The story of Frederick "Fritz" Niland

This was sent to me by my friend John McAuliffe.


The story of Frederick "Fritz" Niland, of Tonawanda, NY is told in Stephen E. Ambrose's book, BAND OF BROTHERS..Fritz was a Sergeant with the H-501st PIR and was misdropped below Carantan on D-Day having to fight back to the 501st drop zone with his Buddy. Fritz was decorated for grenading a German machine gun nest on June 12,'44. Fritz had three brothers; Robert , of D-505 PIR, 82nd ABRN DIV who was killed on Utah Beach, Normandy at Neuville au Plain;...Preston a Lieutenant with the 22nd Inf. 4th Div. who was killed on Utah Beach, June 7,'44...and Eddie an older brother whose plane was shot down in the CBI theatre May 1944 and was presumned dead...After learning that Fritz was probably the sole surviving son in his family...Fr. Francis Sampson, Catholic Chaplain of the 501, started paperwork to have Fritz sent back to safer duty in the US.Fritz remained in Normandy with the 501 until they sailed back to England in July 1944.

Fritz wanted to avenge his brother's deaths and return to action, but was over-ruled and sent back for MP duty in N.Y. state until the war ended.


Eddie it was learned did survive having returned from his MIA status having been in a Japanese, POW camp.....Mrs. Niland did NOT receive three telegrams in one day regarding the loss of her sons.Two not three of Fritz's brothers were infact killed in action. The story of the Niland's wound up in two of Amboses's books, and Hollywood screenwriters used the basis scenario of a 101st paratrooper who had lost three brothers as the starting premise for the screenplay of 'SAVING PRIVATE RYAN'.


After the war, Fritz Niland became an oral surgeon. He and I were classmates at the Univ of Georgetown Dental School, Wash. DC for four years , graduating in 1950...99 out of a class of 100, were veterans serving in all the services...Fritz did not talk much of his war experiences, but the effect of losing two brothers and nearly three, made a profound mark upon him. Fritz had two daughters... He died in the early 1980s.


Dr. John McAuliffe;M-347

Marion J Chard
Proud Daughter of Walter (Monday) Poniedzialek
540th Engineer Combat Regiment, 2833rd Bn, H&S Co, 4th Platoon
There's "No Bridge Too Far"

Marion I did a lenghty post on WBG and though what better place to share it Hope you enjoy


Niland, Frederick "Fritz"

Rank: Sergeant

Unit: 101st Airborne Division, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Battalion, Company H

Parents: Michael and Augusta

Brothers: 3 - Robert, Preston and Edward

Home Town: Tonawanda, New York


Saving Sergeant Niland? Although the story for the search for Private Ryan is fictional, there was a real paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division whose family (appeared to have) suffered the loss of three out of four sons in combat in a short period of time.


Sergeant Frederick "Fritz" Niland was a member of the 101st Airborne's 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, and was one of those that made the drop into Normandy on June 5/6, 1944. Niland's three brothers served in other units, Technical Sergeant Robert Niland with the 82nd Airborne Division (505th Parachute Infantry Regiment), Lieutenant Preston Niland with the 4th Infantry Division (22nd Infantry Regiment), and Technical Sergeant Edward Niland as a pilot in the Army Air Force. Much like the fictional Ryan, two of Niland's brothers, Robert and Preston, were killed on or after D-Day, and the third, Edward, was reported missing over Burma in the Pacific Theater on May 16, 1944.


Unlike Ryan, however, there was no need to send out a rescue mission to find Sergeant Niland, who was eventually contacted at his unit by a priest, Father Francis L. Sampson, who began the paperwork necessary to send Niland home. Niland remained with his unit for some time, but once the paperwork cleared he was forced to return to the States, where he served as an MP for the rest of the war. Fortunately for the Niland family, Edward Niland had not been killed, but had spent almost an entire year in a Japanese prisoner of war camp before being rescued by British forces.


The two deceased Niland brothers were buried at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial at Colleville-sur-Mer, France. Robert is buried in Plot F, Row 15, Grave 11, and Preston is buried in Plot F, Row 15, Grave 12.


Attempts to point out the "discrepancies" between the stories of Fritz Niland and James Ryan are often misguided, as Ryan is only based on Niland, and is not meant to be (or claimed to be) a completely accurate representation of him. The differences in the two stories seem to stem in part from the fact that the true story of Sergeant Niland and his brothers is often reported inaccurately. The character of Private James Ryan is a mixture of fact and fiction, with some of the fictional elements coming from the erroneous stories about the Niland brothers.


