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Lou Conter, last survivor of USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor bombing, dies in California at 102

Navy veteran Lou Conter, center, smiles while attending a memorial event at Hawaii's Pearl Harbor in 2019.
(Caleb Jones / Associated Press)
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Lou Conter, the last survivor of the battleship USS Arizona, which sank during the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, died at his home in Grass Valley, Calif., on Monday. He was 102.

Conter — who was just 20 years old on the morning of the attack and had only joined the military two years earlier — was surrounded by family and died peacefully, according to Pacific Historic Parks, a nonprofit that helps maintain the USS Arizona Memorial and other historic landmarks in Hawaii. The nonprofit confirmed Conter’s death through his daughter.

The Arizona was the centerpiece of the carnage that morning. Of the more than 2,400 service members and civilians killed that day, nearly half — 1,177 — were sailors and Marines aboard the Arizona. As Japanese bombers lay waste to Pearl Harbor’s “battleship row,” explosions ignited a massive amount of gunpowder stored on the Arizona. The resulting explosion lifted the ship “30 to 40 feet out of the water,” Conter said during a January 2008 interview with the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project.

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Former Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut died in New York City on Wednesday due to complications from a fall, his family said. He was 82.

March 27, 2024

The surprise attack, which vaulted the U.S. into World War II, was the deadliest foreign assault on U.S. soil before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.

Conter, a quartermaster, was lauded for helping rescue fellow crew members during the attack, according to the Pacific Historic Parks post. After the bombing, Conter remained enlisted until 1945, flying combat missions throughout World War II, according to his interview with the Veterans History Project. He also served in the Korean War in the 1950s and reached the rank of lieutenant commander.

Despite the traumatic events of that day, Conter was no stranger to the USS Arizona memorial in Honolulu. In 2016, he told a Times reporter that he visited the wrecked battleship every Dec. 7 to stand aboard the Arizona as wreaths were laid to remember his fallen comrades.

“There were 335 [sic] of us on the ship that got off that day,” he said in 2016 as he stood near the ship he almost died on decades earlier. “We were just lucky.”

Even at 95, Conter knew exactly where he was standing when the attack began.

“I was on the quarterdeck, just about where we are,” he told The Times. “Everything from right over there forward blew up and was on fire.”

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