Green Room

“Earn this”

posted at 11:21 am on November 11, 2011 by

I’m pretty sure most everyone here knows where this quote comes from. For those who don’t, if you haven’t seen Saving Private Ryan, there’s few better days of the year to set aside a couple of hours to view one of the greatest war movies ever made. The clip ahead is from the ending, so here’s your official spoiler alert. Really, though…I challenge you to keep your composure through these six minutes. I sure as hell can’t, no matter how many times I’ve seen it.

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At about 2:50, I’m a goner…

Thanks for posting this.

Bee on November 11, 2011 at 12:07 PM

It makes wonder – have I been a good man. Don’t know, but I can be from here on out. Thank you for the inspiration.

odannyboy on November 11, 2011 at 1:03 PM

Good one, MC.

catmman on November 11, 2011 at 3:34 PM

My favorite scene in the movie is when that P-51 screams by and blows up that tank. You can see Saving Private Ryan’s influence in almost every war movie that has come out since.

Mark1971 on November 11, 2011 at 5:38 PM

I haven’t seen the whole movie, but the exaggerated slaughter scenes I have seen (landing craft beaches in front of machine gun so that every bullet head shots a solder inside of it, etc.) make me not want to watch it. It’s like the thing was made for people who enjoy seeing US solders die.

Count to 10 on November 12, 2011 at 7:50 AM

My dad, a WWII vet, passed away in 2008. Watching the ending, I just had a thought about the fact that so many vets came back, married and raised large families (the baby boomers). I think they were trying to make up to the world for all that was lost in that war.

Fallon on November 12, 2011 at 9:13 AM

Count to 10 on November 12, 2011 at 7:50 AM

Rather than glorify war, I think that SPR used the gruesome images to remind us that war costs us all in terms of lives lost in horrifying ways. Don’t let this keep you from viewing this well-told story.

BigAlSouth on November 12, 2011 at 12:26 PM

It’s like the thing was made for people who enjoy seeing US solders die.

Count to 10 on November 12, 2011 at 7:50 AM

With all due respect, the reality of war and the scene you’re describing is in fact meant to shock the senses, leaving people, and our leaders to take pause when making a decision to go to war. Further, there was nothing “made up” here—thousands perished at those landings. My own father landed at Guadalcanal, and in his 64 years, pop would never talk about the devastation or the carnage of watching many of his fellow Marines never make it off the beach. An uncle once told me years later, that we, (the family), shouldn’t push to hear of the events that took place there, because dad’s best friend lost his head just moments after they had landed. It is my opinion that we should all, (from time to time), get the reality check that war is hell, and the ultimate decision to wage war should never be taken lightly—ever. I’ve got mixed emotions about the way today’s (Obama’s) actions with his drone attacks, that may be de-sensitizing conflicts, and reducing the brutality of war.

Some of you may remember a chapter in the Star Trek series where Spock and Kirk come across two planets that have been at war for over a thousand years. They had evolved into a computer war where strategies were played out and the casualties were calculated, passed onto the loser, and the citizens were marched into a small chamber and extinguished. Confirmations were strictly adhered to, and sent to the victors of the daily “battles”. While Spock thought Kirk was wrongly involved into the inter-stellar rule of not effecting civilizations, Kirk blew up the computers of both planets, and suggested that they actually face the brutality of war, or, as a novel thought, sue for peace. Negotiations began almost immediately. Food for thought.

Rovin on November 12, 2011 at 12:43 PM

Count to 10 on November 12, 2011 at 7:50 AM

Because it’s better to pretend that it never happened?

uknowmorethanme on November 12, 2011 at 12:44 PM

When WW II vets saw this movie when it first came out could only find one fault, The characters were too old”, kinda says it all huh?

mixplix on November 12, 2011 at 6:17 PM

Great movie, but it could have had a better ending. The movie has some cool Biblical themes in it, until Tom Hanks says “Earn this.” He should have said, “A free gift,” or “it is my honor to sacrifice for you,” or something. “Earn this” also burdens Private Ryan to a life of constant guilt. If he screws up, he instantly remembers that he’s not earning it. Just my opinion.

p40tiger on November 12, 2011 at 10:51 PM

p40tiger on November 12, 2011 at 10:51 PM

An interesting comment, but I think the idea behind the “Earn this” was on the right track. I also think you’re onto something, in that the admonition chosen for the film slightly missed the mark.

