The veterans saw highlights of nine of the 10 installments, then watched the series' second episode, which chronicled their parachute drop into Normandy in advance of the invasion of Allied troops. Easy's job that night was to locate and destroy German artillery emplacements, preventing them from harassing landing craft and soldiers on the beaches in the morning. Think of Easy's mission as the behind-the-scenes action, literally, that was necessary before the landings depicted in Saving Private Ryan could take place.

Sobs and sniffling were audible throughout the screening - "Very hard to watch," said one tearful veteran - but the early-morning horrors of D-Day depicted in the film weren't even the worst the men of Easy faced.

"I think most of the guys would give you the same answer, that Bastogne [part of the Battle of the Bulge, episodes six and seven] was the most difficult thing we endured," said Easy veteran Darrell "Shifty" Powers, of Clincho, Virginia. "D-Day was easy. The planes were getting shot at so terribly that you wanted to jump out!"

"The film was 98 percent accurate," said Easy veteran Donald Bond of Yakima, Washington. "They really got the audio right. I've been in a lot of artillery actions and it sounds exactly like that."

To a man, the veterans at the première agreed. The insistence on authenticity that became the hallmark of Saving Private Ryan has been, if anything, refined with Band of Brothers.

"For the physical aspect of it - the armorers and the set designers and whatnot - you hire the best people who are dying to do the project," Hanks says. "The other aspect of it is much more difficult. When you get into the emotions and motivations of the men and the dramatic narrative necessary for a motion picture, then you get into areas where you can lose your grip on the authenticity we were shooting for. 'What actually happened here?' That was a question we asked [the veterans] a lot of times."