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Lt. Charles Woehrle narrates the entirety of “Stalag Luft III - One Man’s Story,” through interviews conducted by his niece and Director/Producer Louise Woehrle.

Mayor, Wings of the North help bring film to area residents

There wasn’t a dry eye in the house, and the stillness of those experiencing the screening of “Stalag Luft III - One Man’s Story” was almost unnerving.

The story of WWII U.S. Eighth Air Force Bombardier Lt. Charles Woehrle was not only engaging and fascinating, but the spirit of the now-deceased uncle of Director/Producer Louise Woehrle came through as large, humbled and proud.

The film, which won the “Best of Fest” at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival (out of 277 films), and is now making the film festival circuit across the country, was hosted by The Wings of the North Museum Aug. 23 and screened at AMC Theater Eden Prairie, after which a reception was held at the Wings of the North Museum.

Helping to bring the film to Eden Prairie was Eden Prairie Mayor Ron Case. After he and his wife saw the screening last spring at the Minneapolis Film Festival, he began the task of making arrangements, eventually through the Wings of the North, to make the local screening a reality.

It took Director Woehrle nine years to tell Charles’s story – and it was well worth the wait.

WOEHRLE

Describing why it took so long to finish the project, Louise told those at the reception that it required a continuing cycle of raising funds and shooting, followed by more raising funds and shooting.

The results were spot on.

The director said she was especially pleased with the technical aspects of the film, expressing her pleasure that it held up on the large screen at AMC Theater Eden Prairie.

“I think that’s the biggest screen we’ve ever shown it,” she said.

Not only did Charles’s image leap from the screen, but it also were his words, coupled with the images – through stills and video recreations – that lifted this film to something beyond a documentary.

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The recreation of the bombardier’s seat on the B-17 where WWII U.S. Eighth Air Force Bombardier Lt. Charles Woehrle sat. His plane was shot down during a bombing run over Germany.

The film, narrated entirely through interviews Louise captured before her uncle’s death, moves the viewer from his early days – when he was born a twin, through his early years working as a bell boy in Glacier National Park (where he met actor Clark Gable).

It continues with his joining of the military and eventually becoming a bombardier, to his plane being shot down and his imprisonment in German camps before being liberated by Gen. George Patton’s armored division in April 1945.

What comes through in this film is not only the director/producer’s love of family, but Charles’s tender and gentle persona that clearly came from his better understanding of human nature.

He saw the worst in man, and because of it, embodied the best in man.

By the time one has finished with this film, there is a feeling of standing among giants. Charles defined his life with a genuineness that was captured through his niece’s filmmaking and storytelling skills.

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Eden Prairie Mayor Ron Case, whose efforts helped to bring “Stalag Luft III - One Man’s Story” to the big screen in Eden Prairie, introduces Louise Woehrle at the reception held at Wings of the North.

The personal stories of a regular member of the U.S. Armed Forces becomes so much more important when told by the person who has that experience. That is precisely the reason why this film continues to be lauded by those who have had the privilege to see it.

Louise said that while the film continues to be screened at various film festivals, there has been interest expressed by Minnesota Public Television. However, there have also been early discussions with national and international media companies for its use.

Though not sure which direction the future will bring for this film, one can say it’s not a simple documentary. It’s so much more. And it appears that it’s message and touching story are about to become known by many more across the country and the world.

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Wings of the North Senior Docent Bob Koch (right) describes one of the planes on display at the Eden Prairie museum to a visitor during the reception held after the screening of “Stalag Luft III - One Man’s Story.” The plane in the background is a Beech SNB-1.

To view the film’s trailer, visit whirlygigproductions.com/stalagluft3.

For reviews of the film, visit whirlygigproductions.com/new-page.

For a list of upcoming screenings of the film, visit whirlygigproductions.com/festivalseventsd.

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This was Lt. Charles Woehrle’s cell after being taken prisoner by the Germans after his B-17 was shot down over Germany during WWII.

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