The two "German" soldiers who are shot trying to surrender were speaking Czech. They were saying, "Please don't shoot me, I am not German, I am Czech, I didn't kill anyone, I am Czech!" They were members of what the Germans called Ost [East] Battalions, men, mostly Czech and Polish, taken prisoner in eastern European countries invaded by Germany and forced into the German army.
Tom Sizemore was battling a drug addiction during production. Steven Spielberg gave him an ultimatum that he would be blood tested on the set every day of filming, and if he failed the test once, he would be fired and the part of Horvath would be recast and re-shot with someone else, even if it was at the end of production. Sizemore agreed and managed to pass all of his tests. Unfortunately, he would relapse into drug abuse several times later in his career.
Steven Spielberg cast Matt Damon as Private Ryan because he wanted an unknown actor with an All-American look. He did not know Damon would win an Oscar for Good Will Hunting (1997) and become an overnight star before the film was released.
The Omaha Beach scene cost eleven million dollars to shoot, and involved up to 1,000 extras, some of whom were members of the Irish Army Reserve. Of those extras, twenty to thirty of them were amputees, issued with prosthetic limbs, to simulate soldiers having their limbs blown off.
When the camera shakes during explosions, Steven Spielberg used drills attached to the side of the camera, which were turned on when required. While shooting with this effect, the crew's photographer let Spielberg know that there was a shaker lens for cameras. Spielberg said in an interview that he had thought he had invented a great new technique.
When Tom Hanks' character tells the rest of the unit what he does for a living back home, Hanks' speech was much longer in the original script. But Hanks felt that his character wouldn't have said so much about himself, and he told director Steven Spielberg so. Spielberg agreed, and the speech was shortened.
The film was blocked by the Censor Board of India for too much violence. The Board demanded cuts that Steven Spielberg declined to make and instead, he decided not to release the movie in India at all. Realizing the seriousness of the situation, the then Home Minister of India saw the movie himself and, impressed, ordered it to be released uncut.
All the principal actors, except for Matt Damon, underwent several days of grueling army training. Damon was spared so that the other actors would resent him and would convey that feeling in their performances.
Many veterans of D-Day congratulated director Steven Spielberg for the film's authenticity, as did actor James Doohan, who is best known for playing Scotty in Star Trek (1966). Doohan lost the middle finger of his right hand and was wounded in the leg during the war. Also, he participated in the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, at Juno Beach, where the 3rd Canadian infantry division led the attack. He commended Spielberg for not leaving out any gory details.
Matt Damon ad-libbed the story he tells, towards the end of the film, about spying on his brother in the barn with the ugly girl. As described in Peter Bart's book "The Gross," the speech was rambling and not particularly funny or interesting, but the crew decided that's why it worked; it was true to an unformed kid like Ryan, fated to be at the center of this incredible operation. Steven Spielberg liked it so much he decided to leave it in the film.
The cast endured a grueling, week-long course at boot camp instructed by technical advisor Dale Dye. Tom Hanks, who had previously been trained by Dye for the Vietnam war scenes in Forrest Gump (1994), was the only one of them who knew it would be a hard and uncompromising experience: "The other guys, I think, were expecting something like camping in the woods, and maybe learning things while sitting around the campfire."
Gunfire sound effects heard in the film were recorded from actual gunfire with live ammunition fired from authentic period weapons, recorded at a live fire machine gun range near Atlanta, Georgia. The range is owned by a weapons manufacturer.
The actors all had to undergo an intensive pre-shoot six-day boot camp during which all but one of them voted to quit, as they found it too arduous. The one dissenting voice was Tom Hanks, who thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Naturally, his vote counted the most, so the rest of the actors were obligated to complete their training.
In the D-Day landing sequence, there are anti-landing obstacles all along the beach. One type, nicknamed "Czech Hedgehogs," being short and prickly and was designed to rip open the hulls of the landing craft as they approached, and the other being long poles pointing at an angle. Officially called Hemmbalken, they were made out of wood or metal and angled towards the beach, most being topped with a Teller mine (anti-tank mine) and placed in rows. The Germans expected the Allies to land at high tide, to minimize the open space that the infantry had to cross, and the beach obstacles were designed with this in mind. The plan was that the landing craft would ride onto the poles, which, at high tide, would be underwater, and detonate the AT mines, causing death and destruction. However, the Allies landed at low tide, making the obstacles visible, and useless.