A more accurate expression might have been, “Make this sacrifice worth something.” To say “Earn this” implies that there’s a way of working off the debt for a life lost, and that’s not what we believe. But to honor someone’s sacrifice by amplifying its worth — building on it, vindicating it — is the heart’s aspiration of free people who remember who bought their freedom in blood.

J.E. Dyer on November 12, 2011 at 11:30 PM

Rovin on November 12, 2011 at 12:43 PM

The scenes I saw were completely unrealistic. I know that casualties were very high, but a landing craft parking right in front of a machine gun nest, and everyone inside dying from head shots in about three seconds? Give me a break.

Count to 10 on November 13, 2011 at 8:33 AM

OK, it’s a great scene. But remember that even greater scene in the Oscar-winning Best Picture Shakespeare In Love?

Yeah, I don’t either.

L.N. Smithee on November 14, 2011 at 3:34 AM

@CountTo10 You need to read up on Omaha beach and the 29th Infantry Division. All of them being machine gunned within seconds of the ramp dropping was true to the action there. Google the Bedford Boys. On June 6, 1944, 22 boys from Bedford, Virginia –population 3,000– died in the first bloody minutes of D-Day when their landing craft dropped them in shallow water off Omaha Beach. They were part of the first wave of American soldiers to hit the sands of Normandy. Of the 28 troops from Bedford who left the landing craft, 22 were killed, most before they reached the sand, by murderous machine gun fire. In addition, Nine others also from Bedford did not reach the beach: five because their landing craft (a different one) sunk on the way to shore and four others who were in support capacity and did not get ashore on D-Day. No other town in America suffered a greater one-day loss.”

Read that again – 22 of 28 aboard died before they made it to the sand, most as they exited the boat.

I come from near there, and it has long been told and retold. Its a shame the rest of the world doesnt seem to know.

