Local residents were treated to the film “The Americans on D-Day” — the first of a three-part series — at the Union Elks Lodge on Thursday.
The showing of the film was held in cooperation with the Union Carnegie Library, the Friends of the Library and the Elks Lodge of Union.
The screening was attended by writer and director Richard Lanni, who answered questions following the film.
Library employees say those who attended have responded with excellent reviews, including that it was wonderful to have the director attend and provide behind-the-scenes details.
“The library was thrilled to be able to host the first in the three-part The American Road to Victory series,” said library director Ben Loftis. “Those who attended thoroughly enjoyed themselves, while having Director Richard Lanni present provided unique and interesting insight into both the events of D-Day as well as the making of the films. We were especially excited to have several veterans or active military personal in attendance, particularly a veteran of World War II.”
Lanni said The American Road to Victory series will be shown over 3,000 times on PBS television stations nationwide.
The film is narrated by battlefield guide Ellwood von Seibold — who travels to the sites of major D-Day actions in his 1943 Dodge Command car — in “real time.”
At the beginning of each scene, a digital clock appears briefly on the screen, showing the time of day or night when the action described was taking place on June 6, 1944. All scenes were shot at the time of day when those actions would have been occurring. At one point, Seibold stands in a shell crater deeper than he is tall, just as German defenders did as large naval shells exploded around them.
Seibold also covers details such as the uniforms and their accoutrements, and he wears various uniforms at various times, depending on whether he is discussing actions by paratroopers, infantry, Rangers, etc.
Viewers also hear from veterans who were there, viewing the events from a soldier’s perspective. Veterans who spoke on the film were as follows:
- Carl Beck, 101st Airborne — born in S.C., but living in Atlanta, GA
- Gordon Smith (deceased), 82nd Airborne — San Antonio, TX
- James T. Wynne, 82nd Airborne — Virginia Beach, VA
- Mel Pliner, 9th Troop Carrier Command — Safford, AZ
- Dennis Shryock, Navy Combat Engineers — Springfield, IL
- Mike Fitch, 29th Infantry Division — Conway, SC
- Harry Korkewitz, 4th Infantry Division — New York, NY
- Forest Guth (deceased), 101st Airborne — Nashville, TN
- Earl Norwood, Navy Coxswain — Moorehead City,NC
- Ray Tollefson, 2nd Rangers — Indian River, MI
Thursday’s presentation was presented by Livingbattlefield of South Carolina, a non-profit organization whose mission is to preserve history by engaging with communities through outreach screenings, resources for teachers and fiscal sponsorship for the creation of quality historical programming.
Lanni, who is himself British, was asked why he chose to make the film about the Americans on D-Day.
“There’s a real appetite for history here,” he said.
Lanni also answered questions about subjects such as whether or not the number of casualties was expected.
“They anticipated heavy casualties with the airborne because they had never done this before,” Lanni said. “They expected 75 percent casualties in the airborne, but they didn’t expect anything like the casualties that they got on the beaches.”
He described how the Germans would protect themselves by building underground shelters.
“You have to go there to see it,” Lanni said. “Those Germans were able to just go underground, wait for the bomb and come back up again.”
More information about the series and the Livingbattlefield of SC organization — as well as downloadable maps and lesson plans — is available at www.livingbattlefield.org.
“Mr. Lanni’s and Living Battlefield’s generosity and inclusion of the veterans as part of the program provided a unique perspective,” Loftis said. “The library is grateful to Richard Lanni and to Living Battlefield for their assistance in presenting the program, and we look forward to screening the other two films in the series over the coming months.”
The second part of the trilogy is “The Americans On Hell’ Highway” which looks at the American role in Operation: Market Garden. The film, which will be shown at the Elks Lodge on Sept. 27, gets its name from the road leading from the Belgian/Dutch border to the city of Nijmegen in The Netherlands. The movie features a graphic account of the crossing of the Waall River. The story of the crossing is told by Capt. T. Moffatt Burriss of I Company in the 504 Parachute Infantry Regiment, whose unit was in the first wave of the assault.
“The Americans In The Bulge” is the third part of the trilogy and examines the Battle of the Bulge which is described in the film’s synopsis as “the bloodiest and most costly campaign ever fought by US Forces.” The film will be shown Jan. 10, 2013.
Loftis said the dates for showing the movies were chosen because they correspond to the dates the battles were fought. The Elks Lodge will also host the second and third parts of the series, as the Elks are active supporters of veterans.