Military historian and author Stephen Ambrose, at a special screening of the film for him, had to ask for the screening to be halted twenty minutes in, as he couldn't handle the intensity of the opening. After composing himself outside for a few minutes, he was able to return to the screening room and watch the film to its conclusion.
The Battle of Ramelle never took place in real life: the town and the battle were both fictional. A German counterattack over the causeway at La Fiere by the 1057th Grenadier Regiment and light tanks of the 100th Panzer Replacement Battalion was the inspiration for the climactic battle in the film.
Steven Spielberg donated an undisclosed amount of money to build a theater at America's National D-Day Memorial in honor of his father, who flew Army Air Corps missions and was a radio operator in Burma during World War II.
Aside from all the intensive exercises, the actors' boot camp involved camping in soaking wet conditions, only being allowed to call each other by their characters' names and boot camp supervisor Dale Dye referring to them all as "turds".
Although Steven Spielberg reduced the color saturation of the movie by sixty percent for artistic reasons, both major American satellite providers (DirecTV and Dish Newtork) and numerous cable television providers turned up the chroma gain to re-enhance the color saturation to normal-looking levels when broadcasting the movie. They did this because on the first day or two of the movie's broadcast run, their customer service centers were swamped with calls from viewers complaining that something was wrong with the color. For this reason, most copies of the movie since then have come with a disclaimer in the beginning, explaining that the presentation of the colors was the full intention of the filmmakers.
Tom Sizemore turned down a role in Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line (1998) - which is also set during World War II - to appear in this movie. Both films would contend for the 1999's Best Picture Oscar, with neither winning.
Inspired by the true story of the Niland brothers. Sergeant Frederick "Fritz" Niland was in the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne. Band of Brothers (2001), produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, told the story of another 101st Airborne unit, Easy Company of the 506th PIR, whose member Sergeant Warren "Skip" Muck was best friends with Niland back home in Tonawanda, New York.
Some critics complained that the scene where the Rangers are throwing mortar rounds by hand at the German soldiers was unrealistic. In fact, Medal of Honor recipient Charles Kelly actually did this during a battle in Italy in 1943.
When using the field radio on the beach, Captain Miller says something that sounds like "Cadaff, Cadaff" into the radio. He is actually saying CATF, meaning he is calling the Commander: Amphibious Task Force.
Originally, Steven Spielberg envisioned the film as being like a Boy's Own Magazine adventure. However, after he started interviewing World War II vets, he realized that such a treatment would be wholly inappropriate.
Steven Spielberg claimed that he considered the film a passion project as a gift to his aging father, a World War II veteran. He further claimed that he made the picture against his commercial instincts, believing there would not be a wide audience for a World War II movie with graphic violence, and was pleasantly surprised when it became a blockbuster hit.
Writer Robert Rodat first came up with the film's story in 1994, when he saw a monument dedicated to four sons of Agnes Allison of Port Carbon, Pennsylvania. The brothers were killed in the American Civil War. Rodat decided to write a similar story set during World War II. The script was submitted to producer Mark Gordon, who then handed it to Tom Hanks. It was finally given to Steven Spielberg, who decided to direct. The film's premise is very loosely based on the real-life case of the Niland brothers.
There is a close-up of a map in a scene where Captain Miller's hand is holding a compass and shaking. The map used as a prop is an actual map issued to members of the 82nd Airborne, and possibly other units. It is identified as "SHEET6E/5," identical to a map handed down by a survivor of the invasion.
Private Jackson killing the German sniper by firing a shot through the man's scope and into his eye, was based on a true incident, though not in World War II, and not by a Private Jackson. It was accomplished by Marine Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Norman Hathcock II during the Vietnam War. Hathcock was a sniper who was being fired at by a concealed NVA sniper. He finally managed to catch a glimpse of the man's sniperscope, and put a round through it, killing him. The similar sequence in this film is rumored to be a tribute to Hathcock, who has been regarded as one of the U.S.' most famous snipers.
Captain Dale Dye (USMC Retired), the film's military advisor, makes an appearance as a War Department Colonel in the scene with General George C. Marshall. He is the white-haired officer advising Marshall against sending a rescue party after Ryan.
Steven Spielberg considered casting Matt Damon after viewing his performance in Courage Under Fire (1996), but thought he was too skinny. Ironically, Damon had put himself on a crash diet for the film on purpose, to appear emaciated. Robin Williams introduced Damon (who had regained much of his former weight) to Spielberg on the set of Good Will Hunting (1997), and Spielberg changed his mind.