"Saving Private Ryan" A Real Life Drama (University at Buffalo Reporter)

Saving Private Ryan: Remembering our World War II Soldiers


The Saving Private Ryan Online Encyclopedia is not affiliated with or endorsed by DreamWorks L.L.C, Paramount Pictures or Amblin Entertainment. All Saving Private Ryan images and media are the trademark/copyright of their respective owners.




Frederick'Fritz'Niland of Tonawanda, NY was a Sgt in H/501 PIR. He was misdropped below Carentan on D-Day, but fought his way back to the 501 with his buddy Jack Breier. The 1943 photo above was made with Breier's camera. Although virtually every writer who tells the Niland family story manages to gaff-up the details, the basic facts are these; all three of Fritz's brothers, who were on active duty with the U.S. military, became casualties in less than three weeks. Oldest brother Eddie was on an Air Corps bomber, which was shot down in the C.B.I. on 16 May, 1944. His mother, Augusta, received the MIA telegram about Eddie on 8 June, 1944. Her other three sons were all participating in the Normandy invasion with the Army.


Robert, a.k.a. "Bob The Beast" Niland jumped near St Mere Eglise with D/505PIR, 82nd Airborne. Bob was killed in heavy fighting at Neuville au Plain on June 6th. Brother Preston was a lieutenant in the 22nd Infantry Regiment, 4th Division, and landed on Utah Beach. On 7 June, 1944, he was also killed in the area NW of Utah Beach. When Fritz returned from his misdrop circa 11 June, he rejoined H/501 and was decorated for grenading a German m.g nest at Hill 30 on 12 June. After learning that Fritz was probably the sole surviving son in his family, Fr. Francis Sampson, Catholic Chaplain of the 501, started paperwork to have Fritz sent back to safer duty in the U.S. The paperwork took quite a while to go through, and didn't come back approved until the end of the summer.




Fritz was NOT pulled out of the front lines, as Ambrose asserts in his books. Fritz remained in Normandy with the 501 until they sailed back to England on an LST. The photo above was taken by Fritz's best buddy, Jack Breier in Southhampton, England in July, 1944. The troops had just debarked the LST and were loading on buses to ride back to their base camp at Lamborne, England. Cate, Fritz's daughter has verified that the trooper standing at left in the photo is Fritz Niland.


Fritz remained with H/501 through the summer of 1944, suiting-up for two missions which were canceled, before the orders came through for him to return to the Zone of Interior. Fritz protested the order-he wanted to return to battle and avenge his lost brothers. Against his objections, he was overruled and sent back for M.P. duty in N.Y. state until the war ended.


One of his brothers did survive-Eddie returned from his MIA status many months later, having been in a Japanese P.O.W. camp. Mrs Niland did NOT receive three telegrams in one day regarding the loss of her sons,(I still can't figure out where Ambrose conjured-up THAT particular fiction-it was good Hollywood stuff for the movie though.) Also two, not three of Fritz's brothers were in fact killed in action. The story of the Nilands wound-up in two of Ambrose's books, and Hollywood screenwriters used the basic scenario of a 101st paratrooper who had lost three brothers as the starting premise for the screenplay of 'Saving Private Ryan'.


The connection to Easy Company was that Warren 'Skip' Muck knew the Nilands from their mutual hometown of Tonawanda, N.Y. Before D-Day, Skip, Don Malarkey, Joe Toye, and Chuck Grant, met Bob and Fritz in London. Bob Niland had already experienced battle with the 82nd Airborne and gave his eager audience some views on the realities of combat.


After returning home from WW2, Fritz Niland did not "cure some disease, or invent a longer lasting lightbulb"-instead, he became an oral surgeon and innovated new techniques in that field, which is more than the average man will ever do. According to Cate, Fritz was a compassionate man, who hated to see people in pain. That drove him to pursue dental work, as a means of helping aleviate much suffering. Fritz Niland passed away in the early 1980's but his daughters Cate and Mary are active in attending WW2 functions and Airborne reunions. photo above courtesy Jack Breier. The Niland family story as told in Ambrose's book 'Band of Brothers', was based on testimony from Don Malarkey as well as Father Francis Sampson's factually skewed writing. (There is a detailed discussion of this in the last chapter of my current book). Living way out in little Astoria Oregon, Don had no contact with the Nilands after the war, so could not learn the details about Eddie surviving the war, etc. It's too bad Ambrose didn't contact the Niland family (a number of them are easily found in the Buffalo, NY area), as they could have set him straight on the details of their family history.


