Last Survivor Aboard USS Arizona During Pearl Harbor Attack Has Died

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The last survivor who was aboard the USS Arizona when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor has passed away.

According to the Associated Press, Lou Conti was the last remaining survivor of the USS Arizona, which was bombed and eventually sank in 1941. Conter passed away on Monday (April 1) in Grass Valley, California at 102. His daughter told the AP that she and her two brothers were by his side when he passed away.

The USS Arizona was a 608-foot battleship used by the military from 1916 until its demise in 1941.

On the morning of December 7, 1941, Japanese aircraft flew over the Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor and began dropping bombs as the crews were beginning to raise the American flag, as they did every morning.  When the Japanese planes flew overhead, Conter was a quartermaster aboard the USS Arizona on the main deck.

During a 2008 oral history, Conter said that the entire USS Arizona battleship was lifted completely out of the water 30-40 feet, and the entire front part of the ship was on fire.

UNITED STATES - CIRCA 1941:  USS Arizona, at height of fire, following Japanese aerial attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
Buyenlarge/Getty Images

He and other survivors tended to their fellow service members who had been badly injured – or worse. In his autobiography, The Lou Conter Story, he explained that most people he helped were badly burned and blinded. Once the most senior officer made sure all remaining living service members had been saved, they began to abandon ship before it sank.

1,177 Navy and Marines aboard the USS Arizona died, with over 900 entombed inside the battleship. 

Following the Pearl Harbor attack, Conter went to flight school and eventually became a pilot for the Navy and helped look for submarines. Conter faced death once again when he and his crew were shot down in shark-infested waters in 1943. He was made the Navy’s first-ever SERE officer in the late 1950s. SERE stands for survival evasion, resistance and escape, and he spent the next several years training sailors how to survive in extreme situations like being captured by the enemy, or being shot down in their planes.

In 1967, he retired from the Navy after serving 28 years. He was a proud veteran until the very end. 

Conter leaves behind an impressive legacy of service and should by all accounts be lauded as a hero. We are sad to learn of his passing and are praying for his family during this time.

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