Upham's shoulder patch, a blue and grey "yin yang" symbol, identifies him as a member of the 29th U.S. Infantry Division. It symbolizes the fact that the division was composed of units from Virginia and Maryland, who fought on both sides of the American Civil War.
The input of Industrial Light & Magic was significantly downplayed so as not to make the film appear to be a visual effects movie. ILM's contribution, however, was subtle but highly necessary, as most of the bullet hits in the Omaha Beach attack were digitally created.
The "Bixby Letter," which is featured prominently in the film, was actually inaccurate. The War Department incorrectly informed Abraham Lincoln about the fate of Mrs. Bixby's sons: two had died in battle, the others eventually survived the war. It is not clear whether Mrs. Bixby's story about her sons was borne from error or exaggeration, and why the War Department had failed to correct the report based on their own records.
To achieve his unique "look" for the film, cinematographer Janusz Kaminski adjusted his film shutter to ninety degrees to create sharper, more realistic images, and used an Image Shaker to vibrate the camera to approximate the impact of explosions.
The two German Tiger tanks in the movie were in fact Russian T-34 tanks, modified to appear as convincing Tiger tanks. You can see the difference between these fake Tigers and the real ones by the differing drive wheels.
Just after the scene where Captain Miller "recruits" Upham for the mission, there is a short scene that shows the motor pool. For a few brief seconds, a Jeep with a small trailer rolls by. If you look carefully, you can see that the Jeep and trailer contain Miller and his men. The next scene shows Miller and the others walking through a meadow on foot with no vehicle in sight. This is due to the fact that the scene which shows how Miller and the men lose the Jeep was deleted from the final cut. Later in the film, Miller mentions something about losing "most of their ammo." This occurred when they lost the Jeep.
The siege in the village of Ramelle was filmed on a set created on a disused airfield in Hatfield, England. The bridge so valiantly defended actually crosses a three foot deep canal created for the movie. Earlier scenes in the village of Neuville-au-Plain used the same set carefully shot from different angles.
Real amputees were used for the shots of people with limbs missing. However, Bryan Cranston, who portrayed the Colonel in the headquarters unit, to whom the three separate death notices are presented, and later presents to General George C. Marshall, is not an amputee, although depicted as missing a left arm, apparently above the elbow.
The term "Fubar", referred to several times in the film, stands for "Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition". In Spanish language it was translated as "Fomare", which means "FOllado y MAchacado sin REmedio" (fucked and crushed without a remedy).
The opening scene of the Omaha Beach attack was used for EA's Medal of Honor (1999)'s opening mission. Some of the dialogue used in the movie is also used in the game, and it even follows the movie's general advance onto the German positions the movie portrayed.
Filming switched from England to Ireland, after the British Ministry of Defence declined to provide the huge numbers of soldiers requested to act as extras in the film. The Irish Defence Forces supplied 2,500 men drawn from a mix of units of the FCA (Army Reserve) and Slua Muiri (Navy) reserves. They spent four weeks in the surf on the beaches while filming the landing scenes. The UK MoD also supplied a couple of hundred soldiers from their reserves, but not the thousands that Steven Spielberg had asked for.
Harrison Young, who was cast as the elder Ryan due to his striking resemblance to Matt Damon, was 68 years old during production, playing a character in his 70s. During the actual Normandy invasion in 1944, Harrison was 14.
The half-track German motorcycle Miller calls a "rabbit" (its Allied nickname) is a Kleines Kettenkraftrad HK 101, or just Kettenkrad ("tracked motorcycle"). Meant for towing small trailers and light artillery over rough ground, it was the smallest tracked vehicle used in World War II, aside from the German "Goliath" (an unmanned remote-controlled mine). It was manufactured by NSU Motorenwerke AG. NSU survived the war to merge with Auto Union, forming Audi in 1969.
This was the first movie to be rated NC-17 in Singapore. Due to the nature of the violence of the movie, it could not be passed as a PG film. Also, with the lack of an adult theme, it could not be granted an R(A) rating.
Til Schweiger turned down the role of "Steamboat Willie" because he feared he would be typecast by it. He would, however, go on to star as a German soldier in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds (2009).
Excluding the opening scene where he appears as an unidentified elderly man, title character Private Ryan (Matt Damon) is first introduced at 1 hour and 46 minutes, and has only 59 minutes of screen time.
President Abraham Lincoln received a letter from the governor of Massachusetts asking him to express condolences to Mrs. Lydia Bixby, a widow believed to have lost five sons during the Civil War. It would later be discovered that only two of Mrs. Bixby's five sons died in battle (Charles and Oliver). Of the other three: one deserted the army, one was honorably discharged and another deserted or died a prisoner of war.
