The brothers who inspired “Saving Private Ryan” honored in France |

(NEXSTAR) – At the Normandy American Cemetery in France, the brothers who inspired the film “Saving Private Ryan” lie alongside soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.

“I’m sorry to tell you that Private Ryan didn’t exist, but the story is based on the true story of the Niland brothers,” said historian Anthony Folquier.

Preston, Robert, Frederick “Fritz” and Edward Niland all fought in World War II. Both Robert and Preston were killed during the D-Day invasion of Normandy.

Although his family received a letter stating that he had been killed in action, Edward Niland survived after being held as a prisoner of war in the Pacific theater. His family didn’t find out until after the war ended.

The basis of the film is the true account of the efforts to locate Fritz Niland and prevent the family from losing all of the Niland brothers in the war. When Fritz went to join the 82nd Airborne Division nine days after the invasion, they informed him of his brothers’ deaths and sent Fritz home.

Edward had one wish when his son, Pete, visited Normandy years later.

“And the only thing my dad asked me to do was lay flowers on his brothers’ graves,” Pete Niland said.