Bloomington man heads to Hawaii for Pearl Harbor 70th anniversary

11:30 PM, Dec 4, 2011   |    comments
Ernie Mattson in 2011
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BLOOMINGTON, Minn. -- Seventy years ago Ernie Mattson, 96, was on board USS Nevada in Pearl Harbor. He was finishing up breakfast Dec. 7 when he heard a rumble. He looked up in the sky and saw airplanes flying overhead and bombs being dropped. The attack on Pearl Harbor was beginning.

"I said please god let us all live," Mattson recalled.

Mattson said he saw bombs and bodies everywhere. In the chaos he found a gun turret and jumped in. He took cover there for 30 minutes. Then the bombing stopped and he crawled out.

"I just saw blood and limbs. That's all I saw. You couldn't recognize hardly anyone," he said.

Nearly 2,500 people were killed in the attack. Fifty of them were on USS Nevada.
Mattson was lucky. He walked away with a bruised back and a new look at life.

"It made a man out of me," he said.

Five years ago Mattson returned to Pearl Harbor for the first time. He said he never thought he would ever see that place again.

"It just dawned on me that how lucky I was so many years later," he remembered.

On Monday Mattson will head back one more time for the 70th anniversary of the attack. About 120 other survivors are expected to join him. It will probably be the last anniversary for many of them. The Pearl Harbor Survivors Association is dissolving December 31 because many of their members are in their 90's and dying, according to a CNN report.

Mattson turns 97 next year. Ceremony or no ceremony he said he will always remember what happened seven decades ago that December morning.

(Copyright 2011 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

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