After completing this movie, Steven Spielberg was inspired to create the video game "Medal Of Honor" for the PlayStation System (PS1) under the DreamWorks' video game division, distributed by Electronic Arts. Spielberg is credited as a consultant and producer on that game and Captain Dale Dye, the military consultant on the film, was also the consultant on the game. In the wake of Private Ryan's success and influence, the game went on to become a huge seller for the PlayStation console, producing numerous sequels including "Medal of Honor: Frontline" which features a D-Day opening similar to the one in the film.
In an earlier draft of the script, Miller's squad takes Steamboat Willie with them and camps out for the night in a foxhole. That night, a German Panzer division arrives and camps out right next to the squad's foxhole. When a German soldier named Weiter approaches the foxhole asking for cigarettes, the squad forces Willie at gunpoint to converse with Weiter so their cover is not blown. (Weiter never sees the Americans due to the darkness of the night.) Through Willie, the squad ends up trading Reiben's Mickey Mouse lighter and Mellish's Hitler Youth Knife for food from Weiter, much to Mellish's displeasure.
Captain Miller uses a M1A1 Thompson, Sergeant Horvath uses a M1 Carbine, Reiben uses a Browning Automatic Rifle M1918A2, Jackson uses a Springfield M1903A4, and Caparzo, Mellish and Upham use the M1 Garand.
In one scene, Upham is laughed at for reading a book about "the bond of brotherhood that develops between soldiers during war." Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg would later go on to be executive producers of Band of Brothers (2001), a miniseries depicting the lives of soldiers during World War II, which is based on a book of the same name.
During the landings at Normandy, many DUKW amphibious trucks were used in the actual operation. However, because of the late change of location from the UK to Ireland, agreement could not be reached in time with the supplier of the many DUKWs required for the film. Hence, there are no DUKWs displayed in the picture.
According to Tom Hanks the decision to film the assault on the machine gun nest through the perspective of Private Upham's monocular was made on the spot by Steven Spielberg when the sunlight didn't allow for the planned coverage.
On D-Day, the anti-landing obstacles made out of long poles pointing at an angle (officially called Hemmbalken), were made out of wood or metal and were designed to be angled towards the beach. In the movie's D-Day landing sequence, these anti-tank obstacles have been placed facing the wrong direction to what they should have been, and face away from the beach.
Private Daniel Jackson kisses a Christian cross before going into battle. Nathan Fillion, who plays the "wrong" Private Ryan, later played Captain Malcolm Reynolds in Firefly (2002), a war veteran who did the same thing. But when his side lost the war, he also lost his faith in God.
This film was a co-production of DreamWorks and Paramount Pictures, with DreamWorks handling the North American release, and Paramount handling the international release. The early releases of the film on video cassette, and Region 1 DVDs, were distributed by Universal, which had agreed to distribute DreamWorks releases on home video when the company was founded in 1994. In 2006, Viacom, Paramount's parent company, acquired DreamWorks and Paramount, and gained U.S./Canadian rights to the picture as a result. The film was one of seven DreamWorks/Paramount co-productions that became fully owned by the latter upon the merger of the two studios.
This film resurrected Ted Danson's career as Cheers (1982) had been off the air for nearly a decade but he had been in a number of commercial and critical flops since then. his short cameo appearance proved he could do drama every bit as well as comedy and he's worked steadily ever since.
Caparzo tells Upham "to drop dead and every time you salute the captain you make him a target for the Germans" and not to salute him when he's standing next to him ironically Caparzo is the first to die standing right next to Captain Miller by a German sniper after arguing about taking children to the next town.
Michael Bay once reflected on this film being one of several that he turned down. "I had gotten movie offers and turned them down. I took my time. They sent me Saving Private Ryan, but I wouldn't have known what to do with it." Bay would later direct the World War II movie Pearl Harbor (2001) and the contemporary war movie 13 Hours (2016).
This film was pitted against The Thin Red Line (1998) at the Oscars and amongst war movie buffs. This was more a function of marketing than anything else as the Thin Red Line was significantly slower paced and more philosophical as compared to Saving Private Ryan's traditional war movie feel. (Not to mention one is about the Pacific War, the other the European theater).
