But Robert O. Carlson and I never met. The loss is mine.
According to his recent obituary in the Fredericksburg (Virginia) Free-lance Star,
Bob spent 26 years in the Navy. He began as a musician, playing saxophone in the band on the USS Oklahoma as "The Swede." While stationed at Pearl Harbor in 1941, he had just come on deck to play morning colors when he saw the first Japanese Zeros attacking. When the Oklahoma started to list, Bob jumped off and swam to the USS Maryland, where he stayed for the remainder of the attack. After the attack, he helped to free the trapped sailors in the hull of the Oklahoma. Unfortunately, they could save only 32 men and 429 perished.
The stories of the bandsmen during the attack on Pearl Harbor--those who died and those who acted heroically--are legend to Navy musicians. I would have been honored to meet Bob Carlson, sailor, musician, hero.
But how could I know that we walked the same streets? Veterans of his generation did not wear their decorations on their chests or shout their accomplishments to passers-by.
Heroes leave us to tell their stories for them.
Rest in peace, brother.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -Robert O. Carlson became an aviator later in the war and retired from the Navy in 1964. LCDR Carlson will be inurned with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery on Nov. 21, 2008.