The Niland family was not mentioned in the BoB miniseries.


The Story of Fritz Niland...The Real Ryan

This is the story of the family who the SPR movie is based on. Mr. Spielberg was quite a guy to meet. This is a portion of my book about the Niland family. My father was Private Ryan. I thank you for the opportunity to write this story without all the Nazi crap that seems to be drawn to the various chat lines about Fritz. This is the true story, part of which is in the movie. Thanks, cate



This last two years the dramatic story of the Niland family was brought to light once again after 55 years with the release of Steven Spielberg's outstanding film Saving Private Ryan. In the movie a paratrooper in the 101rst Airborne is rescued from behind enemy lines in a daring attempt to send Ryan home as the sole surviving son after all his brothers are killed. Mr. Spielberg had us tell our story on the HBO Special Saving Private Ryan after he met us in Hollywood. Like the fictional Ryan, my father, Sgt. Fritz Niland was forced to return home as a sole surviving son following D-Day after losing his three brothers in the week of June 6th, 1944. At first Fritz refused to go, insisting his mother would understand his desire to stay with the only brothers he had left, his fellow paratroopers. John Bacon remembers Fritz saying, " No, I'm not going, I'm staying with the boys." His jump buddies confirm Fritz initially was ready to make the Army send him back in handcuffs. I think it must have been very hard for my father that first year he returned to the states. This forever set my family in history books and the memories of his comrades. The war never did really end for Dad. He carried it with him for the rest of his life.

So strong are the similarities of the movie with the Niland story that historical author Mark Bando contacted me in Anchorage and asked, "Has Hollywood called you yet?" They had not, which prompted me to write a letter to Mr. Spielberg. In the letter I included old newspaper articles from the time of the invasion and family photos of my father and uncles.

In part I wrote:

"God blesses you Mr. Spielberg and my family thanks you for making a movie that will honor the incredible heart and bravado of these veterans. This story I tell you is my family's legacy. I hope you will understand the love and pride we feel when their names are mentioned. The Paratroopers themselves compared their endeavor to St. Crispian Day. It is taken from Shakespeare's Henry V Act IV, a play my father read to me as a child.



This story shall the good man teach his son;

And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,

From this day to the ending of the world,

But we in it shall be remembered;

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;



I personally wish you great success with Saving Private Ryan. I trust that your movie will help these men to rest in peace. My father and my uncles did their duty before God and man. Today I say a prayer for all the warriors who gave their lives, expecting that our generation might live our dreams. I hope God has a special place in heaven for each and every one of them"



After reading my letter, Steven Spielberg was so amazed by the parallels of his movie and the true story of the Niland brothers that he personally invited the direct descendents of the Niland clan from around the country as his guests to come to Hollywood and tell our family history. The story was told in the HBO special Saving Private Ryan, which aired nationally on cable July 21rst, 1998. The HBO filming was held up for over an hour as the Niland family met with Mr. Spielberg. He read every letter and looked at every picture. At one point, my cousin Pete Niland, my Uncle Eddie's only son and the last Niland to carry on the family name shared a copy of a letter written from the battlefield by our Uncle Bobbie to our grandmother Gussie. The letter promising her that after the war he and all the brothers would return safely home. The reading of the letter brought tears to everyone's eyes. The family was invited to return a second time to Hollywood for the premiere of the movie. At a private reception held before the film premiered the family, including the Niland granddaughters, had the incredible opportunity of meeting meet Mr. Tom Hanks and the other stars of the movie. The experience was deeply moving as the family proudly recalled the bravery and sacrifice of the four Niland boys of Tonawanda, New York. In the 54 years that have since passed, the impact of the Niland story as first told has not lessened one single bit.



