Oldest Pearl Harbor Survivor Dies at 102

(StraightNews.org) – The last American survivor of the Pearl Harbor bombing, which brought the US into the Second World War, has died at age 102. Lou Conter, who was aboard the USS Arizona when it sank during Japan’s attack, died at his home in California surrounded by his family. More than 2,400 Americans were killed during the surprise Japanese attack on December 7, 1941.

Mr. Conter had written books and articles about his experiences that day, and in his autobiography, “The Lou Conter Story,” he described the effect of a Japanese armor-piercing bomb clashing with “one million pounds of gunpowder stored in the ship’s hull.” The explosion blew the USS Arizona 30 to 40 feet into the air, and Conter described the horrific injuries sustained by US troops.

“Guys were coming out of the fire … their skin would come off in your hands,” he wrote. The Pearl Harbor attack lasted more than one hour, and only 350 of the 1,177 USS Arizona personnel survived. Conter was the last remaining of that 350. He outlived fellow Arizona crew member Ken Potts, who died in Provo, Utah, last year, also aged 102.

Aileen Utterdyke, president and CEO of Pacific Historic Parks, described Conter’s death as a “heartbreaking loss.” She said he epitomized America’s greatest generation whose courage saved the country from tyranny. Ms. Utterdyke noted how Mr. Conter ensured future generations remembered American sacrifices during the Second World War by visiting schools and teaching children their history from a witness’s perspective.

Born in Wisconsin in 1921, Conter enlisted in the US Navy in 1939 and boarded the USS Arizona in January 1940. On December 7, he witnessed a fleet of Japanese torpedo planes approach Pearl Harbor, striking his ship just five minutes later.

He retired from the Navy in 1967 after 28 years of service. He is survived by his son and stepson and several grandchildren. His wife, Valerie, died in 2016 – they were married for 45 years.

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