Pearl Harbor: 5 survive; 2 will join fallen USS Arizona shipmates
The University of Arizona unveils its new memorial on Dec. 4, 2016, for the USS Arizona to honor members who served during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Patrick Breen/azcentral.com
These men experienced the sinking of the battleship USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor and survived. "Witnesses to infamy: The survivors of the attack on the battleship USS Arizona,” an azcentral special documentary by Pat Shannahan. Copyright The Arizona Republic/azcentral.com
The mountains of information about the Pearl Harbor attack can be overwhelming, but there are certainly things any American should know. Department of Defense
Anniversary event at the USS Arizona Memorial, marking the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Patrick Breen/The Republic
Take a virtual tour of the Battleship USS Arizona. When it was built, it was the largest battleship in the world. Pat Shannahan/The Republic
Brooklyn historian Ron Schweiger talks about USS Arizona, which was built at the Brooklyn Navy Yard beginning in 1914. Pat Shannahan/The Republic
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Pearl Harbor survivors Jack Holder, Maurice Storck and Marvin Rewerts talk about the attack on Dec. 7, 1941.
The Life and Legacy of the USS Arizona exhibit, commemorating the famous ship sunk at Pearl Harbor, will go on display at the University of Arizona Library Special Collections Aug. 29-Dec. 23, 2016. Tom Tingle/azcentral.com
Survivors of the attack on the USS Arizona describe the bomb that sank their ship.
Video showing the destruction of the battleship USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941.
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- Anniversary memorial on USS Arizona
- USS Arizona: Take a virtual tour of the famed ship from Pearl Harbor
- USS Arizona: A battleship ready for war
- Pearl Harbor then and now
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- Destruction of the battleship USS Arizona
HONOLULU — As the afternoon shadows lengthen at Pearl Harbor on Wednesday, four Navy veterans will gather aboard the USS Arizona Memorial for a solemn ceremony.
The four men were shipmates on the Arizona on Dec. 7, 1941, when a Japanese bomb crippled and sunk the mighty battleship. They were among 335 survivors from a crew of 2,512.
Over 75 years, most of those survivors have died.
Two years ago, when nine survivors remained, four of them met on the Arizona memorial for a final champagne toast to their fallen shipmates.
Today, five remain. Four of them made the trip to Hawaii and will attend a memorial ceremony Wednesday for two crewmates who died in the past year.
The five Arizona survivors still living:
Lauren Bruner, 96, La Mirada, Calif.
Bruner joined the Arizona in 1939, when the ship was undergoing maintenance at the Navy shipyard in Bremerton, Wash. He was a Fire Controlman 3rd Class by December 1941. He was in the anti-aircraft gun director, a steel cube on the ship’s main mast, when a bomb exploded near the Arizona’s munition stores. He and five other crewmen escaped the burning wreckage, climbing hand over hand down a rope onto the repair ship Vestal. Bruner suffered severe burns, but served through the war. He is in Hawaii this week.
Lou Conter, 95, Grass Valley, Calif.
Conter boarded the Arizona in early 1940, weeks after he enlisted in the Navy, and was a quartermaster 3rd class in December 1941. As the attack intensified the morning of Dec. 7, Conter helped tend to the wounded on the Arizona and loaded a group of survivors on a boat bound for Ford Island. He went to flight training school in the months after the attack and joined the Navy’s Black Cat squadron, flying night missions over the Pacific Ocean. He later served in Korea and helped establish training programs for the Navy, some of which are still in use. He is in Hawaii this week.
Ken Potts, 95, Provo, Utah
Potts was assigned to the Arizona in December 1939 and was a coxswain by December 1941. On the ship, Potts operated a crane, lifting the Arizona’s small floatplanes out of the water. He was steering a supply launch back to the Arizona when the attack began. He scrambled on board to get to his battle station. He helped get wounded sailors onto the launch and took them to Ford Island. He remained in Hawaii through the war, running motor launches from shore to ships moving in and out of Pearl Harbor. He is in Hawaii this week.
Donald Stratton, 94, Colorado Springs, Colo.
Stratton reported to the Arizona in December 1940 and a year later, in Pearl Harbor, was a Seaman 1st Class. Stratton was on the way to visit an ailing buddy when the attack started.
He was with Bruner in the gun director when the fire from the munition explosion engulfed the deck. Flames seared his skin and burned his clothes. He escaped to the Vestal with the help of a crewman on that ship, but suffered extensive burns.
After recovering, he re-enlisted in the Navy and served through the end of the war. He is in Hawaii this week.
Lonnie Cook, 96, Morris, Okla.
Cook boarded the Arizona in July 1940 and was a Seaman 1st Class by December 1941.
Not long after he reported, the Arizona sailed across the equator and Cook participated in the raucous ceremony for sailors on their first such trip. Cook was headed for his battle station in the midst of the attack when the order came to abandon ship. He helped lower life rafts into the water until he was forced to leave.
He was aboard the USS Lexington when it sank in 1942 and his ship was part of the American forces at Midway. He did not make the trip to Hawaii this week.
These three Arizona crewmen have died in the past 14 months:
John Anderson died Nov. 14, 2014, at the age of 98. He was living at the time in Roswell, N.M. Anderson enlisted in the Navy in 1937 with his twin brother, Delbert “Jake” Anderson. John Anderson was assigned to the Arizona, but then served missions elsewhere before rejoining the Arizona, and Jake, in 1941. As Japanese aircraft strafed the ship the morning of Dec. 7, Anderson searched for his brother. He helped wounded sailors to safety, but kept up his search until he had to abandon the ship. Jake was presumed dead. Anderson’s remains will be interred in the Arizona’s wreckage Wednesday.
Clarendon Hetrick died April 18 in Las Vegas, a month shy of his 93rd birthday. Hetrick enlisted in the Navy when he was 17 and boarded the Arizona in January 1941. He worked as a mess cook among his other duties. When the attack began, he was below deck. He climbed up a hatchway and, as the order to abandon ship was given, he jumped into the water and made his way to Ford Island. He was assigned to other ships and was injured in fighting on Iwo Jima. After his stint in the Navy, he enlisted in the Air Force and fought in Korea. On Wednesday, his remains will be interred in the Arizona.
Raymond Haerry died Sept. 27 in West Warwick, R.I., at the age of 94. He was barely 18 when he enlisted in the Navy in 1940 and by September of that year, he boarded the Arizona as it was being readied for war. He reported to his battle station on the anti-aircraft gun battery when the Japanese attack started and when the munitions stores exploded, he was thrown off the ship. He served on other ships through World War II and the Korean War. He taught at officer’s candidate school Newport, R.I., until he retired from the Navy. He will be interred in the Arizona next year.
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