On June 6th, 1944 my father, Sgt. Frederick (Fritz) Niland made history in the great D-Day invasion as a 101rst combat paratrooper in the 501rst PIRA Co. H. Fritz's plane was hit buy enemy fire and his group was dropped miles away from their jump target. Slowly over nine days the group reassembled and fought their way back to Carrentan with the help of the French Underground and their leader Jean Kapiton. After Fritz reunited with his comrades in arms he received news that his brother Mortar Sgt. Robert Niland with the 82nd Airborne 505th PIRA Co. D had been killed on D-Day protecting the wounded after they had run out of ammo around Neville au Plain. My dad sought out the company chaplain Father Francis Sampson who took Fritz to search in the make- shift cemeteries around St. Mere Eglise to find Bob. They searched several cemeteries and were unable to find him. Father Sampson told Fritz there was one more place to check and when the chaplain emerged from the last cemetery he was happy to tell my father there was no Robert Niland there, only a Preston Niland a platoon leader with the 22nd Infantry Regiment 4th Division. Father Sampson assumed there must have been a mistake in names. "Father Sampson, Preston is my brother too, replied Fritz." In this sad way my father discovered that his other brother Preston had been killed as well. He was killed D+1 Day defending the wounded at Utah Beach. It was a terrible moment for my Dad. Within this tight timeframe his oldest brother T/ Sgt. Edward Niland had been reported shot down in Burma on May 20th 1944. Uncle Eddie a radio operator and gunner with the 25th bomber group was presumed dead. At that moment my father's life changed forever. Finally, back in England after several attempts to have Fritz return willingly and fed up with my Dad's resistance to return home, in August of 1944 President Roosevelt ordered Fritz home. Father Sampson told him, "Fritz you can take it up with General Eisenhower or the President, but your going home." I will never forget the haunted look in his eyes when he would recount the story to my sister Mary and I as children. He told us, " Girls never forget it took a presidential congressional order to get me out of France." My father told us that there would come a time in our lives that we would not be able to deny the fighting genes of the 101rst Airborne that flows through our veins. Fritz's prediction has come to pass. We are truly the 501 Children of Wonders.



My grandfather and grandmother, Michael and Augusta Niland received the first telegram about Edward on June 6, 1944. The other telegrams kept coming over the next week informing my grandparents of the tragic extent of their loss. Over and over again they read, "The secretary of war desires me to express his deep regret" In one week, three sons killed and the fourth, my dad, who was the youngest, had been reported missing in action since June 6th, behind enemy lines. The family was later told that after several telegram deliveries the bicycle courier refused to go back to my grandparent's home. "Please don't send me back to that house." He could not bear to give Mrs. Niland yet another telegram. My father's cousin Joe Niland remembers how my Grandma Gussie cried as each telegram was delivered. "She felt ashamed she didn't instinctively know in her heart which of her sons was lying dead on a foreign battlefield. She told us years later that she had prayed for each of her boys, but felt from start she would loss them all." After the war my grandmother refused to touch the bedrooms of my uncles, and my father himself would never enter them. As 5-year-old child I can remember my Uncles beds being perfectly made and all their clothes still in their closets. Everything as they had left it. We were not allowed to play in that room. My Aunt Claire, the oldest Niland sister, told us it was a matter of respect. Our uncles had died as heroes and Grandma Gussie could not let them go.

After my father returned home he was assigned as an MP at the Buffalo train station. The position embarrassed him, and he was unhappy with the treatment. He had been a member of the elite. He told me years later that he had signed on as a paratrooper not an MP. He felt that the Army had broken their contract. Fritz suffered much indignity in that first year home. Most notable is a story that my Aunt Diana (Edward's wife) told us. As an MP Fritz was allowed to wear civilian clothes on the weekends. He took my aunt and some friends out to dinner. While in that restaurant a stranger came up to the table and asked, "What's a healthy young man like you doing out of uniform?" My father's sense of humor still alive, His reply and the stranger's comeuppance: " I guess lady that's my reward for minding my own damned business." Fritz later told me he could have had both his legs shot off under that table for all she knew.

Around that time my Grandmother being of German decent had her dachshund hung in the backyard by a Nazi hater. I can tell you my grandmother was devastated to think that after the sacrifice of her sons, someone would think she was sympathetic with the German Nazis. Even after this incident my father never disclaimed the German soldiers as evil. He pointed out the enemy's admirable qualities. They were brave men and good fighters. To my father it was Hitler that was evil. Hitler destroyed Germany.



