tv Saving Private Ryan National World War II Museum CSPAN July 14, 2018 9:20pm-10:01pm EDT
film saving private ryan was released in theaters. ofportrayed the invasion normandy. tv,ext on american history nick mueller talks about the museum's connection to the film and shares stories about stephen ambrose, a consultant on saving private ryan. he also talks about the reaction of historians and military leaders to the film and its legacy today. this event was part of a symposium held at the national world war ii museum to mark the 20th anniversary of the release. >> welcome back everybody. last but not least. early this morning we mentioned that yesterday was the 74th anniversary of d-day, a slightly less known birthday is the fact
that it was also the 18th birthday of the national world war ii museum. the originally opened in june of 2000. we are just beginning to grow. everything we see today that we are surrounded by, all of this wonderful construction that continues, it is really a andament of honor, respect admiration that we have for the men and women that served in the world war ii years. many people have put a lot of their lives, a lot of hard work into conducting this mission to honor those veterans which we all share as a passion. i don't think there is anyone who played a larger role than our next speaker. was the mueller founding president and ceo of the museum. he is also a senior scholar in the institute that we are happy
to have. to close out this wonderful day, he will give us some of his process of all of that about the film and its legacy, about this museum and his dear friends. dr.se welcome to the stage nick mueller. mueller: great to be with you all. i can move to the subject of my remarks. you being here. we are the only thing between you and drinks. we will try to be interesting. we will tell you some stories about how this museum became ryanved in saving private with steven spielberg and tom hanks.
we will tell you about the film the perspective and early version. incarnation west were hooked at the hip with saving private ryan in 1998. i was on the board since stephen ambrose and i became to envision what 1-4,000,000 dollars might look like. failures to get open and reason -- raise money, steve says we have to finish this off. this is what happened at the same moment of saving private ryan in january of 1998. let me take the big picture from
ambrose's point of view. he always thought that d-day was the pivot point of world war ii. if you accept that province -- premise, you could say that d-day was the pivot point of the 20th century. you know how he jumped from one pivot point to another pretty quickly. for sure, saving private ryan was one of the pivot points for the early success and our success in getting the national d-day museum open in 1998. of course, you all know the story of andrew higgins and how the museum ended up being in new orleans instead of washington dc. i will not tell you about that. i do start with those pivot points because it is important to the way that stephen ambrose and steven spielberg envisioned
for ourd world war ii history and world history. projects thee ryan forces of good and evil, the barbarians versus the civilized. this is a arch typical story that goes all the way back to the persian war. it is not a new theme. we were fighting fascism and evil. this larger picture of the significance of d-day in world war ii in the minds of stephen ambrose and through the way in it inspielberg portrays private ryan, you get some of that in parts of that movie. some historians and critics don't like that. in any event, the grand opening was a huge success two years later.
i think you can look and see tom hanks on the left and steven spielberg on the right. you can see ambrose and myself in the middle. there is tom brokaw stephen ambrose. 200,000 people on the street of new orleans. it was a great day for the museum and our city and state. fortunately we had c-span capturing all of it live. forjust the opening but eight hours, we had a lucky break. there was no competing news event that crowded the news cycle. withre able to launch tremendous publicity. spielberg, tom hanks and brokaw were all there. it was not just a great day for the national d-day museum but it
was a good day for the good war. that is what tom brokaw referred to as the greatest generation -- it is a bucket of of many of the themes in saving private ryan. for spielberg, it was a trifecta. he had already put option is list. idler's list and now private ryan. here is the national d-day museum authenticating those two sides of the story. this was all with the express purpose of -- what conversations about it with steven spielberg and others, these were the guys that were coming in to liberate europe and for the people in the concentration camps.
