Friday, September 17, 2010

Happy Birthday: Matti Mattson

Matti August Mattson (17 September,1916) is a Finnish American labor organizer, social activist, and Veteran of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War.
Strongly opposed to Fascism, Mattson was one of four Fitchburg volunteers who went to Spain in a clandestine manner to help the Spanish people defend the legally elected Spanish Republic against the Spanish generals' betrayal, aided by their backers Hitler and Mussolini. He sailed for Spain on the SS Washington.

Once in France, he boarded a small wine-transporting boat that the small businessman risked losing (along with his life) in the Mediterranean port of Sète, about 100 miles from the frontier with Spain. He told the New York Times: "We got on at night when no one was looking — we hoped." He and others reached Spain in March 1937. In Spain, he was in infantry training for about two weeks and was then assigned to the XIII Brigade Intendencia as a truck driver on the Southern Front. After Brunete, Mattson transferred to the XV Brigade as a front-line ambulance driver where he was with the Lincoln-Washington Battalion at all of its actions until the Ebro Crossing.
During World War II, Mattson joined the US Army and was trained as a pilot in the Army Air Corps. He graduated with his class but was not permitted to fly because of his political activities. 
Mattson worked as a printer in New York until his retirement. He was an activist in Local 6 of the Printers Union.

On January 29, 2010, Mattson was honored with the President's Medal by Fitchburg State College at its Commencement ceremonies. On this occasion he said:
"I am and will still be a staunch anti-fascist and will oppose war to the same extent as before I went to Spain, and after I returned to my country. I know that my life has been somewhat different from some others during my time on Earth, but it has always been an honest effort, and has fulfilled the teaching that my immigrant parents gave me: ‘Try to leave the Earth in better condition than you found it."

Watch this video on YouTube.

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