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HAL looks into 'Saving Sergeant Niland' and its ties to Spielberg film

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Mon, Jan 6th 2020 03:05 pm

The Historical Association of Lewiston’s first program of 2020 program, “Saving Sergeant Niland: The Local True Story Behind Spielberg’s Epic Film,” will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 23, at the Lutheran Church of the Messiah Fellowship Hall, 915 Oneida St., Lewiston. Historian Douglas DeCroix will keynote.

In 1998, Steven Spielberg released the World War II film for which he had been searching for years: “Saving Private Ryan.” Perhaps best remembered for its horrific opening sequence, the film garnered numerous Academy Award nominations and won five Oscars.

Spielberg’s picture was part of an upswing in films and written works by authors purporting to document the experiences of “The Greatest Generation” while stories could still be collected first-hand. Though these popular efforts certainly widened the interest in these events, most also succumbed to the adage that says, “Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.”

DeCroix has spent most of his life studying the tumultuous years depicted in the works like these ones. Using the collaborations of colleagues, along with research into primary sources, personal accounts and interviews with surviving family members, he will present the “true story” of the extended Tonawanda family, along with a few of their friends, that formed the basis for the presentations most have come to associate with this conflict in recent years.

This community event is free and open to all. Refreshments will be served.

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