“La Fière was probably the bloodiest small unit struggle in the experience of American Arms....” —S.L.A. Marshall, Military Historian
No Better Place to Die, directed by Dale Dye and executive produced by Tom Hanks, is a dramatic WWII film detailing the against-all-odds capture and defense of the vital La Fière Bridge over the Merderet River by the 82nd Airborne Division during the first three days of the Normandy invasion. It’s the gripping true story of human strength, self-sacrifice, and camaraderie which focuses on a handful of paratroopers who understood the importance of their mission and refused to let anything -not confusion, fog of war, nor intense pressure from the enemy -keep them from accomplishing a mission which seemed impossible. It was one of the bloodiest and most fiercely fought small unit battles in modern military history. It's said that this pivotal battle essentially saved D-Day by barring enemy forces from counterattacking the beach landings.
Many epic films have dramatized the monumental events of D-Day, when Allied forces landed at Normandy on June 6, 1944 to break Hitler’s stranglehold on Europe. No Better Place to Die focuses on the battle at La Fière Bridge, where success hinged on small, mixed units who cobbled themselves together under intense pressure to overcome deadly obstacles. Grand plans went haywire and it was the sergeants and privates who innovated, adapted and pulled off one of the most astounding feats in military history.
If the scattered paratroopers and glidermen had not taken the bridge and its causeway, the U.S. forces slogging inland from Omaha and Utah could have been blown off the beaches - and D-Day would have been a bloody failure. Instead, badly outnumbered and outgunned, they folded into a single rifle company to face Nazi armored attacks, intense and constant artillery pounding and regular infantry assaults. Supporting the hard-pressed soldiers were the French citizens of Sainte-Mère-Église who had suffered for years under Nazi occupation.
No Better Place to Die is destined to be a classic war film. Epic in scope and historical significance, as well as entertaining in its intensity and inspiration, it is a true tale of American heroism, of good versus evil emphasizing the power of the American spirit and the understanding that when we are unified, we are unstoppable.
FIRST LIEUTENANT JOHN “RED DOG” DOLAN
John “Red Dog” Dolan, Commanding Officer of Able Company, 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, was a red-headed Irishman from the outskirts of Boston, Massachusetts. He spoke with a broad Boston accent but rarely wasted words. He was blocky and muscular -a rugged, handsome, adventuresome man and one of the first officers to volunteer for the paratroops when he graduated from OCS.
Despite his rugged exterior, he was a very intelligent officer. He had attended law school prior to joining the army. He was also an inspirational leader. His men would follow him anywhere because they knew their regard and respect was reciprocated. Red Dog was a military pragmatist as well as an excellent small unit tactician. He would always look for the smart way to approach a battlefield problem, but when there was nothing else for it, he wasn’t afraid to lead a bayonet charge. He moved like a cat with a distinct purpose in everything he did. There was no wasted motion. He was also an excellent marksman with the M-1 rifle.
BRIGADIER GENERAL JAMES GAVIN
James Maurice Gavin was the Assistant Division Commander of the 82nd Airborne Division during the Normandy invasion on D-Day 1944. Possibly an illegitimate child, he was adopted by a Pennsylvania coal mining family. Enlisting in the US Army at age 17, he earned an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he graduated with the Class of 1929.
Gavin proved to be a rising star and a man of action, assuming the lead in the organization and training of U.S. parachute infantry units in the days before World War II. He became the youngest general officer on duty when he was promoted to Brigadier General and named General Ridgway's Assistant Commander.
Known as “Slim Jim” and, among his soldiers, “Jumpin’ Jim,” he was lean and lanky, a bundle of energy so restless that his troopers often couldn’t keep up with him. They loved him because he’d once been an enlisted man and didn’t flaunt his rank; he took care to learn their names, carried a regular issue M-1 rifle like they did, and insisted on being first man out the door on a jump. He led from the front, never bothering to look over his shoulder to see if his men would follow. He knew they would, and they always did.
MAJOR GENERAL MATTHEW BUNKER RIDGWAY
Matthew Bunker Ridgway was a Major General and the Commanding General of the 82nd Airborne Division during the D-Day operations in Normandy, France. He was a courtly Virginian by birth and a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Class of 1917.
A solid, athletic man with a natural scowl and a wry sense of humor, his darting eyes and quick decision-making fueled his reputation as a taskmaster. His habit of wearing two hand grenades clipped to his equipment suspenders earned him the moniker "Old Iron Tits."
Ridgway believed his presence could influence a battle so he stood with his men on the front lines, as opposed to dictating strategy from the rear, unlike most other general officers. He did so at La Fiere, where he bravely directed troops and cleared traffic jams during the deadly crossing of the long causeway. He regularly confided in his close friend and assistant commander Brigadier General James Gavin. He was known and revered for his gutsy, rock-hard demeanor.
PRIVATE FIRST CLASS CHARLES N. DeGLOPPER
Private First Class Charles N. DeGlopper was the gentle giant of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 325th Glider Infantry Regiment. Born near rural Grand Island, New York, he grew strong and athletic tossing hay bales and wrangling cattle on local farms. It served him later when, as the firepower for his squad, he hauled a heavy Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR). He longed to return home, marry his girlfriend – who was the sister of his assistant BAR gunner – and live the quiet life of a dairy farmer.