was the epicenter of that story. just with private ryan and schindler's list. it was a big, lucky break for us. the stars were all lined up. everything was happening after one afters of another. nobody was ever thinking we would get the museum open. it helped to make the point to the nation about why we fought. you approve of the historical authenticity of the movie or not, spielberg would always say that it was fiction after all. let me just say a few words ryan the making of private
how many people here would think that stephen ambrose was a consultant to the movie? was really can advisor after the movie was already made. let me tell you a story that maybe some of you don't know? amber is causing up one day, we were best friends and shared everything for 30 years. we grew up together and did a lot of projects together, not just on a museum, but we planned to ours of europe together, we went on boat rides together, we did a lot of things together. he called me and said, steven spielberg just called me. he has a new movie. i want you to come us here and look at it, and tell me what you think about it. and steve said, i am too busy. i said, i am writing a book, send me a tape. well, anybody knows in the movie
business, you do not release early.ng that so stephen said, i can't, but i will send out a camera crew out there for you. then he sent a limo out to pick up everyone from st. louis. he calls me and says, they sent a crew and i am heading over to the theater in a new orleans. i am in this luxurious limo, by myself and they have reserved a theater on the west bank of new theater.the oakwood steve was talking to me, and i said, oh my god, he has the whole place surrounded by security at 10:00 on a sunday morning, there was no other show going on. just him and the theater. gilbert says, you see it, calmly says, ucs, andg -- you seee what yo
the movie, then, later and tell me what you think. he was so possessed unemotional about those first 23 minutes, that he said, i have to have a break and go out and smoke a cigarette. and of course, we all know that that was not good for him at the ,n the day, but in any event ambrose, after he saw the whole show, called me and wrote a great one-page letter to spielberg about it. saying, the greatest war movie i have ever seen. a changed nothing. so steven spielberg calls ambrose up, and this is what --phen told me, he says look, we really want your advice on him. he obviously had seen his book on d-day and relied on it as on his other great books on it. he asked, if you were to change
something, what would you change? and stephen said, don't change anything. movie, about war what of the greatest events in history. said, no, no, there has to be something wrong in their. and stephen said no, it is great.od, it is i get the fiction part, i know what you are doing with it, but it is tremendous. spielberg insisted. said, get hanks out of there, he is too old. [laughter] than spielberg says, "he is the star. says, that there was too short, so when he is coming out of the water, he should bend down so the snipers don't get him. spielberg says while we can't do then stephen says, get rid
of the guys having a conversation. then spielberg says but i have to have time for dialogue, we cannot cut that out. then stephen says, i told you. don't change anything. spielberg says finally, i understand all of that. the script went ahead . he volunteered to assist with , and championing the movie, and he went on the road -- went on the plane for a few more weeks around the country. and, he brought veterans out to add to the authenticity, not necessarily for the movie itself, but for experience, and
from the point of view of the guys who were there. stephen ambrose did not really want to be identified by the movie. he had his own book on d-day and others coming out -- citizen soldier, band of brothers, and i think because of private ryan and later, band of brothers, and 's work, america in those few years, from 1998 to the opening of the museum, the appearance of "band of brothers," america fell in love generation come and let us say it, they felt in love with the idea of the good war. there was a great book, regardless of what critique there may be of it, in terms of his journalistic impressions of
that generation. a lot of historians were , critical ofmbrose parts of the movie, we will talk about that in a moment. some of them were just envious because stephen was an a-list best selling author and new how to reach audiences the way spielberg could do it on film. event, let us talk about the movie itself a little bit. of course, the first 23 minutes are arguably the greatest piece of world war ii film or any other action sequence ever. i had the good fortune to see that at the premier, because spielberg invited ambrose and his family and anybody else come of the 20 best friends he had, to come out.
