Commemorating the 20th Anniversary: A Symposium on Saving Private Ryan


Symposium Overview

In the summer of 1998, moviegoers witnessed the closest thing to the horrors faced on Omaha Beach during the D-Day invasions on June 6, 1944. In its opening 30 minutes, Saving Private Ryan brought to life the terror of that day, as the ramps of countless Higgins boats dropped to launch what proved to be the most important battle of the 20th century.

To commemorate the 20th anniversary of this monumental motion picture, The National WWII Museum’s Institute for the Study of War and Democracy is proud to host a one-day symposium featuring D-Day scholars, film historians, and production insiders. Panel sessions will include conversations about the historical foundation and accuracy of the film, behind-the-scenes views of the making of the movie, how D-Day has been portrayed in other films since the war, and the lasting legacy that Saving Private Ryan has had beyond its awards and box-office receipts.

Program Schedule

Thursday, June 7

8:00 a.m. – 8:45 a.m.

8:45 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.
Welcome and Opening Remarks

  • Stephen J. Watson
    • President & CEO, The National WWII Museum
  • Martin Loicano, PhD
    • Executive Director, The Institute for the Study of War and Democracy

9:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
"D-Day in Film: Building up to Ryan"
Though it is perhaps the best known film on D-Day, Saving Private Ryan was not the first time the events of June 6, 1944, and the Normandy Campaign were portrayed in a feature film. Two leading film historians take a look at Hollywood’s previous attempts to do justice to the story.

  • Marsha Gordon, PhD (North Carolina State University)
    • Author, Film is Like a Battleground: Sam Fuller’s War Movies
  • Nicholas Cull, PhD (University of Southern California)
    • President, The International Association for Media and History

10:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
"Saving Private Ryan – History vs. Hollywood"
The film is most lauded for its realistic portrayal of the landing at Omaha Beach during the first 30 minutes. Two scholars of the battle and battlefields analyze the entire movie’s adherence to accuracy.

  • Robert M. Citino, PhD 
    • Samuel Zemurray Stone Senior Historian, The National WWII Museum
  • Col. Kevin Farrell, PhD (US Army, Ret.) 
    • Former Chief of Military History at the United States Military Academy

12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Lunch Break

1:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
"The Making of Saving Private Ryan – An Insider’s Take"
Hear from someone who was involved in the process on the ground level to share insight into the production and popularity of the film.

  • Dale Dye
    • Military Advisor, Saving Private Ryan

3:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

3:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
"The Movie, the Museum, and Stephen Ambrose’s Lasting Legacy"
The Founding President & CEO of The National D-Day Museum, which became The National WWII Museum, will share his thoughts on the lasting legacy and importance of the film, as well as turning the shared dream of a national museum that celebrated the American experience in World War II into a reality.

  • Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, PhD 
    • President & CEO Emeritus, The National WWII Museum

4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Speaker book signing and access to Museum galleries

5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Optional Post-Symposium Speakers Reception and Dinner (additional fee applies)

Featured Speakers

Founding President & CEO Emeritus, The National WWII Museum

Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, PhD

Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, PhD, former historian and Vice Chancellor at the University of New Orleans, served as Founding President & CEO of the National WWII Museum. Dr. Mueller assisted historian Stephen Ambrose in founding the institution, initially known as The National D-Day Museum, and led the organization as Chairman of the Board from 1998 through its fundraising and construction to the Grand Opening on June 6, 2000.  His appointment as full-time President & CEO has allowed him to shape the Museum’s development, image and outreach. He has played a lead role in raising more than $280 million for a $400 million expansion on three blocks of downtown New Orleans. Mueller enjoyed a 33-year career as Professor of European History at the University of New Orleans. He is known as founder of UNO’s Metropolitan College, its regional campuses, Business-Higher Education Council, and the university’s International Study Programs, sending over 8,000 students to 10 countries for study abroad since 1973.  He also served in leadership positions with national higher education associations and is a member of the University’s Continuing Education Hall of Fame. Mueller earned his bachelor’s degree at Stetson University, an MA and PhD at the University of North Carolina, and has done postgraduate work at Yale, Harvard and several European Universities.

Nick Mueller
Samuel Zemurray Stone Senior Historian, The National WWII Museum

Robert M. Citino, PhD

Robert M. Citino, PhD, is an award-winning military historian and scholar who has published 10 books including The Wehrmacht Retreats: Fighting a Lost War, 1943, Death of the Wehrmacht: The German Campaigns of 1942, and The German Way of War: From the Thirty Years' War to the Third Reich and numerous articles covering World War II and 20th century military history. A son of a WWII veteran, Citino was born and grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. After graduating with magna cum laude with his bachelor’s degree in history from The Ohio State University in 1978, he earned his master’s and PhD from Indiana University in 1980 and 1984. Citino is fluent in German and is a prolific reader of early 20th century German military literature. He speaks widely and contributes regularly to general readership magazines such as World War II. Citino enjoys close ties with the US military establishment, and taught one year at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and two years at the U.S. Army War College.

Chief Executive Officer, Battlefield Leadership

Colonel Kevin W. Farrell, PhD (US Army Retired)

Col. Kevin W. Farrell spent over 30 years in uniform and commanded at the platoon, company, and battalion levels. A graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, he served as an armor officer in a variety of leadership assignments in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East, and led American soldiers in combat in three different wars, including as an advisor to the Afghan National Army and, most significantly, as the commander of a 1,000-soldier combined arms battalion conducting extended combat operations in East Baghdad, Iraq. He also served on senior level staffs in Germany and the United States and was visiting professor to the George C. Marshall Center in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Colonel Farrell’s most recent military assignment was as a tenured professor, chief of military history, at West Point. His military decorations include the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, and the Combat Action Badge.

