Last Living Survivor of USS Arizona from Pearl Harbor Attack Passes Away at Age 102

Last survivor of USS Arizona from Pearl Harbor attack, dies at 102

Lou Conter, the last surviving member of the USS Arizona, the battleship tragically sunk during the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, has passed away at the age of 102. He breathed his last on Monday at his residence in Grass Valley, California, succumbing to congestive heart failure, as confirmed by his daughter, Louann Daley. Present at his side were his daughter and two of his sons, James and Jeff.

The USS Arizona suffered a devastating loss of 1,177 sailors and Marines during the Pearl Harbor attack, a pivotal event that propelled the United States into World War II. This accounted for nearly half of the total casualties of the assault.

On that fateful day, Conter, serving as a quartermaster, was stationed on the main deck of the Arizona as the Japanese planes commenced their assault at 7:55 a.m. Sailors were in the midst of raising the flag when the onslaught began. Conter vividly recalled the chaos as bombs pierced the ship’s decks, triggering a cataclysmic explosion that propelled the battleship out of the water and engulfed it in flames from stem to stern.

Lou Conter
Lou Conter (Credits: PEOPLE)

In the aftermath of the attack, Conter, along with fellow survivors, courageously tended to the wounded, many of whom suffered severe burns and blindness. They remained onboard until they were certain all survivors had been rescued.

The wreckage of the USS Arizona still rests at the bottom of Pearl Harbor, serving as a solemn memorial to the lives lost. Over 900 sailors and Marines remain entombed within its hull, with only 335 crew members surviving the attack.

Following the events of Pearl Harbor, Conter pursued flight training and became a pilot of PBY patrol bombers. He flew numerous combat missions in the Pacific theater with the renowned “Black Cats” squadron, conducting nocturnal dive-bombing operations against enemy targets.

In 1943, Conter’s plane was shot down near New Guinea, forcing him and his crew to confront the perils of open water, including the looming threat of sharks. Despite the dire circumstances, Conter’s unwavering resolve and leadership ensured their survival until rescue arrived.

Lou Conter
Lou Conter (Credits: The New York Times)

Later in his military career, Conter assumed the role of the Navy’s first SERE officer, responsible for training personnel in survival, evasion, resistance, and escape tactics. His expertise proved invaluable, with some of his trainees crediting his teachings for their survival during the Vietnam War.

After 28 years of dedicated service, Conter retired from the Navy in 1967. Born in Ojibwa, Wisconsin, on September 13, 1921, he enlisted in the Navy at the age of 18, driven by a sense of duty and patriotism.

With Conter’s passing, only 19 survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack remain alive, according to Kathleen Farley, the California state chair of the Sons and Daughters of Pearl Harbor Survivors. Conter’s presence was felt at annual remembrance ceremonies in Pearl Harbor, where, even in his later years, he made efforts to pay tribute to the fallen heroes who lost their lives on that infamous day.

In 2019, reflecting on his attendance at such events, Conter emphasized the importance of honoring the memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice, underscoring the enduring significance of remembrance and tribute.

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