among them, he brought a few veterans along him and i sat next to one of them. at the end of the whole show, i how do you think? he did not twitch muscle for the whole show. at the end, he says, that was as close as you are ever going to get to it without the smell of cordite. it is amazing, hard for me to talk about it. later on, he did, a little bit. but those 23 minutes were harrowing. they were honest, the violence and the mayhem and the shock and bloody,or, which was horrific in the details and the way it was shot. of makinghad a way you look at the face of war
really of close, and it was terrifying to people in the audience. because, americans were not that used to being that close. if you go back and compare it with the longest day as embers often did, when you see john wayne and thousands of people charging across the beaches, -- as ambrose often did, when you see john wayne and thousands of people charging across the beaches, you never see the agony and carnage that you see and the first 23 minutes of the film. withwe were at the opening ambrose, myself, spielberg and hanks, they got in from about shot, several of the famous shots, but you know how they all look a bit blurry. spielberg stopped and said, that had tremendous influence on me,
and the way that we shot with a hand-held cameras in the water. i am sure dale had something to do with the too, but it gave us feeling comefillin of the feeling of people who were watching the movie. -- gave us that chaotic feeling of the people who were watching a movie as if we were at omaha beach. some of the great military historians like john keegan and ofl fussell, loved that part "saving private ryan." kagan said that the first 23 minutes were the most horrifying and most realistic view of war brought to film. paul fussell said the same thing. neither one of them liked the in muchmoralistic tones
of the rest of it. but in any event, it got great kudos for about. a big hand inad making every detail of that correct, so a great thank you to dale, for your advice and consultancy on that film. it will go down in history, i think, as one of the greatest pieces of war footage that anybody has ever produced, and that will be a most impossible to replicate that again. spielberg was kind enough at the say about fiveto minutes in the beginning, to give a shout out to stephen ambrose and the national d-day museum, which was not open yet, it was still about two years away. but obviously, the museum provided some or all
aura of authenticity to the show. let us get in a few things. ambrose really did like the authenticity, the feel of the movie, recognizing that much of it was fictionalized. he said that day quitter once witterm -- digdick once told him that when the chaplain came in, he said, do you know where this guy is? and he said, yeah, he is sitting right there. so the rest of that, wandering around the countryside -- that was not the point of the story. and steve understood that. you all know, and i'm sure you talked about it earlier today, that three out of the four just as had been killed few weeks before d-day.
marshall found out about it and sent somebody over there to pull ryan out of there. there were other things that were authentic. try to get ryan appeared to be of america,rtland when really, the family was from new york. ,n the movie, he was from iowa right where the heartland of the greatest generation is, according to my friend, tom barrac brokaw. but steve loved how the soldiers talked, how the soldiers did, their uniforms, they way they held their guns, every detail of it felt authentic to him, and he was also impressed that everything was in positive about it. i mean, there were scenes where
they were killing innocent ?ermans, ok but he did also -- as some of the critics have pointed out -- stephen idealized the platoon, ,he squad, the band of brothers sort of the mythology of the american military. -- let us just say, some historians would say that -- paul fussell included -- but it got sappy, moralistic, but embers did not care. embers did -- but not care. he loved it, but other historians just hated it. any said that it was implausible plot, opportunity be realistic when it wasn't. but spielberg never portrayed it as a nonfiction. other than the event itself.
