Long Prairie honors veterans

LONG PRAIRIE, Minn. - Long Prairie's War Memorial Park mural stands five stories high and captures in detail several scenes from World War II.

The impressive five-story high mural depicts scenes of the Iwo Jima battlefield, Omaha Beach cemetery and a tribute to women in the military. Perched on top is a seven-foot high metal statue detailing the first flag raising at Iwo Jima.

LONG PRAIRIE, Minn. - Long Prairie's War Memorial Park mural stands five stories high and captures in detail several scenes from World War II.

The Iwo Jima battlefield and battlefield cemetery at Omaha Beach in Normandy, France are depicted. The mural also pays tribute to women with a wartime portrait of Long Prairie resident and military nurse Dorothy Klick.

Perched on top is a seven-foot high metal statute depicting the first flag raising on Iwo Jima's Mount Suribachi.

Long Prairie banker Roger Johnston spearheaded the effort for the park and mural after hearing stories about Iwo Jima's flag-raising controversy from local VFW and American Legion members. Johnston learned that Charles Lindberg, an East Grand Forks native, had taken part in the first flag raising.

Johnston traveled to Lindberg's Richfield home and the veteran eagerly told his tale.


Lindberg was a flamethrower during the battle. The fighting on the island was waged from Feb. 19 to March 26, 1945 and has been described as the fiercest in the World War II Pacific Campaign.

Lindberg was part of a 40-man patrol to ascend the 500-foot Mount Suribachi. The soldiers took a flag with them and were told by an officer, "If you get to the top, put it up."

Lindberg and five other Marines made the final journey to the top. While two soldiers stood guard on either side of the mountain top, the other four attached the flag through a bullet hole in a pipe and raised the flag. Lou Lowery took a photo of the event that included Lindberg, Harold Schrier, Boots Thomas, Hank Hanson and James Michaels.

As the flag waved, soldiers shouted and ships' horns blew.

The Japanese, meanwhile, emerged from their hidden tunnels and the flag raisers came under heavy fire.

Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal ordered the Iwo Jima flag to be brought to him. The American commander refused, saying his men had died by the thousands and the flag wouldn't be transferred. In response, Forrestal ordered photographers and a second Marine detachment up the mountain to raise a second flag. Joe Rosenthal captured it on film.

Lowery's photos were taken and never developed. Years later the photos resurfaced and, before he died, Lowery bequeathed them to Lindberg.

Lindberg wanted people to know the story of the first flag raising.


When Johnston told him he wanted to erect a war memorial featuring the original flag-raising scene, Lindberg asked Johnston to complete it in his lifetime. With assistance of area VFW and American Legion organizations and other volunteers, the memorial took shape.

The mural, painted by Army Reservist Kimberly Lawler, was soon completed and the corner lot in Long Prairie was transformed into a park and memorial. A Veterans Memorial Wall was added bearing the names of Todd County servicemen. A Sherman tank and World War II plane are located on the lot. A replica of a 1927 band shell that once stood in Long Prairie's Lee Par, is on the grounds along with a replica of the Statue of Liberty.

Dedication of the park and mural took place Aug. 10, 2002. Lindberg, the last Iwo Jima survivor, attended.

"This is something I never expected to see," Lindberg said that day. "I'm very proud to be an American."

The depiction of the battle shows both the heroism and brutality of conflict.

"Because no story can describe the horror of war, one battle was selected to dramatize not only the brutality and savagery but also depict the bravery and heroism," a dedication brochure states. "The veracity of the battle for Iwo Jima is borne out of the casualties: 25,851 Americans, most in their teens and early twenties, 718 Navy doctors and corpsman and 20,844 Japanese representing 99 percent of the forces defending the island. The 3,000 square foot pictorial story of war in brilliant color and uncensored reality will be a lasting memory for every individual who visits the sight. It is our hope that no one will walk away without a deeper understanding of the meaning of sacrifice."

Lowery's photo of the first flag raising is now copyrighted.

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