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Lou Conter, the Last Living Survivor of USS Arizona Pearl Harbor Attack Has Passed Away

Craig T. Kojima/The Star-Advertiser via AP, Pool

We like to take things pretty lightly here at Twitchy, but from time to time, we have to take a break for some genuinely sad news. Most of the time, that comes in the form of the passing of a famous figure. It could be a politician, or an actor, or a musician, just someone who the world will miss.  

But as much as we might look up to those figures, and mourn their loss, there is a group of people who we will never fail to show as much honor and respect as we can. Those are the soldiers, sailors, and airmen who faithfully served our country, at times in conditions that can only be described as hell on earth. 

Sadly, we lost another of these heroes today as the USS Arizona announced the death of Lou Conter, the last surviving member of that ship during the Pearl Harbor attack of December 7, 1941. Conter was 102 years old and with his passing comes a transition point for America's greatest generation. 

Politico and many other media outlets had more details about Conter and his experience during the attack. 

The Arizona lost 1,177 sailors and Marines in the 1941 attack that launched the United States into World War II. The battleship’s dead account for nearly half of those killed in the surprise attack. Conter was a quartermaster, standing on the main deck of the Arizona as Japanese planes flew overhead at 7:55 a.m. on Dec. 7 that year. Sailors were just beginning to hoist colors or raise the flag when the assault began.

Conter recalled how one bomb penetrated steel decks 13 minutes into the battle and set off more than 1 million pounds of gunpowder stored below. The explosion lifted the battleship 30 to 40 feet out of the water, he said during a 2008 oral history interview stored at the Library of Congress. Everything was on fire from the mainmast forward, he said.

'Guys were running out of the fire and trying to jump over the sides,' Conter said. 'Oil all over the sea was burning.'

His autobiography 'The Lou Conter Story' recounts how he joined other survivors in tending to the injured, many of them blinded and badly burned. The sailors only abandoned ship when their senior surviving officer was sure they had rescued all those still alive.

Remembrances came in from countless people and organizations, but the most poignant were from fellow servicemembers and those who had met, or whose relatives had served with Conter. 

Kiley's tweet concludes, '... he dedicated his life to honoring the memory of those who were lost. My thoughts are with his family and loved ones, and I know he will be greatly missed.'

Many took the opportunity today to post a video from December 2022, where Conter recalled his Pearl Harbor experience and the men with whom he served.

'They call us heroes, but we're not. the 2,403 men that died are the heroes. And we've got to honor them ahead of everybody else.'

- Lou Conter, 2022

We say this with all due respect to Lt. Commander Conter and his family, loved ones, and fellow service members, but you are ALL heroes. 

I am a member of Generation X and, if you read some of my articles on Twitchy, I can get pretty proud of that. But seeing all of the things the Greatest Generation accomplished, endured, and survived is not just humbling, but it fills me with the highest respect and admiration. My generation grew up with a lot during the Cold War, but nothing that could even approach what those men and women gave and sacrificed as a group. 

Every generation has heroes of this type, of course, from Vietnam to Desert Storm to the 9/11 first responders. But Pearl Harbor was different. World War II was different. Frankly, America was different. 

The world may never know the equal of men such as Lou Conter and his shipmates. I never met the man once in my life, but his passing, even at such a grand age of 102, fills me with tears. We can only hope to become the United States of America again that produced such -- and so many -- heroes. 

Fair winds and following seas, Lt. Commander Lou Cantor. 


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