His dream wouldn’t come to pass. During the battle at La Fiere, DeGlopper left his protected position and walked into full view of the overwhelming German forces, covering his retreating comrades with blasts from his BAR. Struck multiple times, he continued his stand, still firing as he dropped to his knees. He fired until his brothers withdrew to safety, until he fell, lifeless, to the roadway.
DeGlopper was posthumously decorated with the Medal of Honor, the only soldier from the 82nd Airborne Division to receive the award during the Normandy campaign. As his citation sates: “Pfc. DeGlopper’s gallant sacrifice and unflinching heroism while facing insurmountable odds were in great measure responsible for a highly important tactical victory in the Normandy campaign.”
Dale Dye has been a military advisor, actor or 2nd unit director on 50-plus military motion pictures and television shows, including Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan and Oliver Stone’s Platoon. He’s directed the 2nd unit of Stone’s Alexander, and collaborated on the mini-series Band of Brothers and The Pacific for HBO. The movies Dye has worked on have grossed over $2 billion domestically to date.
He founded Warriors, Inc. the leading military consultancy shortly after retiring from the Marine Corps. His firm has worked on almost every major war film in the last twenty years, including several Academy Award and Emmy winning productions.
Dye served with the U.S. Marines in Vietnam, surviving thirty-one major combat operations and earning the Bronze Star with V for Valor and three Purple Hearts. His last combat assignment was in 1982, when he was deployed to Beirut with the Multinational Peacekeeping Force.
Saving Private Ryan
Born on the Fourth of July
The Yellow Birds
Heaven & Earth
The Last Full Measure
Band of Brothers
The Last of the Mohicans
Natural Born Killers
Rules of Engagement Air
The Tiger and the Snow
Night and Day
A Low Down Dirty
Shame Jacob’s Ladder
Invaders from Mars
Commander in Chief
August: Osage County
The Thin Red Line
Casualties of War
The Great Raid
Mission of the Shark
More about Dale Dye from the “Making of Saving Private Ryan”
Director’s Vision Statement
No Better Place to Die will be a film that puts audiences directly into the chaos of the battle at La Fière Bridge. The idea is to make a film that is at once visually stunning, emotionally powerful, and commercially viable. I’ve learned from the masters, such as Steven Spielberg, Oliver Stone, and many other world-renowned directors, and I’ll temper the action and emotions with my own firsthand experience of the life and death struggle of infantry combat. This heroic true story will be told with a firm understanding of the jumbled emotions and brutal realities of war.
The goal for the film is to make the viewer feel they are with the soldiers running through the smoke and fire. The camera will focus over the rifle sight, which is the perspective of the infantryman and where his heart and soul bares itself.
Using technique and technology, I will recreate in stunning detail the jump into the night skies over Normandy and the risky glider assaults that followed. I will be both inside C-47s buffeted and blasted by enemy anti-aircraft fire and outside the planes, under canopies, as soldiers descend on France. For the first time in motion picture history, I’ll go inside the suicidal descent of the Waco gliders. The opening air battle and paratroopers’ jump will be as dramatic and riveting as the opening beach landing sequences in Saving Private Ryan.
No Better Place to Die will depict real-life characters, primarily First Lieutenant John “Red Dog” Dolan, who led the assault and wrote the cryptic note to his soldiers, “We stand here. There is no better place to die.” These privates, corporals, and sergeants who forced open a path for the Allies reveal every facet of men at war - courage, tenacity, dedication, honor, fear and self-sacrifice.
I’ll lead the cast through an intense period of combat training, immersing them in the mentality and skill set of 82nd Airborne paratroops circa 1944. Through this process, the cast will learn what it means to rely on their brother soldier. The qualities, the relationships and the spirit of the airborne warrior will shine through on the screen.
Toward that end, it’s important to me to employ as many veterans of our armed forces as possible on both sides of the camera, both for the sake of realism and to prove that veterans have much to add to our creative community. No Better Place to Die supports and will give back to those that served our country.
Tom Hanks, who has a long-standing film relationship with Dale Dye and a passion for military films, is pleased to come aboard as the Executive Producer. While training for the Vietnam scenes in Forrest Gump, Hanks first met Dye, who was the military advisor on the film. Their creative collaboration spans Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers and The Pacific. More importantly, it led to a lasting and impactful friendship between the men.
Hanks, an international star, is not only an award-winning actor, but also an acclaimed producer and director. One of only two actors in history to win back-to-back Best Actor Academy Awards, he won his first Oscar in 1994 for Philadelphia. The following year, he took home his second Oscar for his unforgettable performance in Forrest Gump. Hanks’ work before the camera has translated to success behind it as well. He’s been the executive producer on Band of Brothers, John Adams, The Pacific, From the Earth to the Moon, Olive Kitteridge, and Game Change, all of which have won Emmy Awards. He has also executive produced CNN’s historical documentary series The Sixties, The Seventies, The Eighties and The Nineties. On the big screen, Hanks has produced My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Larry Crowne, and Charlie Wilson’s War, among many other films.