Last USS Arizona survivor dies at age 102

| April 2, 2024

Lt. Comm. Lou Conter, USN (ret)

Another of the Greatest Generation has passed, this one the last of the men that survived the bombing of USS Arizona on 7 Dec 1941. Lou Conter was just 20, and had come on duty only minutes before the first wave hit, on that day. He survived, stayed in the Navy, became an aviator flying PBY Catalinas, and retired after 28 years. In a photo in the linked article, you can see a young Lieutenant Conter in his whites. He’s wearing a Distinguished Flying Cross, a Navy Commendation Medal w/ “V”, two Presidential Unit Citations, and service awards for both World War II and Korea.

Navy Times has the story;

The sole survivor serving aboard the USS Arizona during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor has died.

Lou Conter, one of the last living ties to that date of infamy, passed away this morning at his home in Grass, Valley, California, Pacific Historic Parks confirmed. He was 102.

Born in Ojibwa, Wisconsin, Conter enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1939 at the age of 18. Two years later, he would bear witness to the attack that finally drew the United States into the Second World War.

Starting his shift as quartermaster at 7:45 a.m. on Dec. 7, 1941, Conter had barely rubbed the sleep from his eyes when the Japanese assault began a mere three minutes later.

At exactly 8:09 a.m., the hull of the USS Arizona was struck by a 1,760-pound Japanese armor-piercing bomb.

Japanese horizontal bombers swirling overhead continued to cause damage, striking the Arizona’s midship areas. The massive explosion that soon followed has never been explained, according to the Naval History and Heritage Command, since the bomb did not pierce Arizona’s armored deck. It is believed, however, that the bomb that penetrated her forward turrets struck nearly one million pounds of gunpowder, causing the turrets, conning tower and much of the superstructure to be obliterated.

The ship continued to burn for more than 48 hours after the attack.

“Minute it happened, we sounded general quarters and they were in there and we blew up in about eight minutes, nine minutes,” Conter told CBS13 in 2022.

Knocked over from the blast, Conter landed on the deck which was rapidly filling with water.

Despite the conflagration spreading throughout the badly listing ship, Conter remained composed, spending nearly 35 minutes attempting to secure the quarterdeck and saving nearly 20 sailors.

Of the 2,403 American sailors, soldiers and civilians killed that day, 1,177 came from Arizona’s crew. Conter was just one of 335 aboard the battleship to survive.

But his duty to Arizona’s crew did not cease on December 7. Conter joined numerous rescue operations to recover the bodies of his shipmates in the chaotic days that followed the attack.

However, after five days of “diligently searching, it was apparent that no one remained alive, and the risk of the operation became too high to continue,” according to a Veterans Affairs release.

“Although most of the fuel aboard the ship fed the explosion, 500,000 gallons slowly seeped from the wreckage,” the release said. “Nearly 80 years after the attack, the USS Arizona continues to spill up to 9 quarts of oil per day into the harbor. This is often referred to as the ‘tears of the Arizona.’”

Nearly 900 sailors still lie entombed in the USS Arizona.

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Conter entered flight school, serving as a pilot with the Navy Squadron dubbed the Black Cats due to black paint adorning the night-flying PBY Catalinas, according to VA News.

Conter survived the war, despite being shot down twice over the Pacific, and went on to serve in Korea as an air intelligence officer. Upon returning home, he worked to establish the Navy’s first SERE — Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape — program and served as a military adviser to Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.

Conter retired from the Navy as a lieutenant commander after 28 years of military service.

Today, fewer than two dozen survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor attack remain alive.

“Our prayers go out to his close-knit family and friends that made up what became known as the ‘Conterage,’” Aileen Utterdyke, president and CEO of Pacific Historic Parks, wrote in a Facebook post.

“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. He had an exemplary career in the Navy and was steadfast in imploring the schools, parents and everyday Americans to always remember Pearl Harbor.”

Category: Historical, Navy, We Remember

26 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
FuzeVT

Godspeed, sir. Step back. . . Slow salute.

FuzeVT

https://flic.kr/s/aHskTjSvmm
My Arizona Pictures

40517019173_ae028a24bc_4k
President Elect Toxic Deplorable Racist SAH Neande

Brings back memories of my time in Hawaii with the 25th Dimension (ID), Schofield Barracks. I was able to re-enlist on the deck of the Memorial.

RCAF-CHAIRBORNE

That’s really cool.
The best we get is a stuffy conference room.

Wiz

Thank you for sharing the pictures.

Jeff

He can finally rest easy with his Arizona shipmates. Fair winds and following seas Lt Cmdr.

Green Thumb

Rest well, Mr. Conter.

Old tanker

Fair skies and tailwinds forever Sir. Thank you for our freedom.

Looking at the framed objects over his shoulder, I wonder if that is a piece of the Arizona there.

SFC D

An era of amazing men ended with this man’s passing. Godspeed, sir.

KoB

Godspeed, Fare Well, and Rest Easy, Good Sir. A Life Time of Service to your Country. Salute!

Veritas Omnia Vincit

Rest in peace good sir, you’ve certainly earned that.

UpNorth

Rest in peace, sir. Thank you for your service. Salute!!

Major Tuddy

Rest in peace, Sir. 🫡🇺🇸

Sparks

Rest in peace Sir. God be with your family now.

Steve1371

My brother took a picture of the sunken Arizona while on a cruise aboard the USS Midway back in the late 1950s. That was before the current memorial was built. I do not know how to add it to this post so I sent it to admin. Hope they will post it. I am sure quartermaster Conter would remember when it looked like that.
Thank you for all you have done for America Lt. Comm. Conter!

Odie

Hopefully someone can figure out how to post. That would be a neat picture to see.

Jay

Godspeed Commander. The LAST Arizona vet. Truly the end of an era, and nary a BLURB in the MSM. Sad.

It would be an HONOR to render funeral honors.

RGR 4-78

Rest in Peace.

Eggs

The Greatest Generation indeed, Rest In Peace, Sir.

Odie

As has been said by many, RIP good sir.

MustangCryppie

Rest in peace,shipmate.

Now I wonder if the legend of the oil leaking from Arizona will come true. They say that when the last of the crew dies, the oil leaking from the ship will stop. I’m sure it won’t, but it is a nice thought.

I also wonder if he intended to have his cremains placed on Arizona.

Last edited 2 months ago by MustangCryppie
A Proud Infidel®™

*Slow Salute*

Fyrfighter

RIP good Sir, and thank you for a lifetime of service!

AT1 ret

Salute!

Skivvy Stacker

Full compliment of Officers and Crew are now aboard. They all man the rails as God takes the helm.
USS ARIZONA (BB-39) is finally leaving port for the wide, open sea. She steams ahead at Full Speed, headed for shores we all hope to see someday. All those aboard celebrate, with huge smiles, hugs, handshakes, and tears as they once again become the crew they were so long ago.
They are young again, and alive.
God bless them..

Skippy

Rest Well warrior