Last Living USS Arizona Survivor Passes

( – The last survivor who was serving on the battleship USS Arizona when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor died on Monday at the age of 102, the Associated Press reported.

Lou Conter passed away in his home in Grass Valley, California surrounded by his daughter and two of his sons.

The former quartermaster for the Arizona was on the main deck when Japanese planes flew overhead at 7:55 a.m. on December 7, 1941. The battleship exploded and sunk to the bottom of the harbor, killing 1,177 sailors and Marines. Nearly half of those killed in the Pearl Harbor attack were aboard the USS Arizona.

In a 2008 oral history interview on file at the Library of Congress, Conter described how one Japanese bomb cut through the steel decks of the battleship, setting off the over 1 million pounds of gunpowder stored below. The subsequent explosion lifted the Arizona out of the water 30 to 40 feet.

According to Conter, everything from the mainmast forward was on fire, with men trying to jump overboard to get out of the flames. He said the water was covered in burning oil.

In his autobiography “The Lou Conter Story,” Conter describes helping the other survivors to tend to the wounded, many of whom were badly burned and blinded. The men only abandoned the Arizona after the senior surviving officer confirmed that the survivors had all been rescued.

More than 900 are entombed inside the wreckage of the Arizona that remains where it sank on that fateful day. Only 335 crew members survived.

Following the Pearl Harbor attack, Conter enrolled in flight school. After earning his wings, he flew the PBY patrol bombers the Navy used to search for enemy submarines and bomb targets.

Conter flew 200 combat missions with the “Black Cats,” the squadron that conducted night dive-bombing missions flying in planes painted black.

Conter enlisted in the Navy at the age of 18 and retired 28 years later in 1967.

According to his daughter, Conter had grown weaker in recent months and spent a short time in the hospital in February. After returning home, he was in hospice care until he passed.

His family said Conter would be buried next to his wife of 45 years Valerie who passed away in 2016.

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