Mont. (AP) The focus on Louis Charlo, when there's a focus
at all, is how he helped raise the first flag on Iwo Jima and how
he died there.
is so much more to the story, and Jack Gladstone is determined to
is a coming out of the bear's den for this grizzly," Montana's
Native "PoetSinger" from Kalispell and the Blackfeet Indian
Nation said last week.
is making an epic cut he calls "Remembering Private Charlo"
into an 11-minute, 45-second centerpiece for his first new CD in
seven years, one he's calling "Native Anthropology."
Tuesday, the 65th anniversary of the raising of the flag on Mount
Suribachi on the tiny Japanese island in the South Pacific, Gladstone
was in a recording session in Tucson, Ariz. He's working with the
likes of Montana virtuoso David Griffith and Will Clipman, a percussionist-drummer
for Native flutist R. Carlos Nakai. Clipman, like Nakai, is a multi-Grammy
going to lay the rhythm beds for probably the best thing I've ever
done," said Gladstone.
be back in Montana next week to record, and said he would love to
have the CD out by mid-May.
"Remembering Private Charlo," Gladstone invokes the long
history of Charlo's Bitterroot Salish people and ties it to what
he calls "the predominant question in becoming human."
That is, the biblical query, "Am I my brother's keeper?"
Three Eagles and the Salish said "yes" to that question
when they welcomed a weakened Lewis and Clark Expedition to the
Bitterroot Valley in 1805 and supplied the strangers with horses.
The chief laid down white robes, signifying a covenant, a symbolic
treaty of good will.
song traces relations between the Salish and the U.S. government
over the next century and more. It was a relationship tinged, he
said, by the "growing pains of a young nation that sometimes
goes through fits of amnesia and attention deficit."
was a true trail of tears that Chief Charlo, Louis Charlo's great-grandfather,
and his people followed on a journey from their homeland in the
Bitterroot to the government-formed Jocko Agency in 1891, Gladstone
said. Within two decades, that reserve would be opened to white
said Chief Charlo's own grandfather had served the United States
in the Indian Wars. War after foreign war, the Salish and other
American Indian tribes have distinguished themselves by serving
their country in ratios surpassed by no other segment of society.
it was that Louis Charlo, barely 17, brought home to Evaro a box
of chocolates in 1943 and begged his mother to let him enlist in
the Marines as the guns of war boomed. Maybe it was coincidence,
maybe fate, that placed Pvt. Charlo on the USS Missoula en route
to Iwo Jima, along with the other soldiers who would raise the first
flag on Mount Suribachi to a celebratory cacophony of American soldiers
was the first foreign flag to be planted on Japanese soil in four
millennia, and it came five days after the initial invasion of the
island deemed critical for American air strikes on Japan.
battle, which involved more than 100,000 U.S. and Japanese warriors,
would last another 31 days after the first flag and then a second,
larger and more famous, were planted. More than 6,800 Americans
died, as did all 22,000 Japanese defenders.
the morning of Feb. 23, "Chuck" Charlo was one of four
men selected to scale the island's tallest feature, Mount Suribachi,
in what many saw as a suicidal mission. They made it unscathed.
has meticulously researched the battle and Charlo's part in it -
"I probably know more than I emotionally should be allowed
to know without having been there," he said.
four-man squad then retreated down the slopes, but later in the
day joined a 40-man platoon that went back up. There's debate about
whether Charlo physically helped plant the first flag. Gladstone
is convinced he was, based on a conversation with Chuck Lindberg.
was working on a CD in the 1990s that included a song about Navajo
Codetalkers in World War II. Lindberg was the last survivor of the
flag raisers. As the two visited, he told Gladstone of Charlo's
role that day. It was the first Gladstone had heard of the story.
became more interested a few years ago, when Louis' sister, Mary
Jane Charlo, told him about her brother's heroism. She worried about
said, 'It's like nobody even cares.' It was kind of a call for me
to do something," Gladstone said.
after, Gladstone heard from Bill Worf in Missoula. Worf, from Montana's
Rosebud County, was also an 18-year-old Marine on Iwo Jima. He was
less than a mile away when the first flag went up.
82, Worf is retired from the U.S. Forest Service. He said he had
heard Gladstone's musical tribute to Ira Hayes, an American Indian
from the Pima Reservation in Arizona who helped raise the second
flag on Suribachi. The photo of that won a Pulitzer Prize for Associated
Press photographer Joe Rosenthal.
Cash took Peter LaFarge's "The Ballad of Ira Hayes" to
No. 3 on the Billboard country music chart in 1964. The 2006 Clint
Eastwood film, "Flags of Our Fathers," based on James
Bradley's 2000 best-seller of the same name, cemented Hayes' legacy
as a war hero who died forgotten and exploited.
I heard that song, I wanted Jack to know there was another flag-raising
and there was a Montana Indian involved," said Worf, who learned
of Charlo the day the flag was raised. His platoon leader, Owen
Jarvis, told him when he reported to pick up rations.
said, 'I just wanted you to know another kid from Montana was one
of the ones who raised it,' " said Worf. "He told me the
man's name was Louis Charlo, and I put it in my head that I was
going to meet him as soon as I could."
had made it known he planned to go to the University of Montana
to become a forest ranger. So Jarvis also pointed out that day that
the flag and the men who raised it had reached Iwo Jima aboard the
"Chuck" Charlo died on March 2, 1945. In a sector nicknamed
"The Meat Grinder," he tried to carry wounded private
Ed McLaughlin of Boys Town, Neb., to safety. Both were gunned down.
to the Bible, Cain slew his brother Abel in a fit of jealousy.
asked Cain, 'Where is your brother?' " Gladstone said. "And
Cain responded with another question: 'Am I my brother's keeper?'
the last spontaneous act of his life, Private Louis Charlo of the
Bitterroot Salish nation answered that question with action. He
answered it with compassion, with an understanding that he was linked
with his brother, and in saving his brother, he would save himself."
140 years after his forefathers rescued Lewis and Clark, Louis Charlo
made the ultimate sacrifice to carry a private from Nebraska to
we look at (Feb. 23, 1945) in history, we say, 'Yeah, there was
an Indian up there. Oh, yeah, the drunken Ira Hayes,' " Gladstone
said, echoing the words of "The Ballad of Ira Hayes."
don't want to hear about the drunken Ira Hayes any more. I want
to hear about Private Louis Charlo. I want the country to understand
that at the highest levels of the human spirit, he had risen up
and he had given himself - it seemed overtly to the United States
and maybe to his Bitterroot Salish nation. But in the final act
of his existence, he simply was trying to save another fellow human
being, in a total selfless context."
insisted Gladstone, "is what brotherhood is all about."