WWII Photo: The Long Journey of the Isted Lion – Returned to Berlin After 65 Years

Snapped over 65 years ago at the Lichterfelde-Berlin SS Barracks in October of 1945, this shot gives us a rare glimpse of the US Army unit that transported the famous Isted Lion from it’s home in Berlin back to it’s ancestral lands of Denmark.  Danish sculptor Herman Wilhelm Bissen created the monument for installation as a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for the common Danish soldier.  The statue we see today was completed and unveiled in 1862 with the following inscription:

Isted den 25. Juli 1850. Det danske Folk reiste dette Minde
(Isted, 25 July 1850. The Danish people set this memorial)

The statue was then taken in 1864 by the Germans after a bitter Danish defeat at the Battle of Dybbol.  From there it was put on display, attacked by German nationalists, dismantled, copied, reconfigured and moved to the arsenal in Berlin, moved again to the barracks at Lichterfelde where it rested until October of 1945.  This is where my recent photograph acquisition comes into play.

Isted Lion is Lifted

Isted Lion is Lifted

Lion on the Move

Lion on the Move

This pair of incredible photographs was privately taken by a member of a US Army engineering unit who were stationed in Berlin right after the end of the war.  This shot shows the engineers loading the wandering lion into the bed of a heavy-duty truck.  I can’t find any other shots of this scene.  Also, there aren’t many soldiers in the shot……  this could be the only photograph of this scene on the web.  From there, the lion was transported back to Denmark where it rested until 2010.  Please watch the video below to finish the story!

8 thoughts on “WWII Photo: The Long Journey of the Isted Lion – Returned to Berlin After 65 Years

  1. I know this is an old post so I am not sure anyone will ever see this, but My grandfather was a US army engineer. He was in Berlin after the war and I have an identical copy of one of those photos. I had assumed he took the photo but maybe not. I would be interested to know any background about where you got the photo and if you ever found any others of it being moved.

    • Brian – these were taken by a medical doctor whose name escapes me currently. I have several hundred taken by him with notes on the back of each as well as some of his negatives and color slides. How did you come to find the site?

      • sorry for the late reply.

        I was trying to add context to the photos that are in his album and i just entered the subject matter into a google search selected “images” and an exact match popped up. I wonder how a copy of it came my grandfather’s his album. It was at my mothers house and if my memory serves it was glued in so i could not see the back to see if there any messages. I wonder if they both participated in moving the lion and this Dr sent him a copy a as a memento.

        I am disappointed to learn that it probably wasn’t his photo and thanks for the response.

        My grandfather was named Joseph Roy Mattingly.

      • I’m sure he was involved in the moving of the lion. It’s actually a hot button topic at the moment. I can put you in touch with an author who has written about it if interested?

      • Hi Brian, Thanks for your response. I recently co-authored an article on the return of the Isted Lion with Professor Barney McCoy. Is this the article you are referring to?

        Best, Mitch Yockelson


      • HI Mitchell,

        I am trying to piece together my grandfathers WW2 service. In brief he I have been told he was some sort of army engineer and his role was inspecting bridges, building pontoon bridges and demolishing bridges. In addition he was in quite a bit of active combat.

        The story handed down to me from my mother is that he was trained in Louisiana he had trained to be a paratrooper but had an injury and was reassigned. He took part in the Normandy invasion and “fought across Europe” and was there when Dachau was liberated. I think that he was then in Berlin for sometime before returning to the united states. I have a photo album of his and included is a picture of what i now know was the Ister lion being loaded onto (or off of) the back of a truck. Which has prompted my interest in this topic.

        I am looking to learn more and would be curious if you had ever come across his name, Joseph Roy Mattingly.

        I have not read your article. if you could send me a link that would be great.

        Brian Casey

      • Hi Brian, Here is a link to our article: https://omaha.com/news/state-and-regional/smuggle-a-lion-a-nebraskans-unusual-post-world-war-ii-mission/article_eb8b10db-1e6b-5905-9e12-92abfa24528c.html

        Please let me know if you are able to download it.

        I have not come across the name Joseph Roy Mattingly during the course of researching this article. Tracking the military service of a WWII veteran is difficult since many of the personnel records were lost in a 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. From what I can see by searching Ancestry.Com, it looks like your grandfather received treatment in a VA hospital. If this is correct, you should try contacting a VA center near your home and see if they can help you track down his VA medical file. It may provide information where he served while in Europe.

        Best of luck, Mitch Yockelson


      • I appreciate you taking the time to get back to me. I will look into getting his VA records and seeing what they show.

        Thank you again

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s