Carlson's image depicts rescued airmen
Without the help of residents in Belgium during World War II, their father and uncle would not have survived the war, daughters of Charles "Chuck" Carlson said.
Carlson, who died in 1997, was a long-time teacher in the Morris School District. He and his wife Elizabeth raised their family in Morris. Elizabeth died in 2005. But before he was a teacher, father and uncle, In World War II, his parachute landed in a tree in rural Belgium, not far from a castle occupied by the German Nazis. Carlson was a bombardier in the Army Air Corps.
"The resistance, citizens, were watching," Carlson's niece Karen Jacobson said. Resistance members rescued Carlson who had been severely injured.
He spent the next 11 months hiding in homes, basements, barns and wherever it was safe for him before he'd move to the next stop. Carlson was protected by a resistance network called Comete. Comete was an intricate network of farmers, doctors, shopkeepers and others including a woman whose code name was Monique before he was able to escape through the mountains to Spain.
Carlson's and Monique's, whose real name is Henriette Hanotte, images were used to illustrate the history of the escapees and evaders in World War II. The pair are depicted in a statue that was commemorated on May 9 in Bachy, France, which is in on the border with the city of Rumes, Belgium. In January 1944, Monique led Carlson to Rumes where he spent several months hidden by resistance members in Rumes and Bachy.
Several of Carlson's family members were able to attend the ceremony including his daughter Margy Fricke.
"It was emotional, I think in a postive, happy way," Fricke said. Hanottte attended the ceremony along with her family members. Fricke had met Hanotte in a prior trip to Belgium in 2013.
"To share this amazing experience in our past," Fricke said was special.
Carlson's family members are quick to say that his story is similar to the hundreds of airmen who were saved by the resistance. While his image was used for the statue, the statue representsall those saved airmen. Hanotte's image is appropriate because she did so much to help rescue airmen, Carlson's family members said. And others in the resistance, those ordinary citizens like Hanotte did so much to help their father and uncle and others, the family said.
"The helpers were in danger, they were always in danger," Carlson's daughter Elizabeth Larsen of Hancock said.
Elizabeth Larsen was not able to attend the ceremony but has seen photos and newspaper stories of the event. The clippings and photos "Just make me reflect on the time and the place it was for him," she said.
Larsen said at least five families hid her father before he was led to safety through the mountains.
These families risked their own lives by hiding Allied airmen. Not only were they hiding airmen so they could evade and escape would-be captors, these residents were also destroying bridges and telegraph poles and creating other problems for the Nazis, Jacobson said.
Ordinary people were willing to risk their lives for airmen such as her uncle, Jacobson said. The resistance was so organized and so dedicate, she said.
Hanotte is credited with guiding as least 135 airmen to safety. "She was able to verify 94," Fricke said.
"The average guide lasted three months," Fricke said. Hanotte was a guide for three years. "She was smart and lucky and very good at it," Fricke said.
Jacobson recalled a sense of disbelief and thankfulness she felt at the ceremony. "I don't I personally understood what this whole dedication would be...," Jacobson said. "It's amazing to realize how big this was..."
The family knew Carlson was part of the World War II history but, now, the statue makes him an integral part of helping preserve the important historical story of the resistance in Belgium, they said.
An interpretative hiking path is part of the statue and the monument in Rumes. School students will use that path to learn more about their region's role in the resistance and war, Jacobson said.
Their father and uncle didn't share much about his war experience until a niece, Anne Jacobson, began to interview him for a book that was completed not long before he died. Family members said they are grateful that a statue and other commemorative items will now help share an "amazing" story of which Carlson was a part.