My grandfather had a dynamic dream about my Uncle Eddie. Cousin Pete remembers the story that my grandfather had a dream that Ed was alive. Grandpa Mike dreamed that the plane crashed, and Ed stepped out of the smoldering plane. My grandfather asked, "Son are you all right?" 'Yeah, I'm all right Dad, I'm coming home." The dream was so intense that Mike awakened my grandmother and said, "Gussie, Eddie is o-kay, he's coming home." For a year after that there was always a chair held for my uncle at the dinner table. Cousin Billyanna Niland recalls that they thought my grandmother had succumbed to stress, but true to the dream, a year later Uncle Eddie escaped from a Japanese prison camp and returned home. He was only 75lbs. when he returned home. My Dad said that they were moving Ed and the other prisoners to another camp and they were striffted by enemy fire from planes. They all scattered into a field and when the Japanese gathered them back into formation, Eddie just stayed in the field. He wandered for days through the jungle hiding. Later he heard troops coming through the area. They were the British Gurkas and Eddie jumped up to make himself known. In that moment Uncle Eddie heard his brother Preston's voice calling out to him, "What kind of soldier are you? Get Down!" Eddie dropped down and seconds later machine gun fire came over his head. They thought he was Japanese. He jumped up again and cried, "Don't shoot, I'm an American!" At that time there is no way my uncle could have known of Preston's death. There is no doubt in my mind of a spiritual intervention by my Uncle Preston to save my Uncle Eddie's life.



I have known since childhood that I came from a family of warriors. My grandfather Michel Niland was a Rough Rider with Teddy Roosevelt on San Juan Hill. The family remembers affectionately my grandfather's boast in typical Niland bravado. Grandpa said, "He wouldn't have made it without a Niland, I carried Teddy up that hill."



My dad was the bravest man I ever knew. He taught me honor, integrity and real courage. He faced many demons after the war and won, but we will always remember Fritz as a great guy and a good soldier, as John Bacon says, "Fritz was all Man." He passed on to me the truest sense of what means to be a descendent of the 101rst Airborne. Geronimo!!!!!







"The Sprit of American Youth Rising from the Waves"




At the conclusion of the fighting in Normandy, there were more than ten American cemeteries on the battlefield, with hundreds of small burial grounds and isolated graves. The American Battle Monuments Commission (AMBC) repatriated at least 60% of these burials back to the United States, and concentrated the remaining casualties into two main cemeteries; one here in Normandy and another in Britanny.


To a size of 172.5 acres, the Normandy American Cemetery has 9,387 burials of US service men and women. Of this number, some 307 are unknowns, three are Medal of Honour winners (see below) and four are women. In addition there are 33 pairs of brothers buried side by side. It is the largest American Cemetery from WW2, but not the largest in Europe: that is the Meuse-Argonne Cemetery from WW1 with more than 14,000 burials.


The main body of the cemetery is rectangular with the main paths laid out in the pattern of a Latin cross. On entering the cemetery, visit first the Visitors Building where veterans can sign the Veteran's Book, and all others the main Visitors Book. Here you can also trace US servicemen and women who are in the care of AMBC either in cemeteries or on memorials. You can also pick up a free leaflet about the cemetery.




The graves at Normandy American Cemetery


Then proceed to the Memorial, the main feature of which is a 22 foot bronze statue "The Sprit of American Youth Rising From The Waves". Either side of this are huge wall maps showing the campaign in the European Theatre of Operations (ETO).


Behind the statue is the Garden of the Missing which commemorates a further 1,557 soldiers, sailors and airmen who fell in Normandy and have no known grave. Those who remains have been found since the war are indicated with an asterisk. The servicemen commemorated here represent all but one of the 50 States.


From here enter the main body of the cemetery and follow the path to The Chapel. This is built from limestone and the main inscription inside reads "I Give Unto Them Etneral Life and They Shall Never Perish".




The Memorial, Normandy American Cemetery


The cemetery borders on the left flank of Omaha Beach, and overlooks the sector where the 1st Division landed on D Day. There is a Viewing Platform with a useful map, and paths which take you down the slopes and onto the beach - although it is a long walk.


On most days the cemetery is open until 17.00. For further information contact:


Normandy American Cemetery

"Omaha Beach"

14710 Colleville sur Mer



Tel: 02 31 51 62 00. Fax: 02 31 51 62 09






The cemetery is well signposted from many locations, including Bayeux. From Bayeux take the RN13 in the direction of Cherbourg. Take the exit signposted 'Omaha Beach' and follow the road junction in Vierville-sur-Mer. Here turn left on the RN814 and follow through St Laurent sur Mer to a roundabout just before Colleville sur Mer. Here turn left and follow the signs to the parking at the cemetery.




Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr (Block D : Row 28 : Graves 45 & 46)



- 4th Division.

- Died 12th July 1944

- Nephew of the President and buried beside his brother Quentin, killed as a pilot in WW1.

- Recipient of the Medal of Honour.


Two brothers who inspired 'Saving Private Ryan' (Block F : Row 15 : Graves 11 & 12)



- 2/Lt Preston Niland 22nd Infantry and Sgt Robert Niland 505th PIR.

- Robert was killed on D Day and Preston on 7th June. A third brother was thought killed in the Pacific, so the fourth was allowed home. However, the brother in the Pacific actaully survived the war.

- It was their story which inspired the script writers for 'Saving Private Ryan'


Father and Son (Block E : Row 20 : Graves 19 & 20)



- Colonel Ollie Reed, 115th Infantry, 30th July 1944.

- 1st Lieutenant Ollie Reed Jr., 163rd Infantry, 6th July 1944.


Medal of Honour winner: T/Sgt Frank Peregory (Block G : Row 21 : Grave 7)


116th Infantry, 29th Division.

- Killed 14th June 1944.

- Awarded for Grandcamp Maisy 8th June 1944.


Medal of Honour winner: 1st Lieutenant Jimmie W. Monteith Jr (Block I : Row 20 : Grave 12)



- 16th Infantry, 1st Division.

- Killed 6th June 1944.

- Awarded for Omaha Beach, D Day.


Real "Saving Private Ryan"

& Colonel Vandervoort


Scene from "Saving Private Ryan"

Ste,-Mere-Eglise was a quiet village with a couple of hundred gray stone houses. It was a village in which nothing much of consequence had happened for ten centuries. The road N-13 ran through the village, heading north to Cherbourg and east to Caen and onto Paris. Without the use of N-13 the Germans to the north would be cut off. If the Americans lost control many paratroopers would be cut off and the 4th Infantry Division would be unable to move off the beach to the west and north. Because of this the battle for the little village took on a great importance.


Colonel Vandervoort, despite a broken ankle during the parachute drop and having to be moved around in a wheelbarrow, moved his battalion into the village. Between them and another battalion, they did not have the men form a complete defensive perimeter so they decided to only defend both ends of the main road.


About 1pm on D-Day a Frenchman rode his bicycle up to them and announced in English that some American paratroopers were bringing in a large contingent of German prisoners from the north. Sure enough, when Vandervoort looked in that direction there was a column of troops marching in good order right down the middle of N-13, with what appeared to be paratroopers on either side of them waving orange flags (the American recognition signal on D-day).


Vandervoort grew suspicious when he noticed two tracked vehicles at the rear of the column. He told one of his men to fire a short machine gun burst to the right of the column. Sure enough the "prisoners" and "paratroopers" both jumped into ditches and began to return fire. The Germans outnumbered the Americans five to one and began to flank his position. He sent for reinforcements and ordered the men to begin a fighting withdrawal.


Finally only sixteen of his forty three men were in a condition to fight and they were preparing for a "last stand". Then a medic volunteered to stay behind and look after the wounded. Pvt. Julius Sebastain, Cpl. Ray Smithson, and Sgt. Robert Niland offered to form a rearguard to cover the retreat of the remainder of the platoon. The three were able to put up an energetic defense that actually stopped the German advance for a time and allowed the others to escape.


The twenty-eight badly wounded men which were left behind along with two of the three volunteers who stayed behind were captured. The third volunteer, Sgt. Bob Niland, was killed at his machine gun. One of his brothers, a platoon leader in the 4th Division, was killed the same morning at Utah Beach. Another brother was killed that week in Burma. Mrs. Niland received all three telegrams from the War Department announcing their deaths on the same day. Her fourth son, Fritz, was in the 101st Airborne and was pulled out of the front lines by the Army.





Lt. Col. Ben Vandervoort, and his 2nd Battalion (505th PIR, 82nd Airborne Division) later saw action at the Nijmegen bridge in Operation Market Garden (movie: A Bridge Too Far). His battalion was assigned to take the west end of the Nijmegen bridge while Maj. Julian Cook's 3rd Battalion (Maj. Cook played by Robert Redford in the movie) took the east end, crossing the river in the small boats.