At the rally point, Wade tells Reiben to smell a wounded trooper's leg to find out if it's "south of cheese" which means its a sign of serious infection.at that point it would need to be surgically debrided along with antibiotics. Given the timeframe and their location, he'd probably be looking at amputation or death. in WWII the supply of penicillin was low, so they often gave soldiers para-aminohippurate (PAH) along with penicillin. PAH competes for the same transporters in the kidney to clear the body, so by giving PAH it takes up the transporters and lets penicillin circulate longer in the body thereby prolonging its effects.
At the radar site when Reiben, Mellish and Jackson are pointing their weapons at Steamboat Willie he says in german, "Bitte erschieß mich nicht, ich will mich selbst in Gnade Maria voll Gnade verwandeln" which means in English "Please don't shoot me I want to turn myself in, Hail Mary full of grace".
During the final battle in Ramelle when Reiben gets on the "rabbit" for the Germans to chase, Horvath tells him "Good luck reiben" to which Reiben says "I don't need any luck Sarge I was born lucky" is ironic as Horvath gets killed near the end of the battle and Reiben actually survives the whole battle indeed making him lucky.
This film losing out to Shakespeare in Love (1998) for Best Picture Oscar is often named as one of the greatest Oscar controversies in the history of the award show. Many people in movie business contributed the latter's win to its producer Harvey Weinstein incessantly lobbying for his movie with Academy voters, while attacking Saving Private Ryan for its historical inaccuracies.
Horvath explains to Miller about staying and defending Ramelle "and by some miracle we actually make it out earning us all the right to go home" ironically foreshadows what happens to Horvath and Miller, Mellish and Jackson who all get killed defending Ramelle.
Most officers (in battle and combat) were in their late 20s-early 30s by the time of Normandy with everyone under them being younger even if only by a couple years. Tom Hanks was in his early forties (40-41) when this was filmed all of the other actors were (for the most part) older than their characters, except Horvath (whose relative age is left untouched entirely) furthermore, the stress of combat causes accelerated aging, which a lot of the soldiers on the battlefields of World War II would have faced.
In the narrative behind why the German soldier didn't kill Upham after killing Mellish, the soldier saw that Upham was shocked and sobbing, and Upham even took his hand off his rifle to show that he wasn't intending to attack the soldier. So the German decided he was not going to hurt Upham, and even glances back to make sure he wouldn't do anything. This also shows that the Germans weren't monsters but just soldiers. Upham posed no threat to the German soldier and so he didn't feel it necessary to kill him. It is also likely that the solder realized that Upham could have killed him if he had been courageous enough to intervene in the fight in which Mellish died and, since he was a coward, he was ashamed to kill him.
For its first airing on Dutch television, the network had announced to split the movie in two parts, to be shown on two consecutive days. Given the film's rating (only for viewers of 16 years and older), Dutch censorship forbade starting the full unedited movie before 10:00 PM, something the network found undesirable due to the film's length. However, the announcement to split the movie in two led to so many complaints from viewers that the network decided to show the film in full, starting 9:00 PM. Despite issuing a special warning about the film's violence in advance of screening, the network was later fined for violation of broadcast rules.
Jackson's perfectly-aimed hit on the sniper was achieved with a shot-through eye appliance that was attached to the rear of the sniper's scope. When the sight was raised to the eye of actor/stuntman Leos Stransky, the gory eye stuck to the stuntman's face. This was timed with small explosives in the sight and an air cannon attached to Stransky's head. The completed shot was done in the first take and did not employ computer graphics of any kind.
Typically, a movie camera's shutter is set at a 180-degree angle. However, legendary cinematographer Janusz Kaminski decided to set the camera to a 90- and 45-degree shutter instead. This shortened the amount of time the film was exposed to light, creating an incredibly sharp image. when sending the film off to be processed, Kaminski had it run through the developer more than usual to achieve that washed-out look. Spielberg stated, "his idea delivered a fantastic visual, and the film looks freakin' great for it"
the special-effects guys rigged the actors' rifles with special sensors that send a signal to exploding squibs located on their targets. shortly after an actor pulls the trigger, the targeted squib detonates, creating a realistic impact for both shooter and target.
Spielberg made incredible decisions on the fly, putting the camera up to each scene and determining the direction from there. This might have been career suicide for a lesser director, but Spielberg wanted his shots to feel unpredictable, just like a real firefight.
Differently from his squadmates, the uniform Barry Pepper wears as Private Jackson under his field jacket is noticeably a greener color and baggier than the brown and tighter-fitting wool shirts worn by the rest of the squad. This is the U.S. Army's cotton herringbone-twill (HBT) fatigue uniform, which, although it was not meant to be a combat uniform, was used as such very commonly across all theaters of World War II, and would become the U.S. Army's primary combat and work uniform in the Cold War era before being replaced in the Vietnam War.
