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Lou Conter, last USS Arizona survivor, dies at 102

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  • VIDEO BY DIANE S. W. LEE WITH COURTESY FOOTAGE FROM THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

    Lou Conter, the last survivor of the USS Arizona, died at his home Monday morning in Grass Valley, Calif., at the age of 102. Conter spoke to the Star-Advertiser in December 2019 to share his experience during the Pearl Harbor attacks on Dec. 7, 1941.

  • STAR-ADVERTISER / 2016
                                Lou Conter attends the Pearl Harbor 75th Commemoration, in December 2016, at Kilo Pier. Conter, the last survivor of the USS Arizona, died at his home this morning in Grass Valley, California at the age of 102.

    STAR-ADVERTISER / 2016

    Lou Conter attends the Pearl Harbor 75th Commemoration, in December 2016, at Kilo Pier. Conter, the last survivor of the USS Arizona, died at his home this morning in Grass Valley, California at the age of 102.

  • STAR-ADVERTISER / 2019
                                Retired Lt. Commander Lou Conter, one of three remaining survivors of the USS Arizona, is given a special gate-side welcome, in December 2019, by Hawaiian Airlines at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport upon his arrival from Sacramento to attend the 2019 National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. Conter, the last survivor of the USS Arizona, died this morning at his home in Grass Valley, California at the age of 102.

    STAR-ADVERTISER / 2019

    Retired Lt. Commander Lou Conter, one of three remaining survivors of the USS Arizona, is given a special gate-side welcome, in December 2019, by Hawaiian Airlines at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport upon his arrival from Sacramento to attend the 2019 National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. Conter, the last survivor of the USS Arizona, died this morning at his home in Grass Valley, California at the age of 102.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                Pearl Harbor survivor Lou Conter, 102, holds a framed replica of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin of Dec. 7, 1941, at his home in Grass Valley, Calif., in November 2022. Conter survived the devastating explosion that destroyed the battleship, USS Arizona, during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, on Dec. 7, 1941. Conter, the last survivor of the USS Arizona, died this morning at his home in Grass Valley, California at the age of 102.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Pearl Harbor survivor Lou Conter, 102, holds a framed replica of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin of Dec. 7, 1941, at his home in Grass Valley, Calif., in November 2022. Conter survived the devastating explosion that destroyed the battleship, USS Arizona, during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, on Dec. 7, 1941. Conter, the last survivor of the USS Arizona, died this morning at his home in Grass Valley, California at the age of 102.

Lou Conter, the last survivor of the USS Arizona, died this morning at his home in Grass Valley, Calif., at the age of 102.

According to a news release from Pacific Historic Parks, an organization dedicated to supporting significant historical military sites in the Pacific, Conter died peacefully surrounded by his family.

According to his daughter Louann Daley, Conter died following congestive heart failure, the Associated Press reported.

“This is a heartbreaking loss. Lou Conter epitomized what it meant to be a member of the Greatest Generation, Americans whose collective courage, accomplishments and sacrifices saved our country from tyranny,” said Aileen Utterdyke, president and CEO of Pacific Historic Parks. “He had an exemplary career in the Navy and was steadfast in imploring the schools, parents and everyday Americans to always remember Pearl Harbor.”

During the attack on Dec. 7, 1941, Conter was a 20-year-old quartermaster who helped rescue fellow crewmen as they tried to escape the ship. Of the 2,390 Americans killed in the attack, 1,177 were members of Arizona’s crew. Conter was among the 335 Arizona crew members who survived. The second to the last survivor was Ken Potts, who died last year in Provo, Utah, at the age of 102.

After the attack, Conter put in his papers to become a pilot and flew with the VP-11 bomber. He survived two shoot-downs including one off the coast of New Guinea in which the crew was surrounded by sharks until they were fished out of the water.

After World War II, he became an intelligence officer and flew combat missions in Korea. He is widely revered in the military intelligence community, known for helping create the Navy’s first survival, evasion, resistance and escape — better known as SERE — and was a military adviser to Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.

Conter had planned to attend the Pearl Harbor attack anniversary last year but due to his health was unable to make the long journey across the Pacific. But his grandnephew, currently serving Marine Capt. Ray Hower, was present to deliver the keynote speech for the ceremony.

“Our nation came together as never before or since, and the greatest generation was born. Our country was united in purpose and with the help of our allies was ultimately victorious,” said Hower. “But they weren’t done; after years of war our nations and the world needed healing. Those that fought for freedom returned home and threw themselves into that task with the same determination.”

Funeral arrangements for Conter are pending.

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