12 Small - But Accurate - Details From 'Saving Private Ryan'

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Vote up the small accuracies that heighten the experience of the film.

Praised for its accuracy and emotion-evoking realism, Saving Private Ryan offers a look at the horrors of WWII. In one of the earliest scenes of the movie, Saving Private Ryan takes its audience to the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944, recreating the D-Day invasion. The movie goes on to follow a group of Army Rangers on a mission to find one man amid the Allied Forces - Private James Ryan.

Led by Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks), Privates Richard Reiben (Ed Burns), Adrian Caparzo (Vin Diesel), Stanley Mellish (Adam Goldberg), and Daniel Jackson (Barry Pepper) accompany Medic Irwin Wade (Giovanni Ribisi), Corporal Timothy Upham (Jeremy Davies), and Sergeant Mike Horvath (Tom Sizemore) to find their man. Throughout their journey, men give of themselves to the task at hand. 

As the major events of Saving Private Ryan play out, it's easy to miss some of the more subtle details included in the film to heighten its sense of authenticity and honor those who served in WWII. Seemingly minute facts make Saving Private Ryan that much more of a cinematic feat, while subtly adding to the overall movie-watching experience. Here's a list of some of what you may or may not have missed. Which one of the Saving Private Ryan details do you think is the most important?


  • 1
    2,886 VOTES

    The Anti-Seacraft 'Czech Hedgehogs' In The Water At Normandy Reflect One Of The Miscalculations Made By The Germans

    The presence and placement of Czech hedgehogs at Normandy - crossed bars of iron or steel welded into spiky obstacles - gives insight into preparations for the invasion by the Germans. Often used to disable tanks, the Czech hedgehogs were an ideal defense against landing vessels, as well. When underwater, approaching boats and ships would be struck.  

    Germany believed the invasion of Normandy by Allied Forces was going to take place at high tide. The Allied Navy and Army, however, opted to begin their approach in the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, when the tide was low. This gave them time to disable some of the underwater defenses installed by the Germans.

    2,886 votes
  • 2
    3,020 VOTES

    Heavy Equipment Made It Incredibly Hard For The Landing Forces To Get Solid Footing

    The struggle to get to shore on D-Day was multifaceted. Heavy gear, equipment, and supplies weighed soldiers down, while constant artillery fire threatened every move. As 20-year-old Ted Cordery watched on, he saw several soldiers never even get to the beaches of Normandy, succumbing to the English Channel instead. 

    Saving Private Ryan accurately shows troops let off into water that was too deep for them to touch the ground. Cordery recalled decades later:

    I felt so sorry for the men. They were coming from a fair way out to get to the beach, and they were all in their uniforms and carrying guns and their own food, so they all had these cans weighing them down... So many of them didn't make it because they were dropped too far from the land. They went straight in the deep water and drowned.

    3,020 votes
  • 3
    3,111 VOTES

    Only Sounds From Authentic WWII Weapons Were Used

    To add to the realistic feel that sets Saving Private Ryan apart from other war movies, sound effects engineers sought out WWII weapons and vehicles in order to record and incorporate them into the film. 

    Sound designer Gary Rydstrom hoped to recreate the sounds of WWII, having been told by Steven Spielberg that he "didn't want cliches... there might be a lot of cheating in sound effects from the classic war movies," and there was to be none of that "cheating" in this film. 

    In addition to gunfire from WWII machine guns and rifles, the sound of bullets underwater accompanied the representation of temporary hearing impairment caused by the overwhelming noise of battle. 

    3,111 votes
  • 4
    3,023 VOTES

    Director Spielberg Insisted On Casting Real-Life Amputees - With One Clear Exception

    Instead of filming the movie and later removing limbs or adding other injuries via computer effects, Steven Spielberg opted to incorporate real-life amputees into his cast. 

    According to associate producer Mark Huffam

    We had somewhere between 20 and 30 amputees and paraplegics who worked with us, creating very realistic scenes where we could use effects to make it look like soldiers were losing limbs. Some might say it was an insensitive approach, but they all did it with great enthusiasm.

    Not only did this add to the film's realism, but it also mitigated post-production costs. 

    One actor who appeared as an amputee - but notably wasn't - however, was Bryan Cranston. 

    3,023 votes
  • 5
    2,983 VOTES

    The Soldiers In The Movie Wore Unfastened Helmets

    Throughout Saving Private Ryan, soldiers are shown wearing helmets with chinstraps either hanging by the sides of their heads or fastened in the back. During WWII, it was common for men to leave their M1 helmets - made of an outer steel shell and an inner liner - unfastened due to concern among soldiers that a chinstrap would be dangerous in an explosion. The fear was that the force from the blast would blow one's helmet back, breaking the wearer's neck in the process. 

    It was reported that General George S. Patton even ordered men to leave their helmets unfastened after one of his aides perished in Tunisia in this exact manner.

    2,983 votes
  • 6
    2,745 VOTES

    Soldiers Did Throw Mortar Shells During WWII

    In one scene in Saving Private Ryan, Matt Damon throws a mortar shell, an action that actually led to many individuals who watched the movie crying foul. According to naysayers, no soldier would have ever thrown such a dangerous piece of ammunition.

    There are accounts of soldiers doing just that, however. Technical Sergeant Beauford T. Anderson received a Congressional Medal of Honor for his service during WWII, with a citation that read in part:

    He seized an enemy mortar dud and threw it back among the charging [Japanese], killing several as it burst. Securing a box of mortar shells, he extracted the safety pins, banged the bases upon a rock to arm them and proceeded alternately to hurl shells and fire his piece among the fanatical foe, finally forcing them to withdraw. 

    Chuck "Commando" E. Kelly also earned a Congressional Medal of Honor, having "picked up 60-mm mortar shells, pulled the safety pins, and used the shells as grenades, killing at least five of the enemy" while serving in Italy in 1943.

    2,745 votes