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Subject: ARCHIVE: June 7, 1944 ~Brother Preston 'Pete' Niland, 28, was killed 75 years ago today -D-Day+1, shot in the head by a sniper inland, northwest of Utah Beach (where he had landed), much is unknown of Pete because most of the records at the National Archives and Records Administration located in St. Louis, Mo. were lost in a fire on July 12, 1973. ~RIP ...

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Date Posted: Friday, June 07, 11:18:04am
In reply to: Bio & PHOTO 's message, "ARCHIVE: June 6, 1944 ~Technical Sergeant Robert Niland, one of four brothers from Towanda, New York who served in the U.S Army during WWII, their true story was loosely based in the 1998 film, “Saving Private Ryan”, when Bob was KIA on D-day, as well as brother Preston the next day, soon after their storming the beaches of Normandy. A third brother Ed, believe killed weeks earlier in South Pacific, later turned up alive. .." on Thursday, June 06, 11:40:19pm

...Preston T. Niland was born in New York in 1915. He was drafted into the Army on March 31, 1941 at Buffalo, New York. His home of residence was listed as Erie County, New York and his civilian occupation was listed as Clerks, General Office. He had completed two years of college at the University of Buffalo and he was single with no dependents. His religion was listed as Catholic.

After serving in the Army as an enlisted man he graduated from Officer Candidate School and became an officer. He was commissioned an officer somewhere between December 1, 1942 and January 16, 1943. The date of his assignment to the 22nd Infantry is unknown. He was with the Regiment at least by 1943 as he was awarded the Good Conduct Medal in General Orders No. 5 Headquarters 22nd Infantry on June 8, 1943 at Fort Dix, New Jersey. At the time of the award his rank was 2nd Lieutenant. Second Lieutenant Niland was killed in action in Normandy, France, during 1st Battalion's attack against the German coastal batteries at Crisbecq on June 7, 1944.

In 1944, the four brothers of the Niland family of Tonawanda, New York, were all serving in the Army overseas. The family received a telegram stating that one of the brothers was shot down over Burma, and was missing in action, which at the time usually meant "presumed dead". Within a month, the family received telegrams that two other brothers were also missing in action. This story (with a great deal of alteration) was the basis for the Hollywood movie "Saving Private Ryan".

...Ultimately, two of the brothers were found to have been Killed In Action in Normandy, and eldest brother Edward 'Eddie' Niland, a radio operator and gunner on the bomber for the 434th Squadron, 12th Bomb Group, was shot down over Burma. Due to the lack of communication for months and months, he was presumed dead. But his father is said, by family members, to have had a dream that he saw the plane crash and Eddie walked out of it and said, “I'm OK Dad, I'm coming home.” After this, his father always set a place for his MIA son.

In fact, Eddie was captured by the Japanese, beaten, starved and tortured. When he did escape, he weighed 85lbs. On the run, he lay down in a field to rest when he heard his younger brother Preston's voice tell him, “Move! What kind of a soldier are you?” He moved and the area was laid down with machine gun fire. Eddie, presumed dead by most, eventually was rescued, and later returned home to join his family to dinner.

The genesis of the "Private Ryan" story …

...Youngest brother Fritz Niland served in H Company 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, deployed parachuting INTO France on June 6, 1944 . . . His plane was hit and the pilot had the paratroopers jump out early of their drop zone. Typical of the miss drops they were scattered all over behind enemy lines. Fritz landing near Raffoville, southwest of Carentan.

It took him nearly a week to fight his way back to his regiment. With the help of Jean Kapitem, who was a leader in the French Underground, he rejoined his unit in time to assault Hill 30 on June 12th, 1944 near La Billonnerie. Fritz had been told by his brother's company Commander that Bob had been killed and was buried in a cemetery near St. Mere Eglise. Fritz sought out the help of Father Francis Sampson, a Chaplain for the 101st Airborne. …

...They drove around most of the day looking for the grave; finally at one cemetery Father Sam told Fritz what he believed was a mistake in identity, and that there was no Robert Niland buried there, only a Preston. Fritz said, “That is my brother too”. In this sad way he discovered that his other brother had also been killed. The account is given in Father Sampson's book, Look Out Below!

In the late summer of 1944, Father Sampson came to see Fritz again before their jump into Holland for Operation Market Garden. He told him that his orders had arrived. The President of the United State had ordered him to return to the states as sole surviving son. His jump buddy, John Bacon, told the family that Fritz refused to come home and was ready to be taken back in handcuffs, instead insisting to remain and fight. Father Sam told him that he could take it up with General Eisenhower or the President, but he was going home. A day and half later he was gone, en route back to New York, where he served as an MP in New York until the completion of the war. Fritz was awarded a Bronze Star for his service.

In the 1950's he told his two daughters (Cate and Mary) to always remember that it took a Presidential Congressional
order to get him out of Europe. Frederick 'Fritz' William Niland died in 1983, in San Francisco at the age of 63,
and was later buried at the veterans Fort Richardson National Cemetery in Alaska. …

In 1994, Hollywood writer/producer Robert Rodat's wife gave him the bestseller "D-Day: June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II" by historian author Stephen Ambrose. While reading the book during an early morning walk in a small New Hampshire village, Rodat was "struck by a monument dedicated to those who had died in various wars, particularly because of the repeated last names of brothers who were killed in action". He was inspired by an actual family in Ambrose's book named the Nilands, which had lost two sons in the war and was thought to have lost a third who was "snatched" out of Normandy by the War Department. The unique Niland family story and their sacrifice, was basis of the storyline of Steven Spielberg's gripping war drama, "Saving Private Ryan in 1998.

Decades after the real life tragedy of the Niland Brothers, the dynamics and sadness of their sacrifice has not diminished. Their story
and others like them continue to embrace the courage, discipline and love of country that all men and women who serve demonstrate. …

Links …

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