Saving Private Ryan: The Real History That Inspired the WW2 Movie

The brothers left behind a younger sister named Genevieve, as well as Al’s widow and son (Al was the only brother married). It became an international story, with Roosevelt sending another letter, and Pope Pius XII sending a silver religious medal and rosary with a message of condolence to the Catholic family. Alleta was there when the Navy launched a new destroyer, USS The Sullivans, in 1943. She and her husband also became regular speakers for the war effort in the following years.

As a result of the Sullivans’ sacrifice, plus another family’s suffering, the newly named Defense Department soon implemented the Sole Survivor Policy. But before that happened there were…

The Borgstrom Brothers

Alben and Gunda Borgstrom of Thatcher, Utah were already touched by tragedy before the Second World War. The parents of 10 children, seven boys and three girls, one of their sons had already died in 1921 from a ruptured appendix at the age of 10. When World War II began, five of the remaining six sons either volunteered or were drafted into the war: LeRoy Elmer, Clyde Eugene, twin brothers Rolon Day and Rulon Day, and Boyd Borgstrom.

Over the span of about five months, four of the brothers died all over the world. The oldest of them, LeRoy, was only 30 while twin brothers Rolon Day and Rulon Day were aged 19 when they died on different sides of the English Channel.

Clyde, 28, was the first to die in March 1944, struck by a falling tree while clearing land for a new airstrip on the Solomon Islands in Guadalcanal. His older brother LeRoy followed three months later when he was killed in action while fighting in Italy. Rolon Day died in August when the bomber he was on experienced engine failure and crashed in Yaxham, England. Rulon Day, meanwhile, was reported as missing in action after an attack on Brest, France, a port city in the Brittany region held by the Germans. He was later found gravely injured, and soon died from combat wounds on Aug. 25, 1944.

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Even before a mortally wounded Rulon Day was discovered, his parents had already gathered the support of neighbors and Utah congressional leaders to petition the U.S. military to release their last surviving son, Boyd, from service. The petition was successful, and Boyd was transferred home to the U.S. and thereafter discharged from the Marines with a special order of the Commandant of the Marine Corps., Gen. Alexander Vandegrift. Further the Borgstroms’ youngest son Eldon, who was not yet old enough to serve in the military in 1944, was exempted from the draft and military service.


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