”Private Ryan,” UT Historian’s Book Have Same Message

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The movie ”Saving Private Ryan” and a new book by a University of Tennessee historian both tell how responsibility to fellow soldiers enabled World War II soldiers to endure the horrors of war, the book’s author said Monday.

John McManus’ book, ”The Deadly Brotherhood: The American Combat Soldier in World War II,” provides accounts from veterans of almost every division that fought in World War II. It was published in June by Presidio Press of Novato, Calif.

McManus, instructor and assistant director of UT-Knoxville’s Center for the Study of War and Society, said the book draws from interviews with more than 500 WWII veterans. It examines how American combat soldiers faced what seem to be unendurable conditions depicted in the movie ”Saving Private Ryan.”

”When asked how they were able to tolerate such hardships of war, the most common response was that they just could not let their friends and fellow troops down,” McManus said. ”They drew on reserves of courage that they probably thought they did not possess. To a great extent, they fought for one another, joined by a bond that accurately can be termed a brotherhood.”

Steven Spielberg’s film ”Saving Private Ryan” made $30 million dollars last weekend and remains the top box office draw this week, despite warnings of graphic battle scenes.

McManus said the violent scenes are historically accurate, and so is the movie’s portrayal of camaraderie and troop loyalty that gave soldiers strength to face battle.

”The GI leaving his foxhole in the Ardennes might not liked the soldier next to him, but he would do almost anything to help him,” McManus said. ”The same was true for his counterpart in Italy and the Pacific. The brotherhood was not unique to any one unit, sector, or theater. It was pervasive among the troops who fought the war.”