The 82nd was to then later play a major role in the defense of the allied position during the Battle of the Bulge.





The Niland Brothers are mentioned in thie article





"Saving Private Ryan" a real-life drama

Steven Spielberg's World War II film loosely based on the family of UB's Pete Niland




Reporter Contributor


UB's Pete Niland remembers his trip to Normandy, France, in 1974.


At his father's request, Niland laid flowers at the burial crosses of his uncles, Sgt. Robert Niland and Lt. Preston Niland, who were killed in action during the WWII Allied invasion of Europe in June 1944.


The real-life image bears some resemblance to the final scene in the recent blockbuster movie, "Saving Private Ryan," in which Private James Ryan (Matt Damon) returns to the Normandy grave site of Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) years after Miller helped return Ryan to his family after Ryan's three brothers were killed in action.


When Niland saw the scene during the Hollywood premiere of the film on July 21, he couldn't help but think of his own family.


But he wasn't surprised, because the movie is partially based on his own family's story.


And he was well-prepared for viewing the movie after meeting with Director Steven Spielberg, participating in an HBO special on the making of the film, and flying to Hollywood twice with a number of family members. The Niland family saga is featured this week in People magazine.


Although he uses the first name "Pete," the well-known assistant director of residence halls-recently recognized for 20 years of service to UB-actually was named after his uncle Preston.


Pete Niland's father, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Edward F. Niland, died in 1983. But unlike the movie line, Edward Niland survived the war. He was shot down over Burma in southeast Asia and was held by the Japanese as a prisoner of war for 11-1/2 months-six months in solitary confinement.


"Saving Private Ryan," which premiered in Buffalo July 24, has been described as one of the most graphic and realistic portrayals of WWII and the D-Day invasion ever produced.


Directed by Spielberg, the film centers on a paratrooper, Private James Ryan (Damon), whose three older brothers are killed during the initial days of the Allied invasion.


Private James Ryan is the movie's equivalent of Pete Niland's uncle, Sgt. Frederick (Fritz) Niland, who was accidentally dropped over enemy lines in France along with other members of the 101st Airborne.


Under the War Department's sole-survivor policy-implemented after the highly publicized deaths of the five Sullivan brothers who were killed while serving on the same war ship-Fritz was located by a chaplain and sent home to his parents, Augusta and Michael Niland, in the City of Tonawanda.


"They had trouble finding him," Pete Niland said of the Rev. Francis Sampson's search, but the "rescue" was quite different from the one depicted in the movie.


In the movie, Capt. John Miller (Hanks) leads a squad to retrieve Private Ryan from behind enemy lines and bring him home to his mother, who has been devastated by news of the deaths of her three other sons.


Although the "real" mother-Niland's grandmother, Augusta-also likely was devastated by the news, he described her as a "tough old German lady," who refused most of the media attention surrounding her family's real-life drama. She died in 1966.


The survival of Pete Niland's father is another striking differences between the movie and reality. Although Edward Niland was very close to being "missing and presumed dead" after nearly a year in captivity, he was eventually liberated from the Burma prison camp by British troops and spent his postwar career working in a Tonawanda-area post office.


While growing up, Pete Niland, who was born in 1948, remembers hearing the stories of his father's ordeal, about the deaths of his two uncles, and about the return of his uncle Fritz, who eventually became an oral surgeon and worked in Niagara Falls after the war.


But "as a family, you can only talk about it so much," Niland said of the story, which was also included in the 1992 book "Band of Brothers," written by historian Steven Ambrose. The movie's writers were partially inspired by the Ambrose book, Niland has said. He described Ambrose's portrayal of his family's ordeal as "sort of correct."


The following is the account of the four brothers: Sgt. Robert Niland, 25, a paratrooper and squad leader with the 82nd Airborne, was killed in action on D-Day-June 6, 1944; Lt. Preston Niland, 29, a member of the 22nd infantry, was killed in action the following day; Air Force Tech. Sgt. Edward Niland (Pete Niland's father and age 31 at the time) was captured by the Japanese and eventually liberated; and Sgt. Fritz Niland, a member of the 101st Airborne who fought in Normandy, eventually made his way back to his unit in Carentan and was eventually met by the chaplain, informed of the death of his brothers, and was returned to the U.S.