the event itself was authentic. know that there was a world war ii, and there was a d-day. other election does list, which an whole story is really authentic story itself. schindler's list , which we know the story was authentic itself. character, who was very fatherly and he took this absurd mission head on. not really that absurd, as you know, general patton went behind an enemy lines to rescue his son-in-law, so maybe it was not absurd conceptually, but in any event, there is a heavy theme of
.acrifice that comes forward as you begin to move forward to are the climax of the movie, scene, whichbridge in a way goes back to that metaphor, and if even used the bunkers, the ottumwa myth -- the alamo -- fight to the last man. the persians fight in the war, acrosserxes is looking the sea. marching with a great army for seven days and seven nights, this idea of the civilized versus the barbarians. so, this was the subtext. we were fighting these terrible nazis, who we later, discovered how inhuman they were. bit moree niro little
about that -- we our de niro bit about that before the gis did, of thishat idea ataphorical bridge, and in way, america was defending that bridge against the barbarians too. then you come to the end and cap t miller ends up -- captain miller and sup and the cemetery, upyou all know -- ryan ends back in the cemetery. but, as he died, he says, you have to earn this, as we all know, in the movie. he goes back to the cemetery and says, he tried to live life as best as he could command hopes -- he tried enough to live life the best as he and he hopes that it
is enough. was emblematic of that generation and the good war. private ryan really fed into that narrative. and then we just say that this national world war ii museum, and the d-day museum, is also part of the narrative of public memory shift by many things. it is shaped by great films, shaped initially by the longest day, and many other war films before and since. there's also the larger subtext of freedom and democracy, versus the forces of tyranny and fascism. and of course, you have the holocaust in their, and it's horrific genocide as all of this. -- and the horrific genocide as part of this. they did not start this narrative of the good war, that goes back sometime.
well, is it aay, false narrative? what is the alternative narrative? the nazis when? in? is that better than what the americans did? here at the world war ii museum, we contribute in some ways to that narrative of the american spirit. we think that world war ii did make a difference -- they american spirit in world war ii did make a difference. . that general sacrifice for ideals and leading the free world for the last 75 years, that is a better narrative than the alternative. but "saving private ryan" had a big place in that story. what other nation in the world has made such a commitment, such a commitment to stand behind
these ideals of freedom and democracy and human rights? than the united states of america? we have always believed in those things, i. as one of our exhibit consultants say, only america after world war ii meet its commitment to put its muscle and its troops behind helping to advance those values, and defending them around the world. not always perfectly or consistently -- we have had our share of lumps around th along e way, but on the whole, it was the war that we fought. i don't think we need to look at this, you know what the subject ryan," is.private but as he moved to the end of my remarks, and the story, and what remains in our minds of "saving
private ryan," in our imagination, i would say as some others have said, we all have memories. they are formed in different ways, by films like this, whether they are authentic or historically accurate, documentaries are not, they have an impact. some of them are not to be trusted. we trust that historians will help people understand fact from fiction, but for all of us, there is always some mythology. hasstory of the war is what been composed, a mosaic of what has been composed over the years out of recollections and other people's narratives. museum, like in band of brothers and saving private stories, 10,000 of them are recorded and curated oral histories.
it helps to form the public memory. we give a great deal of credit, not just to the way in which private ryan and steven spielberg and tom hanks and tom brokaw all rallied around the original concept of this d-day museum, and around stephen ambrose, to help it come to life. not just for that reason, but because public memory is important to all of us. custodians of that memory, we have to be critical of it at times, but we look at it through our commemorations, .hrough museums and film it is an important thing because so many of the younger generations are affected by visual images. war books, good history, the words of our leaders, all of them are part of that.
one book recently by samuel says -- amiting, is not a falsehood, simply a summary of what we come to accept as the truth -- the order of what we have made of past events so that we can understand them and live with them. -- a myth is not a falsehood, simply a summary of what we come to accept as the truth, the order of what we have made of past events, so that we can understand them and live with them. of course, you know from world war ii, life magazine, harshly realistic images came out of the war. and, war is not just about what people say, it is about what people feel. ryan" andvate spielberg, really grabs you
emotionally and grabbed almost every emotion you could feel it that show. that was an extraordinary weomplishment, one that always will be grateful for. there is a larger story here too, that almost all great wars in history have a center of horror. as some writers would say, a battlefield or series of actions that is iconic, maybe a way of dying that becomes a focal point of the greatest suffering that you remember from that war. like napoleon's retreat from moscow, what you might think about. so, that is if you are russian. balaclava if you are english. korea, the ambush at the reservoir, world war i, it was the western front and verdun.