Kevin holds MA, MPhil, and PhD degrees from Columbia University in New York. His most recent book is The Military and the Monarchy: The Case and Career of the Duke of Cambridge in an Age of Reform. A recognized authority on military history and leadership, Farrell has authored numerous journal articles and book chapters, edited two books, and appeared internationally as a featured expert on PBS and the History Channel, as well as British, German, and French television. He was the senior military advisor to the Brad Pitt Hollywood film Fury, released in October 2014.

Professor, North Carolina State University

Marsha Gordon, PhD

Marsha Gordon is Professor of Film Studies at North Carolina State University. She teaches American film history, including courses at the graduate and undergraduate level focused on war documentaries and American war movies. Dr. Gordon is the author of Film is Like a Battleground: Sam Fuller’s War Movies and Hollywood Ambitions: Celebrity in the Movie Age, and co-editor of Learning With the Lights Off: Educational Film in the United States. She has published numerous articles about American film history, including essays on American soldiers who made 16mm or 8mm personal films capturing the aftermath of concentration camp liberations. She is the former co-editor of The Moving Image, the journal of the Association of Moving Image Archivists. Her next work, Race and Nontheatrical Film, is forthcoming, co-edited with Dr. Allyson Nadia Field.

Gordon has given lectures and introduced screenings all over the world, including at the Museum of the Moving Image, the National Gallery of Art and the National Archives, the EYE Film Museum, the Hammer Museum/UCLA, the Austrian Film Museum, the Czech National Film Archive, the First Infantry Division Museum, and throughout her home state of North Carolina. Dr. Gordon does a monthly radio show, “Movies on the Radio,” with NC Museum of Art film curator Laura Boyes and Frank Stasio, on NPR-affiliate 91.5/WUNC's “The State of Things.”

Director, Master of Public Diplomacy program, USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism

Nicholas Cull, PhD

Nicholas J. Cull is Professor of Public Diplomacy and is the founding director of the Master of Public Diplomacy program at USC. He took both his BA and PhD at the University of Leeds. While a graduate student, he studied at Princeton as a Harkness Fellow of the Commonwealth Fund of New York. From 1992 to 1997 he was a lecturer in American History at the University of Birmingham in the UK. From September 1997 to August 2005 he was Professor of American Studies and Director of the Centre for American Studies in the Department of History at Leicester.

His research and teaching interests are interdisciplinary and focus on public diplomacy and—more broadly—the role of media, culture, and propaganda in international history. He is the author of two volumes on the history of US public diplomacy: The Cold War and the United States Information Agency: American Propaganda and Public Diplomacy, 1945-1989, named by Choice magazine as one of the Outstanding Academic Texts of 2009 and The Decline and Fall of the United States Information Agency: American Public Diplomacy, 1989-2001. His first book, Selling War, was a study of British information work in the United States before Pearl Harbor. He is the co-editor (with David Culbert and David Welch) of Propaganda and Mass Persuasion: A Historical Encyclopedia, 1500-present, which was one of Book List magazine’s reference books of the year, co-editor with David Carrasco of Alambrista and the U.S.-Mexico Border: Film, Music, and Stories of Undocumented Immigrants. He is an active film historian who has been part of the movement to include film and other media within the mainstream of historical sources. His publications in this area include two books co-authored with James Chapman: Projecting Empire: Imperialism in Popular Cinema and Projecting Tomorrow: Science Fiction in Popular Cinema. He has published numerous articles on the theme of propaganda and media history. His most recent volume (co-edited with Francisco Rodriguez and Lorenzo Delgado), is US Public Diplomacy and Democratization in Spain: Selling Democracy?

He is editor of the journal Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, President of the International Association for Media and History, and a member of the Public Diplomacy Council.

Military Advisor, Saving Private Ryan

Captain Dale Dye

Dale Dye, a native of Southeast Missouri, graduated as a cadet officer from Missouri Military Academy in 1962. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in January 1964, as he had little money for college. He served in Vietnam in 1965 and 1967–1970, surviving 31 major combat operations. He emerged from Southeast Asia highly decorated, with awards including the Bronze Star with the V for Valor and three Purple Hearts for wounds suffered in combat. He spent 13 years as an enlisted Marine, rising to the rank of Master Sergeant before he was chosen to attend Officer Candidate School. Appointed a Warrant Officer in 1976, he later converted his commission and was a Captain when he was sent to Beirut with the Multinational Peacekeeping Force in 1982–83. He served in a variety of assignments around the world and, along the way, managed to graduate with a degree in English literature from the University of Maryland. Dye worked for a year at Soldier of Fortune magazine when he finally decided to retire in 1984. He spent time in Central America, reporting and training troops in guerrilla warfare techniques in El Salvador, Honduras, and Costa Rica before leaving the magazine in 1985 and heading for Hollywood. He founded the leading military consultancy to motion pictures and television shortly thereafter and his Warriors Inc. firm has worked on more than 50 movies and TV shows, including several Academy Award and Emmy-winning productions. He also founded Warriors Publishing Group, which publishes a distinguished slate of military-themed books written by veterans. Dye is a published novelist, screenwriter, and director as well as a consummate character actor with appearances in many films and television productions, including his role as Colonel Robert F. Sink in Band of Brothers.

Dale Dye


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Speakers Reception and Dinner

John R. Kushner Restoration Pavilion

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Traditional Caesar Salad
Herbed Croutons, Classic Caesar Dressing, Parmesan
Fresh Baked Rolls and Butter


Petite Filet and Grilled Shrimp
Demiglace, Potatoes Au Gratin, Grilled Asparagus


Lemon Cheesecake
Candied Lemon Zest, Seasonal Berries, Raspberry Coulis


Casillero del Diablo Chardonnay
Casillero del Diablo Cabernet
Community Coffee, Iced and Hot Teas