Before the war, Preston Niland attended UB, and the other three brothers attended Canisius College.


But history aside, Pete Niland described his experiences this summer as "fascinating."


"They flew us to Hollywood twice," he said. The first time was in June to participate in the HBO special, which has since aired several times. It was then that he first met Spielberg.


"We were in Jack Benny's old studio-Studio One," Niland said. The cameras were rolling for filming of the HBO special when "Spielberg walked in, stopped production and talked to us for an hour."


"He was fascinating," Niland said, "and he was fascinated with everything we had to say."


"His father did exactly the same thing as my dad, in Burma," Niland said of the world-famous director. Spielberg also related a story in which he was walking backward while filming the scene at the Normandy cemetery when he tripped over a cross, looked up, and realized that it bore the name "John Miller," the same name as the Tom Hanks hero-character in the movie.


"There were so many things," Niland said, recalling this past summer from his office in the Ellicott Complex.


The second trip to Hollywood, in which his family was invited for the Hollywood premiere on July 21, "was just incredible," he said. "It was like a who's who of Hollywood."


Niland shook hands with Tom Hanks, Sylvester Stallone, and came into contact with countless other stars like Samuel L. Jackson, Sally Fields, Adam Goldberg, and producer and actor Edward Burns.


Spielberg mentioned the Niland family in a speech to the elite movie-goers just before the film publicly rolled for the first time.


"It was a mob scene," he said of the premiere at Mann's Theater in Westwood, Calif., which Niland attended with his wife, Jan, and other family members.


Due to the graphic nature of the film, arrangements were made for his daughter Briana, 10, to stay in the hotel room.


"We got back from the movie and she had ordered room service," Niland said, adding that Briana didn't seem to mind missing the film until she learned that "Scary Spice," of the pop group the "Spice Girls," had been in attendance at the movie and at the reception.


Meanwhile, Niland continues to be bombarded with media inquiries. In addition to the HBO special, the People magazine story and intense local media attention, he has appeared twice on MSNBC, and has been mentioned in British tabloids and news media around the globe. In late August, Niland was interviewed by a radio reporter from Sydney, Australia,


Producers at the Fox national TV network have also expressed interest in the Niland story.


You gotta see this is is great. Don Malarkey does an interview about Fritz. Thanks to ~ae


Cindy, as usual you blow me away with the depth of your posts. I sure my buddy will want to see all of this and I will email him tonight and make sure he takes a peek.


I will go ahead and post John's letter of WBG tonight too.



Marion J Chard
Proud Daughter of Walter (Monday) Poniedzialek
540th Engineer Combat Regiment, 2833rd Bn, H&S Co, 4th Platoon
There's "No Bridge Too Far"

Possibly Related Threads…
Thread Author Replies Views Last Post
  The real story behind duct tape and its tie-in with WWII Walt's Daughter 4 2,291 03-29-2016, 10:09 AM
Last Post: Walt's Daughter
  Necklace with a story Walt's Daughter 3 1,918 06-17-2014, 07:29 AM
Last Post: Walt's Daughter
  Finding Gilbert - story begins in 1944 Walt's Daughter 4 3,757 05-15-2014, 12:04 PM
Last Post: Walt's Daughter
  Normandy Loves US...The Untold Story sixgun 0 1,432 04-12-2014, 07:57 AM
Last Post: sixgun
  Finding Harry and Fred Bahlau's story Frank Gubbels 3 2,675 04-13-2013, 01:06 PM
Last Post: Jean Jacobson
  The story of the Anzio blanket (my new blankie) Walt's Daughter 24 9,985 12-13-2008, 10:46 PM
Last Post: Walt's Daughter
  The Story Of "Red" Canine Veteran Of Normandy Invasion arve 3 2,360 06-07-2008, 04:32 AM
Last Post: Dogdaddy
  B-17 STORY... A war story with heart. ricklind 1 1,573 03-08-2008, 10:14 AM
Last Post: Walt's Daughter
  Story of Charlie Brown - B17 pilot Walt's Daughter 0 1,394 09-25-2007, 07:15 PM
Last Post: Walt's Daughter
  TWO CHRISTMAS STORY'S Cadetat6 0 1,588 12-26-2005, 07:42 AM
Last Post: Cadetat6

Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)