what was it in world war ii? what is it? ways, there is in any real center. as someone pointed out, it hovered around the walls of auschwitz and buchenwald. it hovered around tokyo, hiroshima and nagasaki. political aspects of modern war, as samuel hinds would've said. the war fought against hapless civilians. made think a case can be that "saving private ryan," and d-day have established -- d-day as well, in some contributions by this museum, as the center of horror in world war ii, in terms of the centrality of that story to our national memory. it give america a heroic narrative, through stories of
sacrifice and courage, and of the citizen soldiers amid the slaughter on omaha beach. death madehe culpable, and ultimately, the victory. the last thing i would like to say, and then we will close, if you have questions, because, stephen ambrose is one of those who is sometimes pilloried by historians for his allegiance to overlooking, and the fictionalized aspects may be of the movie "saving private ryan," and other war movies. of ourl faso, one historian friends, sent this to me, i haven't seen it in 10 years or so, but who mentioned,
he gave the movie very high remarks for the opening scenes, but then was not very impressed by the rest of it -- he paid a tribute to stephen ambrose. and his achievements. they are indirectly related to of course, private ryan, it was in the same review. travel just 3-d what paul fossil said -- i will just read you what he said. very fresh in my mind, since this is the day after our 18th birthday of this museum. devoted hisrose life to learning about world war ii in particular. he had never served. he had a tendency to romanticize and was fully on board with the good war. ambrose was indeed a popular seriousn, and
military historians are often condescending about ambrose as a popularizer. but, he is the best we have come and americans have learned a great deal that is valuable from him. his lifetime of specialization in the war, has resulted in an eminently useful work of art, for which we should all be grateful. thank you. [applause] >> interested in american history tv? visit our website, c-span.org/history. you can view our tv schedule, preview upcoming programs, watch college lectures, museum tours, archival films and more. at c-span.org/history. ♪ the c-span bus is traveling across the country on our 50 capitals were.
the best stopped at anchorage, alaska, asking folks what is the most important issue in alaska? >> i am jeff jesse, dean of the college of health at the university of alaska. one of the most important issues ,s access to health care especially in the rural arrest alaska, and the cost of health care is extreme high. >> the most important issue from my perspective, is job creation. the university of alaska has done remarkably in terms of looking at collaborations and linking them to resources to have support businesses and communities. >> the most important thing going on in alaska right now, i season.s it is tourist we have millions of tourists who come here every year. some of them come by cruise sheep, some of them drive here, some of them -- cruise ship, some of them fly here, some of them come to see the nalley denali national park.
we are working on trying to improve our ports that we can get more cruise ships coming here. >> i think the most important issue happening is the need for us to begin to convert our somethingrces over to a little more sustainable. when i think about that, like instance, ourr diesel technology program is working with people in some of the villages to drive to figure out what we can do to prepare for the future. efficient andt effective use of natural important.s along the way, we hope that universities like ours can train people for those jobs of the future. usouncer: be sure to join july 21 and 22nd when we feature our visit to alaska. watch alaska weekend on c-span,
c-span.org or listen on the c-span radio app. ords,y night on afterward cnn political commentator discusses her book on trump and what he lies to us. she is interviewed by columnist as s. e cupp. >> and then the suspense. >> all the time. i have investigators from hawaii. he suggested that there was a video coming and it generated more media interest. let us see what he has to say, let us see what comes up. guess what? it never comes up. >> and then he selects a detractor to attack. yes, at this point, people start to, and say, we think donald trump is lying. lying, i thinkot
people are lying. and anybody no caps on of is called a loser, crazy, a hack. if he can find a target to escape out and have a us versus them fight, increase a dynamic. >> and finally, he declares victory. >> yes, like he did with the press conference at trump hotel in d.c.. everybody come in, you can also look at my hotel, if you want. and he said yes, barack obama is the citizen. i cleared it up. hillary clinton started it, but i finished it. announcer: announcer: 2018 is the centennial year of u.s. participation in world war i. american history tv is marking the anniversary with a variety of programs. next on real