By LARRY ALEXANDER
Lancaster County’s World War II hero, Maj. Richard D. Winters, was a man of quiet humility.
But even he would’ve been hard-pressed to remain humble Thursday, when a documentary film highlighting his leadership skills made its world premiere at Franklin & Marshall College.
The film, “Dick Winters: Hang Tough,” was produced, written and directed by Rhode Island filmmaker Tim Gray. It debuted before a packed auditorium at F&M’s Barshinger Center for Musical Arts.
The 56-minute documentary tells the story of Winters’ Lancaster County upbringing and his leadership skills as commander of the famed “Band of Brothers.” It is narrated by British actor Damian Lewis, who portrayed Winters in the Emmy-winning HBO documentary.
The film also documents the creation and unveiling of the Maj. Richard D. Winters Leadership statue, unveiled June 6 outside St. Marie-du-Mont, a French town liberated by Winters and his men in 1944. The statue depicts Winters, rifle at the ready, charging forward, a determined look etched on his face.
During a VIP reception at Roschel Performing Arts Center prior to the showing of the film, Gray said the statue and film are the result of three years’ work.
“I spend a lot of time in Normandy, and over there, Dick Winters is really the face of leadership,” Gray said. “When we were getting to know the French people, especially in the area of St. Marie-du-Mont, and we started discussing a leadership monument, his name came up first.”
Gray approached Winters with the idea in 2009, telling him that, even though the statue would bear his likeness, it was to honor all men who led the way on D-Day.
“He said that’s the only way he would do it,” Gray said.
The statue was created by sculptor Stephen Spears of Fairhope, Ala. Also in attendance Thursday, Spears said Winters’ firm, strong facial features made him the perfect symbol of leadership.
“This was an individual who had strength of character, determination, and sense of will,” Spears said. “It was all there.”
Jordan Brown, 13, of Lebanon, raised $100,000 toward the leadership project by selling rubber “Hang Tough” bracelets for $1 each. He attended the statue dedication in France, where he addressed the crowd.
“It was amazing,” he recalled. “There were Americans and French people who all came there to see the monument. It was cool to know that everybody cared about Dick Winters.”
F&M President Daniel Porterfield also took part in the dedication in Normandy, representing the college from which Winters graduated in 1941.
“It was a tremendous pleasure to represent Dick’s alma mater,” Porterfield said.
Simultaneous with the F&M showing, “Dick Winters: Hang Tough” was shown publicly at the Penn Cinema IMAX theater. It will be shown Sunday at the Allen Theatre in Annville.
Gray said the film will be offered to PBS, and he expects it will be shown on TV in the spring.
However, DVDs of the film will go on sale through Gray’s World War II Foundation, possibly in December. He expects the cost to be “about $20.”
The film will be available online at www.wwiifoundation.org.
By LARRY ALEXANDER