Remembering Pearl Harbor

So few of those that served and sacrificed remain to bear witness

Remember and honor those that served, sacrificed and did their duty at Pearl Harbor 79 years ago today.

Remember Louis Conter who turned 99 this fall, and is one of only two remaining survivors of the attack on the USS Arizona.  His last remaining shipmate is Ken Potts, a crane operator onboard the morning of the Japanese attack.  They are the only two survivors left that experienced the sinking of the Arizona.  The only people left that can testify from their own eyes what happened aboard ship.  Only two remain of the 335 Arizona survivors that day.

Quartermaster Third Class Louis Conter was securing the quarterdeck of the USS Arizona docked quayside at Pearl Harbor at 8:05 AM on the morning of December 7 1941.  The Arizona was preparing to make way for California within the hour.  Minutes later, the first Japanese wave arrived and an armor- piercing bomb found its way to the Arizona and detonated starboard side forward.  Five decks below, it found its way and exploded amidst millions of pounds of power stored in the turret number one and two handling room.  It was one of the few vulnerable locations on a battleship of that type.  This was a lucky shot from the Japanese perspective.  The order to abandon ship would be soon forthcoming as surviving crew did their best to suppress the fire and aid burned crew mates.

Recently Conter recounted what he experienced on the Arizona.  The forward section of The Arizona was “burning like mad”.  We had “laid down fifteen men that came out and were on fire”.  Conter added that “we were trained to do what we did” and that “you had to do your duty and you did not think about it”.

At an American Legion event commemorating the 75th anniversary of the sinking of The Arizona in 2016, Conter remarked that “We’re not the heroes.  The 1,177 who went down with the ship are the heroes.  You have to remember we got to go home, get married, have children and grandchildren, and we’ve lived a good life.  Those who didn’t get to do that should be called the heroes.”

Conter was the only survivor to visit last year’s commemoration.  This year he will have to attend this year’s service virtually rather than in person due to COVID-19 safety restrictions, but says he will definitely attend the 80’th anniversary in person.  I would not bet against him.