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Remembering Lou Conter: The Last Survivor of the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor

The devastating events of Pearl Harbor took the lives of many. After the tragic event, survivors of the attack recounted their experiences. Unfortunately, the last living survivor of the attack passed away in early April 2024, at the age of 102.

Lou Conter was born in Ojibwe, Wisconsin, on Sept. 13, 1921, and was a quartermaster in the Navy. He was standing on the main deck of the USS Arizona battleship when Japanese planes flew over and bombed the ship. The explosion lifted the ship 30 feet out of the water as one million pounds of gunpowder stored below the ship were set off. Everything was on fire. “Guys were running out of the fire trying to jump over the sides and oil all over the sea was burning,’’ Conter said. In his autobiography “The Lou Conter Story”, Counter describes how he joined other survivors in battle and aided those that were injured. The sailors only abandoned ships if the senior surviving officer was certain that everyone alive was rescued. The USS Arizona wreckage still lies where it sank with remains of more than 900 sailors and Marines inside.

After Pearl Harbor, Corner went to flight school where he flew patrol bombers looking for submarines and enemy targets. He flew 200 combat missions in the Pacific. In the 1950s he was made the Navy’s first SERE officer, which stands for survival, evasion, resistance and escape. He spent the next ten years training Navy pilots and crew to survive if they were ever captured as prisoners of war. After 28 years in the Navy, Conter retired. In 2019, when he was 98 years old, he said he liked going to ceremonies that honor the people who died in the attack. “It's always good to come back and pay respect to them and give them the top honors that they deserve,’’ he said.

Conter held all the men involved in this incident in high regard. He believed that this period in American history should be remembered as a time of great sacrifice and courage.

[Source: Wisconsin State Journal]

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