Robert O. Carlson – Lieuetnant Commander, United States Navy

Retired United States Navy Lieutenant Commander Robert O. Carlson, 88, of Minnetonka, Minnesota, formerly of Spotsylvania County, passed away Sunday, August 3, 2008, at N.C. Little Memorial Hospice in Edina, Minnesota.

Bob was born Nov. 23, 1919, in Albert Lea, Minnesota, to Olaf and Agnes Carlson, recent immigrants from Sweden. Raised in the poor part of Albert Lea, and with no job prospects, Bob joined the Navy after high school in 1939.

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.

Bob was instrumental in establishing the USS Oklahoma Memorial in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and designed part of the memorial.

Bob went to flight school during the war and received his final flight grade from baseball great Ted Williams. He eventually held unlimited land and sea licenses for both planes and helicopters. He was state chairman of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, Minnesota Chapter, from 2002 to 2007. In fact, Bob will be the last chairman for the organization. He also was a life member of the American Legion.

Bob bought Hazel Grove Farm in Spotsylvania County in 1961, and retired from the Navy in 1964. He worked as clerk of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court in the Fredericksburg, Virginia, region under Judges Francis Gouldman and Jerry Cox before retiring a second time.

Bob is survived by his wife, Bessie P. Carlson; a daughter, Karen Bunnell of Virginia Beach; a son, Robert O. “Bert” Carlson Jr. of Raleigh, North Carolina; and a brother, Donnie Carlson, of Big Bear Lake, California. He was preceded in death by his older brother, Leo, and a sister, Betty. He also lost his youngest son, Clay, in 1983. Bob leaves behind many good friends from around the country.

Bob will be inurned in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors on November 21, 2008. The service will begin at 8:30 a.m. at the administration building.

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