In what has become a poignant dwindling over the decades, just three crewmen of the USS Arizona, bombed by the Japanese on Dec. 7, 1941, are alive today. And as today’s annual commemoration was held, 78 years to the minute that plunged America into World War II, one of those three survivors — Lou Conter, 98 — was to be at Pearl Harbor again to salute his fallen comrades.
A total of 1,177 men were killed aboard the USS Arizona; Conter, now of Sacramento, Calif., was able to help injured crewmates off the flaming ship that day. Today’s visit was to be particularly somber for him and others, helping to inter shipmate Lauren Bruner, who died in September at age 98, into the hull of the sunken Arizona. Bruner is expected to be the last USS Arizona survivor to be interred there.
Today’s national remembrance honors the 2,390 Americans killed in the dawn attack on Pearl Harbor. For Hawaii residents and visitors alike, the sacrifices on that day, and in the war years after, should ever be reminders of the bravery needed to maintain the ideals of democracy. All Americans, young and old, should make time to learn more about this pivotal period in our nation’s history, especially with WWII heroes passing from our midst. From the watery graves of Pearl Harbor, to the D-Day cemeteries of France’s Normandy coast, these are touchstones of shared history for all Americans. Never forget.