Culver City Historical Site # 12 – Commemorating Carlson Park

There will be an official marking of Dr. Paul Carlson Memorial Park as Historic Site #12 on Saturday, May 22 at noon. Join the festivities at the park – Braddock Drive at Le Bourget Avenue.

Carlson was born in Culver City , the son of Swedish immigrant Gustav Carlson, a Southern California machinist, and his wife Ruth. He graduated from North Park University in 1948, went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Stanford in 1951, and finished medical school at George Washington University in 1956. In 1963, he followed the call of the Covenant Church to serve as a missionary doctor, along with his wife and small family, in the Ubangi region of the Congo in Africa.

Carlson and family arrived in Congo and began working as medical missionaries in the town of Wasolo. Activities included working in the 80-bed hospital and leper colony. During this time, Dr. Carlson earned the nickname Monganga Paul, a name revealing a close and loving relationship with the local Congolese people. This work continued until the political unrest of the time reached them and the Carlson family crossed the Ubangi river to seek refuge in the Central African Republic. Dr. Carlson, however, remained committed to his hospital and work in Wasolo, and he returned.

This return placed him in the middle of the political unrest of the time, and he soon fell into the hands of the rebel army. Under the unstable leadership of Christopher Gbenye, the rebels accused Paul of being an American spy and took him as a hostage to Stanleyville, now Kisangani. Dr. Carlson was held here for over a year and was tortured. On November 24, 1964, during a rescue attempt by American and Belgian troops, Dr. Carlson was shot and killed by rebel gun fire. He was called the Congo Martyr and was on the front page of both Time and Life magazines.

Lois Carlson, the widow of Dr. Carlson and author of his biography, “Monganga Paul” will be present for the ceremony. For additional information about this event, picnic, and related exhibits, please call the Culver City Historic Society at (310) 253-6941.

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