Their mother prayed daily and 5 sons returned safely from World War II

Mary Barg, who lived in rural Park Rapids, prayed constantly for her five sons while they away during World War II.
Contributed / Mary Ann Pech
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Mary Ann Pech of Nevis heard often growing up about how all five of her uncles returned safely from WWII, thanks to the power of a praying mother.

The boys grew up on the Fred and Mary Barg farm on Hwy. 71 north of Park Rapids.

“My grandmother, Mary Barg, had 13 children,” Pech said. “When they were growing up, she would carry a gas lamp and go to their rooms to say prayers with them every night and see that they were tucked in.”

The five boys were all in the military during WWII and their mother prayed for them constantly.

“I get the chills when I think about it,” Pech said. “She prayed for her sons continually, like it says in the Bible. She prayed off and on throughout the day whenever she thought of them. And they all returned safely. There’s nothing more powerful than a praying mother.”


Frederick was the oldest son. He was in the reconnaissance division and went on dangerous missions in Germany.

Frederick Barg, who was part of the Reconnaissance during World War II, receiving his bronze star on June 14, 1945.
Contributed / Phyllis Berwald

“One time three of them were sent out to bomb an air base,” Pech said. “He’s the one who saw the most action. The reconnaissance was a very important part of the service.”

Frederick was in the Battle of Normandy.

“Lots of soldiers were killed there, lots of casualties,” Pech said. “But a praying mother is worth her weight in gold. My grandmother, Mary Barg, laid a trench of prayers a mile wide and a mile deep for her family. She prayed with fervor for her children and her grandchildren. Frederick was also involved in opening up one of the Nazi concentration camps.”

Frederick’s daughter, Phyllis (Barg) Berwald, said Frederick looked German enough because of his family heritage, since reconnaissance soldiers did not wear uniforms.

“His father was a full-blooded German,” she said. “During the war, some people here in the U.S. hated Germans because of what Hitler was doing, so my dad did not go by Frederick but went by Dutch.”

Pech recalls two stories she heard growing up about when Frederick’s life was in danger during the war. One time he was out on a mission in the country and hid in a pile of leaves. “German soldiers were searching for the enemy and stabbing their bayonets in the leaf piles all around him, but they never found him,” she said.

Another time he hid in the basement of a German home for six days.


“The German military used some of the people as servants,” she said. “This young gal would come down to the basement and get whatever she needed for the officers. Frederick convinced her to not tell on them, and she said she wouldn’t tell and she never did. That’s how he was able to survive down there.”

Frederick received a Bronze Star for his service on June 14, 1945.

“I heard stories of him being dropped behind enemy lines on D-Day,” Berwald said. “He never talked a lot about his experiences in the war. One story I recall is that on one Christmas both sides in a battle he was in stopped shooting for the day. He trained in England where he met a girl who he remained in lifelong contact with.”

Dick (Ferdinand Dietrick Barg), the second oldest son, was in the Army.

Dick Barg

“His whole group went to Germany, but they said they wanted to keep Dick because he was really good with his paperwork,” Pech said. “Later, all of the other men in his troop were killed. But because he had a praying mother, he was kept stateside doing that paperwork.”

Wilbur, the middle son, was also in the Army. “They also kept him back from going to Germany because they needed him for paperwork,” Pech said.

Dave, the fourth son, was in the Navy. “He was the champion boxer in his weight division of that ship,” Pech said.


Beacher was the youngest son. He enlisted in the Merchant Marines and supplied the troops.


Beacher Barg

Pech remembers when Frederick came back from the war.

“We were little kids and liked to yell when we were playing and it made him jump because he was so used to being alert all of the time,” she said. He would send us outside to play so he didn’t have to listen to the noise. He wouldn’t have survived if he hadn’t been alert to every noise that meant danger. That really affected him.”

After the war, Frederick and Dave stayed in the Park Rapids area to farm, while Dick, Wilbur and Beacher went to live in California.

The Bemidji Veterans Home is on track to be completed this summer and has begun searching for employees.

Lorie Skarpness has lived in the Park Rapids area since 1997 and has been writing for the Park Rapids Enterprise since 2017. She enjoys writing features about the people and wildlife who call the north woods home.
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