When Miller is giving his speech explaining how finding Ryan will give him "the right to go back to his wife" then that's his mission foreshadows the ending when he ends up getting killed by Steamboat Willie thus not going to back to his wife.
When Miller is explaining at the Radar Site how finding Ryan "gives me the right to go home to my wife that's my mission" is rather sad irony as he's killed by Steamboat Willie the German p.o.w he set free to turn himself into the next Allied Patrol he comes across and whom he showed so much mercy to, thus not letting him go home to his wife.
Spielberg employs three different perspectives; Capt. Miller's, the German machine gunners', and a characterless camera over 200 shots in 24 minutes during the Omaha Beach sequence. This translates to each shot lasting approximately 7.2 seconds.
The man that saved Fritz Niland, the real-life "Private Ryan," was Catholic chaplain Father Francis L. Sampson (1912-1996). It was he who was ordered by military authorities to find Niland, who had lost his three brothers a few days earlier on D-Day.
Steven Spielberg: [Fathers] In Neuville, a father pleads the soldiers to take his kids with them. After being endangered by this, and then being reunited with her family, the daughter then slaps the father repeatedly for putting her at such risk.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
During the ending sequence when Upham emerges from hiding, he speaks in German without subtitles. Roughly translated, he says, "Hands up!" and "Lay down your weapons!" several times. One of the Germans says, "I know this soldier. I know this man." Upham responds, "Hold your snout!" The German soldier responds, "Upham," then after a pause, Upham shoots him. Then, to the rest of the soldiers, he says, "Scram! Vanish!"
As the German soldier stabs Mellish to death, he says, "Gib' auf, du hast keine Chance! Lass' es uns beenden! Es ist einfacher für dich, viel einfacher. Du wirst sehen, es ist gleich vorbei." This translates to, "Give up, you don't stand a chance! Let's end this here! It will be easier for you, much easier. You'll see it will be over quickly." The words are spoken in accent-free German.
The scene where Captain Miller (Tom Hanks) is firing his Colt 1911 at the tank coming across the bridge, is said to be the inspiration behind Activision's video game "Call of Duty Perk Last Man Standing", in which after receiving lethal damage, a character would fall onto his or her back, and pull out the same weapon to fire at opponents before dying.
The script went through over ten revisions, changing many things from the original draft. The list of changes (1) Mellish and Caparazo did not exist in the original draft. As a result, the famous sniper scene and the grueling stabbing of Mellish didn't exist, either. (2) Captain Miller's character was very one dimensional - a tough-as-nails, by-the-book officer. A far cry from his final version that humanized him very well. (3) Steamboat Willie did not exist. (4) Upham is killed in the original draft during the final battle. (5) Captain Miller survives the final battle. The film ends with Miller telling Ryan about the lives of the men who died trying to find him. We also learn that Jackson was a preacher from Tennesese. (6) in a later revision, Mellish and Caparzo are included, but Mellish is gunned down instead of being stabbed to death.
In the opening scene we see an old man visiting the cemetery in Normandy, and the scene ends with the camera zooming into his eyes. In the next scene, we see Captain Miller's helmet, assuming that this was the old man on the cemetery. However, if you look closer at the first scene, you will see that the old man has a small button of 101st Airborne in his shirt, distinguishing him from Miller's unit.
The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial is featured in the beginning of the film. A World War II veteran, accompanied by his family, makes his way to the grave of Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) and segues into the movie's opening battle sequence, the D-Day landing at Omaha Beach. The grave does not actually exist; the headstone for Miller was only brought to the cemetery for the movie. The Captain John Miller portrayed in the movie never existed either, but the Private Ryan story is based upon the story of the Niland Brothers, two of whom are buried in the cemetery (referenced from the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial Wikipedia page).
Every single person who inherits Caparzo's letter up until the final battle dies. Caparzo himself (sniper), then Wade (mortal gunshot wound to abdomen) & Captain Miller (mortal gunshot wounds sustained on the bridge). It is never stated what happens to the letter following Miller's death but can be assumed Private Richard Reiben winds up with it. It's also assumed that he lives & delivers it to Caparzo's father.
There is also a novel to this film by author Max Allan Collins. In the novel, Private Reiben gives Corporal Upham the nickname "upchuck" and the German sniper that kills Private Caparzo is named Wolfgang Gottberg.