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Monday, April 1, 2024

Last USS Arizona battleship survivor from the attack on Pearl Harbor, Lou Conter, has passed away at the age of 102.

Pearl Harbor passed away at 102

Last USS Arizona battleship survivor from the attack on Pearl Harbor, Lou Conter, has passed away at the age of 102.

The USS Arizona battleship, which exploded and sank during the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, has lost its lone surviving survivor. Lou Conter had been 102.

According to his daughter Louann Daley, Conter passed away at his Grass Valley, California residence on Monday due to congestive heart failure.

The attack that precipitated the United States' entry into World War II in 1941 claimed 1,177 sailors and Marines from the Arizona. Nearly half of those killed in the surprise strike were aboard the battleship.

On December 7, at 7:55 a.m., Conter, a quartermaster, was standing on the Arizona's main deck when Japanese planes passed overhead. When the assault started, sailors had just started to hoist the flag or raise the colors.

Thirteen minutes into the fight, Conter recounted, one bomb pierced steel decks and ignited over a million pounds (or fifty thousand kg) of powder that was stored below.

In an oral history interview from 2008 that was preserved at the Library of Congress, he stated that the explosion raised the battleship 30 to 40 feet (9 to 12 meters) out of the ocean. He declared that everything was burning from the mainmast forward.

According to Conter, "guys were trying to jump over the sides and running out of the fire." "The sea was burning with oil."

In his memoirs "The Lou Conter Story," he describes how he assisted other survivors in providing medical care to the injured, many of whom were severely burned and blinded. The sailors didn't evacuate ship until their senior survivor officer was certain they had saved every survivor.

The Arizona's corroding wreckage is still submerged in the ocean. Over nine hundred sailors and Marines remain entombed inside.

Following the events of Pearl Harbor, Conter attended flight school and obtained his wings to operate PBY patrol bombers, which the Navy utilized to locate submarines and destroy enemy objectives. He performed 200 combat flights in the Pacific as a member of the "Black Cats" squadron, which used black-painted aircraft to execute nighttime dive bombing.

He and his crew had to dodge twelve sharks after being shot down in 1943 in waters close to New Guinea. When a sailor expressed skepticism that they would make it, Conter said, "baloney."

"Never lose your cool in any circumstance. The first thing you tell them is to survive. He uttered, "Don't panic or you're dead." Before another jet arrived and dropped them a lifeboat hours later, they were silent and managed to stay afloat.

He became the first SERE officer in the Navy in the late 1950s. SERE stands for survival, evasion, resistance, and escape. He taught Navy pilots and crew members how to live in case they were shot down in the jungle and taken prisoner of war for the next ten years. He taught some students when they were prisoners of war in Vietnam.

After 28 years in the Navy, Conter resigned in 1967.

On September 13, 1921, Conter was born in Ojibwa, Wisconsin. He traveled five miles (eight kilometers) one way to school outside of Denver after his family later relocated to Colorado. He tried out for the football squad because the guys could play football and not because he loved the game because his house didn't have running water.

After turning eighteen, he joined the Navy, earning $17 a month and a hammock for his bunk in boot camp.

As he aged, Conter started to attend the yearly Pearl Harbor commemorative events that the Navy and the National Park Service jointly organized on the anniversary of the 1941 attack. He taped video messages for those that assembled and watched remotely from his home in California when he was too weak to attend in person.

At the age of 98 in 2019, he expressed his fondness for attending memorial services for the deceased.

“The 2,403 men that died are the heroes. And we’ve got to honor them ahead of everybody else. And I’ve said that every time, and I think it should be stressed,” Conter told The Associated Press in a 2022 interview at his California home.

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