. One of rhea soldiers at the point says that’s more or less what’s happening, when he says something like “every once in a while an officer comes along and puts together a mixed unit to go off and make trouble.”

Well, for one thing I don’t think Tom Hanks’ character really had the authority to just commandeer any of those soldiers for his mission. Second, those soldiers were all rather battle-fatigued to begin with (hence their extreme dislike to the way Hank’s men flippantly go thru the dog tags of the deceased). Third, it was war and they had a mission to complete. A squad attacking one machine gun nest is not suicidal, and as Hanks says if they don’t do it somebody else will just have to. It wasn’t enough of a reason to not continue moving forward, let alone backtrack.

Capt. Miller was in the 2nd Rangers. The troops at the rally point were 101st Airborne, so he’s not in their chain of command. I’d presume the officers showing up to put together scratch units were also 101st, so they’d have authority over those troops.

This makes sense. Thanks.

ETA (edit timed out):
But… Ryan and his comrades were also 101st, and when Miller gets to the village, those guys start following his orders. Did he have authority over them, or did the 101sters just do it because they wanted someone in command and Miller seemed worthy of following? If the former, then why couldn’t Miller have taken along some at the rally point? IS.e., if Miller had proper command over they guys at the vil, why not also the guys at the RP?

The troops at the gliders were enlisted AND officers. There were no officers where the squad hooked up with Ryan. Miller had the authority to take Ryan with him back to friendly lines and leaving Ryan’s squad at the village with one less member. To me, Miller didn’t assume command of them as much as they ceded command to him.

You might want to keep in mind that the 101st Airborne Division was also the same division Easy Company from Band Of Brothers was in. So, I’ll submit that while very well trained, the Normandy Invasion was the first time the majority of these troops had ever been in combat. Miller and his Rangers, on the other hand, possibly had already been blooded in North Africa, Sicily, and maybe even Italy.

As for a squad taking out a German machine gun nest? For US troops already blooded in NA and Sicily, wasn’t that much of a thing. U.S. infantry squads were sort of set up as a squad supported by a BAR or a LMG (light machine gun - Browning M-1919 air cooled .30 cal). German infantry squads were a LMG (usually an MG-42) supported by the rest of the squad. And an experienced Ranger would know from the sound it was an MG-42 (rate of fire of 1200 rpm sounded like a buzzsaw) and that they’d have to stop to reload often and maybe even change barrels every now and then, so he could sort of pick and choose the best time to attack the nest.

2nd Rangers is the same as 101st Airborne? :confused:

In the movie, this is, in fact, established (that Miller and his squad has seen action in the Med. theater.)


Didn’t think so!

Since we’re already playing armchair generals, was it really necessary to deal with them. Those wermacth soldiers were already cut off from any kind of support. Wait them out and hunger would eventually drive them to surrender or try to get back to German lines.

My problem with that scene is that Wade joins the attack party carrying nothing but his medical pack. What was he supposed to do, lob some gauze and morphine styrettes at ze Germans? And lo and behold he winds up dead. What a shocker. Why didn’t he stay back with Upham?

That was actually done to many islands the Japanese occupied but which weren’t strategically important. Since the Japanese were a hardy bunch, that meant that some Japanese were “fighting” the war by holding out in a place no one cared about until 1982 or so.

But that doesn’t work for every machine gun nest in France and Germany, especially when the cost of just taking it out is relatively low since they planned their assault rather than just blundering into its line of fire, which is what Capt. Miller was afraid might happen to another unit if they just bypassed it.

That’s not what Oly was saying. He was saying that Ryan and his fellow soldiers in the village were 101st Airborne, same as the guys by the downed glider, so if the guys at the glider didn’t have to take orders from Miller, why did Ryan?

And I think Ranger Jeff has it right. The 101st guys had orders to hold the village and the bridge, and blow it instead of letting the Germans take it back. Miller legally, could have taken Ryan with him, since he had orders from Army chief of staff Marshall specifically for Ryan to be removed from combat. But once Miller decided to stay, it made sense to let him take over the entire operation, since he was the highest ranking officer present, and his squad had more combat experience than the 101st guys.

Theoretically, I’d assume Miller could have been court martialed for defying orders by not removing Ryan from the village as he was supposed to.

Wasn’t the goal to take out the radar station? The machine gun nest was guarding it.

Duh! Ryan, not Miller! I must have been completely zonked when I read that post! Mea culpa! :smack:

Another question: Regardless of whatever orders have been issued, doesn’t the tactical command of a situation automatically devolve onto the senior officer present, especially when there’s no communication with higher authority? So, yes, Miller might have been court-martialed, but it’s unlikely he would have been found guilty?

Wouldn’t their primary mission take precedence over attacking a target of opportunity?

I saw the movie when it first came out, so I really don’t remember: Did they not have a walkie-talkie or a field radio with them? They should have; it would have been a simple matter to report the location of the radar station and machine-gun nest and call in an air or artillery strike.

If they had a radio, was it destroyed or otherwise disabled? :confused:

It depends. From a strict chain-of-command viewpoint, you’re right. However, in many combat situations, the highest-ranking guy might not be the best commander at that time. I know there were many instances in WWII when higher-ranking officers voluntarily ceded command to a lower-ranking officer (or even non-officer) at a particular point in a battle based on a lack of knowledge of the situation.

Once famous incident (well, semi-famous, anyway) occurred on Guadalcanal when Marine general Chesty Puller’s group was reinforced by an Army general and his group. Puller told the Army general, “I don’t know who has rank here, and I don’t really care. For the time being, you’ll take orders from me, because I understand the situation.” The Army general agreed.

The squad didn’t have a radio. Did they even have handheld radios in WWII? In the beach scene, the radio man has a huge backpack radio, and presumably he was just reporting back to the ships nearby. So quite probably even if they had a radio, there’d be no one in range to report to.

And the situation in Normandy was very, very confused in the first few days. Who would he radio to? Were there planes or artillery available and in range?

Too late to edit:

I just watched the beach scene again, and at the end Miller does use one of the brick sized portable radios, so they did exist at least. So I don’t know why they didn’t have one later, unless it’s just that they’d be out of range of anyone to report to.