We Are Marshall True Story: What Is Fact And What Is Fiction

‘We are Marshall’ is a true story based on the events. The movie unrolls the incidents after a plane crash that killed 75 passengers in a plane chartered for the Marshal University Football team.

There were 75 passengers on board, including the players, coach, support staff, and a few alums.

The  University decided to give up its football program after the tragedy.  They agreed to build a new team due to the persistent requests from the team’s newly appointed coach and his assistant.

The story narrates how the town of Huntington, West Virginia recovered from the grief and the team emerged stronger from the shadows of the incident.

We Are Marshall True Story
We Are Marshall / Warner Bros. Pictures

Is We Are Marshall A True Story?

Yes, We Are Marshall is a true story. On the 14th of November 1970,  Huntington City woke up to the shocking news of the crash of Southern Airways Flight 932.

Marshall University had chartered the flight to transport the members of its Thundering Herd football team.

None of the passengers survived the crash, which included 37 players, eight members of the coaching staff, 25 boosters, and five crew of the flight.

The team was returning home after losing a match to East Carolina University. The flight took off at 6:38 AM for a one-hour journey to Tri-State airport.

In adverse conditions, the flight hit a tree on the first hill in Huntington and crashed into the forest, with its nose hitting the ground first. The crash followed a massive explosion and killed the whole passengers.

The tragedy was unexpected; neither the university nor the town could bare it. University decided to suspend the football program following the disaster.

The newly hired coach and his assistant persuaded the university to restart the program. Jack Lengyel and his assistant Red Dawson vowed to rebuild the team from a group of senior players who missed the flight and freshmen recruits.

For the first time in history, the association agreed to include freshmen in the team, which was not allowed then.

Thundering Herd Football Team: After The Tragedy

There was no team except for a few senior players after the plane crash. Coach Lengyel had to rebuild the team from the available senior players and other athletes. In addition, he recruited first-year students to the group. With the help of West Virginia University, Lengyel started to build the team.

The beginning was not as smooth as expected, with the young inexperienced team losing its first match after the tragedy. The team lost a few games in a stretch but ended the season with two victories.

The team recovered in a few months and doing well in the tournaments today. The team has started to appear with 75 printed on the helmet stripe, which is in memory of the team members killed in the accident.

We Are Marshall: Making Of The Movie

Many filmmakers and writers had approached Marshal University with the idea of making the events into a movie.

The university was initially not interested in discussing the tragedy; when they were ready, the filmmakers couldn’t impress them with the idea. Marshall university was unwilling to market the story, making the people cry; they were looking for someone with the heart to do it.

Finally, Joseph McGinty Nichol (McG), the director of Charles Angeles, approached the university with the idea of making a film from a different angle. Rather than focusing on the grief and the tragedy, McGinty concentrated on the positive side.

He narrated how the city and the university emerged from the shadows of suffering with a positive mind. The idea impressed many, but still, there was a lot of resistance to making the movie.

Warner Brothers did something which has never been done before. They approached the university with the completed script, written by an unknown writer Jamie Linden. The story touched the university people, and they agreed to make the movie from the script.

We Are Marshal: Fact vs. Fiction

Hollywood has a reputation for destroying real-life stories. The university was initially doubtful about how Hollywood would approach the movie.

Even though the production team could convince the university, many dramatized scenes were in the film which had not taken place in the real story.

One of them is Nate Ruffin interrupting the university president in a meeting to look through the window and witness the crowd outside. The public was there to declare their support for the football program, which the university was planning to suspend.

This emotional scene did not happen in reality. Second is a devastated Jack Lengyel take his team and official to watch and learn from a match of West Virginia University. West Virginia had helped  Marshal to rebuild the team.

Jack Lengyel’s famous dialogue ‘The funerals end today’ appeared in the movie and was a part of the speech which Lengyel used to motivate the Marshal team. A few more scenes have been inaccurate or added to the dramatization of the movie.

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The Bottom Line

The movie presents many positive contents within the 2 hours 11 minutes portrayal of the events. The film shows video footage of the matches in the 1970 season before the crash. Each actor is shown alongside the photo of the player he had represented.

The movie appears different, with good narration and apt casting. The movie is a tribute not only to the team members who perished in the crash but also to people like Jack Lengyel and Red Dawson, who are the actual reasons for the Thundering Herd’s recovery from the tragedy.