Private Ryan, front and center

By Col. David Hackworth, Ret.
web posted September 1998

Mothers, before you believe the line that your daughters should serve in ground combat like your sons, brothers, husbands, and fathers might have done, go see Saving Private Ryan.

Congressmen and Congresswomen, before you sign that bill putting more pork into your district or state at the expense of the right stuff for the troops who do the dying, go see Saving Private Ryan.

Generals and admirals, colonels and captains, before you allow training, discipline, and the warrior-ethic to be further degraded, go see Saving Private Ryan.

Sergeants and Chiefs, before you execute that dumb order—ushering in another politically correct nitwit idea—from some enlightened sweet-smelling bureaucrat in a distant ivy tower, go see Saving Private Ryan.

Drill Sergeants, before you go along with an order to lighten up on your new recruits because you're told the need to develop hardened warriors who'll make it through old-fashioned combat is obsolete, go see Saving Private Ryan.

Defense Secretary Cohen, before you again overrule a panel that has carefully studied why mixing women and men in basic entry training doesn't work, go see Saving Private Ryan.

Defense contractors, before you build the next unneeded but good-for-corporate-bottom-line, gold-plated wonder weapon that gobbles up defense dollars, leaving too little money left to equip and train our men for battle, go see Saving Private Ryan.

Newt Gingrich, before you push through another deal in Congress to purchase $1.5 billion worth of C-130 cargo aircraft made in your Georgia district, that the Air Force doesn't need, go see Saving Private Ryan.

Trent Lott, before your order another $1.5 billion carrier to be built in your hometown that the Navy doesn't want, go see Saving Private Ryan.

Veterans who sit in silence while America's military machine is being destroyed and talk about the good old days when you were young and brave, go see Saving Private Ryan.

And those of you who've bought the propaganda that women have already served successfully in combat because women soldiers liberated a dog kennel during the invasion of Panama, drove trucks or fixed planes during the Gulf War, or pumped gas or directed traffic in Somalia and are thus qualified for future ground combat duty such as was fought at Normandy in 1944 or on the mean streets on Mogadishu in 1993, go see Saving Private Ryan.

Readers, before you believe the Pentagon's Desert Storm hype that all future wars can be now won in a bloodless 100 hours by pushing buttons, launching smart missiles, maintaining smarter satellites and by a jolly fat TV general with a pointer, go see Saving Private Ryan.

Our military has lost its edge since Desert Storm and is terribly vulnerable. Bill Clinton, you are our commander in chief. Before you push your political agenda in any other way that further weakens our forces, go see Saving Private Ryan.

Ryan is raw, ugly, brutal, deadly honest and captures infantry battle as no other Hollywood film has.

Steven Spielberg says his masterpiece is an antiwar film. He's right. Anyone with a lick of common sense that sees it will do anything possible to escape the horror of war.

But Saving Private Ryan won't stop madmen like Saddam Hussein. Just before the monsters three—Hitler, Mussolini, and Tojo—brought their holocaust to planet earth, a 1930s war movie All Is Quiet on The Western Front came out. It too profoundly affected millions of people but still didn't stop those mass murderers from killing tens of millions of humans between 1939-45.

So films, regardless of how real and true, do influence our feelings and thoughts but don't deter war. Only well-trained, well-equipped, well-led soldiers can stop a madman from unleashing the dogs of war. I can only pray that our future congressional leaders, before they add more pork to a defense bill, will see Saving Private Ryan.

Hopefully, Saving Private Ryan will jolt enough of us back to our good senses to demand a force with the discipline and sense of mission shown by those fine men who won WWII.

Don't forget what Captain Miller told Private Ryan just before Miller died: If the sacrifices of our heroic dead are to have any meaning we've got to earn it.

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