Sat. Apr 20th, 2024
alert-–-last-living-survivor-on-board-of-uss-arizona-during-pearl-harbor-attack-dies-at-age-102-–-as-only-20-people-at-the-wwii-surprise-blitz-remain-aliveAlert – Last living survivor on board of USS Arizona during Pearl Harbor attack dies at age 102 – as only 20 people at the WWII surprise blitz remain alive

The last living survivor of the USS Arizona, a battleship  sunk in the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, has died aged 102.

Lou Conter passed away on Monday at his home in Grass Valley, California, after complications with congestive heart failure, his daughter Louann Daley said. 

He was just 18 when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and was a quartermaster who stood on the main deck of the Arizona when Japanese planes flew over and attacked on December 7, 1941. 

‘I said, “Ok, I’ll sign up”, so I signed up for four years, I was going to leave at 5:45 that night,’ Conter told KCRA.  

The assault, which launched the United States into World War II, destroyed most of the fleet stationed at the Hawaii naval base and resulted in the deaths of more than 2,000 Americans.

Around 20 people who were at the surprise attack remain alive today. 

Lou Conter, he last living survivor of the USS Arizona that was attacked in 1941 by Japan, died on Monday at 102 due to complications with congestive heart failure

Lou Conter, he last living survivor of the USS Arizona that was attacked in 1941 by Japan, died on Monday at 102 due to complications with congestive heart failure

The assault, which launched the United States into World War II , destroyed most of the fleet stationed at the Hawaii naval base and resulted in the deaths of more than 2,000 Americans

The assault, which launched the United States into World War II , destroyed most of the fleet stationed at the Hawaii naval base and resulted in the deaths of more than 2,000 Americans

He was just 18 when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and was a quartermaster who stood on the main deck of the Arizona when Japanese planes flew over on December 7, 1941

He was just 18 when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and was a quartermaster who stood on the main deck of the Arizona when Japanese planes flew over on December 7, 1941

Conter recalled the very moment the bomb hit the steel decks and set off more than 1million pounds of gunpowder that was stored below. 

‘Guys were running out of the fire and trying to jump over the sides,’ Conter said. ‘Oil all over the sea was burning.’ 

In December, Conter, who wanted to attend the Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ceremony in Hawaii, decided not to so he could preserve his health. 

At a previous event in 2021, Conter said: ‘I was aboard the USS Arizona that morning and witnessed the awful destruction that occurred.’  

‘I was grateful to have survived and to have had the opportunity to serve throughout World War II.’

‘It is a great honor to recognize the men and women who were a part of this history. And especially those who didn’t get to see the legacy they would leave behind.’

‘Before I finish this I want to say, of the 2,403 servicemen that fell that day, 1,177 of my shipmates aboard the USS Arizona, God bless you. Today remains behind to those men.’

‘A lot of people call us heroes, but we’re really not heroes. The ones who gave everything, their lives, are the heroes.’

Other survivors who did attend the ceremony returned to the scene of Pearl Harbor together. 

The memorial was held on a field across the harbor from the USS Arizona Memorial, a white structure that sits above the rusting hull of the battleship, which exploded in a fireball and sank shortly after being hit. 

Though 80 years had passed, Conter vividly remembered what took place that tragic day. 

Conter is seen at the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 2016

Conter is seen at the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 2016

‘As soon as they came in, we knew what was happening,’ he said. 

‘We knew for six months we were training hard for fighting the Japanese at war. They were dive bombing, and they were right down the ship’s edge.’ 

‘We didn’t have time to look up and see what was coming. They were already right down at the water’s edge. It lasted for about 40 minutes. We took a 50-60-hundred-pound bomb alongside the number two turret.’

He added that even though they tried to fight back, ‘there was no time to do anything.’ 

‘It happened so fast,’ Conter said. 

He went on to fly 200 combat missions in the Pacific with a ‘Black Cats’ squadron, which directed dive bombing at night in black-painted planes. 

In 1943, he and his crew were shot down off the coast of New Guinea and landed  in shark-infested waters.

‘Don’t ever panic in any situation. Survive is the first thing you tell them. Don’t panic or you’re dead,” he said. They were quiet and treaded water until another plane came hours later and dropped them a lifeboat,’ Conter recalled. 

As an intelligence officer, he flew combat missions in Korea and created the Navy’s first SERE (survival, evasion, resistance and escape) program in the late 1950’s. 

He was a military adviser to Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.

Though 80 years had passed, Conter vividly remembered what took place that tragic day. He said that even though he and his crew tried to fight back, 'there was no time to do anything'

Though 80 years had passed, Conter vividly remembered what took place that tragic day. He said that even though he and his crew tried to fight back, ‘there was no time to do anything’ 

Conter is set to be buried in Grass Valley, next to his late wife that he was married to for 45 years

Conter is set to be buried in Grass Valley, next to his late wife that he was married to for 45 years

He retired in 1967 after serving 28 years in the U.S. Navy. (pictured: Conter looking at the names of the sailors who died in Pearl Harbor)

He retired in 1967 after serving 28 years in the U.S. Navy. (pictured: Conter looking at the names of the sailors who died in Pearl Harbor) 

He retired in 1967 after serving 28 years in the U.S. Navy.  

Aileen Utterdyke, president and CEO of Pacific Historic Parks, a non-profit that honors those who died in the attack, said that Conter’s death ‘is a heartbreaking loss.’ 

‘Lou Conter epitomized what it meant to be a member of the Greatest Generation, Americans whose collective courage, accomplishments and sacrifices saved our country from tyranny.’ 

‘He had an exemplary career in the Navy and was steadfast in imploring the schools, parents and everyday Americans to always remember Pearl Harbor.’ 

Daley said in the months leading up to his tragic death, her father had been getting weaker and was in hospice care for the past four weeks. 

‘I’m glad he’s at peace. I’m glad he didn’t suffer. I know when he transitioned over, he had so many people there waiting for him- his wife Val, who he loves dearly,’ Daley said. 

Before he passed, he told his family he loved them and thanked them for taking care of him. 

Conter is set to be buried in Grass Valley, next to his late wife that he was married to for 45 years. His family said funeral arrangements are being made and there will be a ceremony with military honors.