OrdinaryColoradan on November 14, 2011 at 7:22 PM

i would like to add to what ordinarycoloradan said,

now this is from memory but in the book -the d-day landings by stephen ambrose, detail the horrific nature of the assault. i recommend you read it. it was well known that omaha beach was going to be murderous. if i recall it was one of the reasons the US military took on the task of taking that beach. as for the scenes, most of those are from the book from eye witness testimony. from the guy praying who was cut in half by a machine gun if i remember, to the chap walking around looking for his arm, to the landing craft opening its door right in front of a mg nest, to the flame thrower incident. the higgins boat opening in front of the mg nest was because of the fire everywhere on the beach, it didnt really matter where you landed and the germans had channelled all boats to land in these areas. it would remain like that for most of the day until the engineers blew up the defenses. also no tanks had landed due to the weather. even the drownings portrayed were real as people were weighed down with so much kit. Rommel had personally overseen the defenses of omaha beach. he had on the inside of the atlantic wall defenses had paintings of what the german defenders could not see. these painting were accurate representations of the outside which meant they could request fire missions on areas they could not see directly from inside the pillboxes. because of the structure of omaha, both sides knew, who ever was successful there would breach fortress europe. again in the movie the character says that to one of the guys hiding behind the ‘czech hedgehogs’ that the germans have zeroed in on every inch of the beach. they had to get off the beach as quickly as possible. there was also the issue of what was called ‘Rommel Asparaguses’. these were also shown in the film as the triangular shaped wooden poles. on the top of these poles were land mines. one of the reasons the allies had to go for a landing when the tide was out was to ensure the higgins boats did not rip the bottom out of the boats or explode trying to land on high tide as both of these defenses were barely visible in high tide. as a result the US troops had to cross over a huge flat(ish) open sandy beach. they had to cover over 500 yards of open ground to get to cover. for a beach (if i recall correctly) that was about 4-5 miles long, the germans had deployed over 60 artillery pieces facing the beach and had a further 15 heavy artillery pieces ranging from 105 to 150mm covering the beach from behind the lines. they had anywhere from 1000 to 2000 troops and i cant remember how many mg nests…but a lot. quite honestly, how anyone could climb off a boat and march 500 yards under that fire speaks volumes of that generation of heros. is SPR realistic, as much as you could expect it to be for a film. it does accurately portray the german mg typically used which had such a huge rate of fire it could cover a huge area. the germans had intersected these nest to cover each area. there was no safe area. even the tank commanders drove their tanks into water they knew would not work and had a high likelihood of drowning in the tanks. some of the US and british navy sailed as close to the beach and nearly grounded themselves providing covering fire and trying to draw enemy fire away from the landing craft. several ships expended every single round they had providing covering fire. at one point the US considered recalling the landing craft in the afternoon as no one could see the beach from the volume of smoke but decided against it. some ships had peeled the paint off their main guns they were firing that much. omaha beach is quite honestly the most amazing assault in the history of man. it is awe inspiring in its bravery, jaw dropping in its savagery. it, as ambrose said in his book disproved the nazi theory that men born in a dictatorship were tougher then men born free. omaha beach and indeed the other beaches where heros landed should never be forgotten. i sometimes watch it not for the thrill but to really appreciate what i have and what others gave so i could sit here and type this from ireland. it is sometimes worth sitting back and realising as the letter from Lincoln to mrs Bixby says at the end
‘I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.’
it proves that war whenever it is fought is horrible and the men and women in your armed forces yesterday and today deserve more respect than they get.
the problem is sometimes these comments appear soppy or sentimental. i think now and again, the horror of what happened needs to be shown to a generation that do not appreciate the written word as we once did. if even one person can look and say not that it shouldnt have happened, but that it needed to happen to defeat the evil nature of nazism and how blessed you are with brave soldiers who did not walk back into the sea or give up…quite honestly how anyone cannot bow their head in honour of that even today never ceases to amaze me. again that just my opinion and i in no way mean to imply to anyone reading this you did not respect the people who fought and died there and indeed elsewhere, right up to today. however there is without a doubt some that need an education on the bravery shown. if it comes from a film — so be it.

irishguy on November 15, 2011 at 11:04 AM

OrdinaryColoradan and irishguy have said most of what needs to be said here, but there’s another point to be made about the landing in front of a machine-gun nest. This wasn’t an assault in which any one landing craft had the luxury of picking and choosing where it would dump its personnel.

There were over 4,000 landing craft used in the invasion. The craft were given objectives, of course, assigned from the battle plan, and reconnaissance had determined where the machine-gun emplacements were. But the idea that there was some option in the heat of battle to funnel every craft’s cargo through the lowest-threat stretches of beach is erroneous. The machine guns covered most of the beach anyway, since they could turn at will and create a big threat arc; being right in front of a machine gun was only marginally worse than being to the side of it.

Some guys drew the short straw and piled ashore in the more vulnerable areas. This was a different kind of warfare from what today’s younger people are familiar with. Amphibious landings are never routine, and between the first true amphibious landing the US conducted, at the battle of Veracruz in the Mexican-American War, to the landing at Inchon in the Korean War, we went for decades at a time assuming that we would never have to mount another one.

The US and Britain didn’t have the landing craft used for the Normandy invasion in 1942, nor did we have a workable concept of operations for an amphibious landing under the technological and combat conditions of WWII. It was all cobbled together from scratch — and we were fighting Germany (and Japan), not Iraq or Afghanistan. If we had insisted on not taking casualties, our only option would have been to sue for peace in 1941 and be done with it.

J.E. Dyer on November 16, 2011 at 12:13 PM