Why was Corporal Upham told/allowed to linger in the rear when the rest of the group had to risk their lives taking the machine gun nest in the middle/end of Saving Private Ryan? During the scene, no one wanted to take the nest and no one volunteered to take left (before Jackson finally volunteered)

My guess for why he was allowed to linger in the back was since at the beginning of the movie, he seemed jittery with combat and Capt Miller thought he would be a liability to the group. Another thought was if they got wiped out, he would still be alive to go back and tell someone what happened to the group.

A third thought was someone could bring the gear quickly if/when they did take the nest, which is what happened in the movie.

Any other possible thoughts with reasonable explanations?

2 Answers 2


Upham was the only one in the group that knew German. Having absolutely zero combat experience and being used to an "office" position, Upham wasn't the kind of person you wanted on "point" (front position in an excursion). Therefore, Upham was relegated to the rear, where he could remain safe and, more importantly, out of the line of friendly fire since he wasn't experienced with the attack formations. Also, as a translator he was of high value, as it would have been very difficult to navigate wartime Germany without one.

  • Ah, that's another good explanation, speaking the languages of the region.
    – Classified
    Jun 22, 2016 at 16:27

According to the wikia:

When they encountered a radio site being holed up by four Germans, he stayed back outside of the battle for his own safety being inexperienced in combat.

Note that:

In 1942, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, and was put in the 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division as a cartographer and translator.


On June 9, Captain Miller recruited Upham into his squad to serve as a translator. He had also stated that he had never seen live combat, but had trained to use a weapon in basic training. He appeared to be very nervous about it despite showing eagerness by responding accordingly to Miller.


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