Louis Conter: Last survivor of attack on Pearl Harbor ship dies aged 102

Louis Conter: Last survivor of attack on Pearl Harbor ship dies aged 102
Louis Conter: Last survivor of attack on Pearl Harbor ship dies aged 102
  • By James FitzGerald
  • BBC News

4 hours ago

Image caption,

Louis Conter was described by his daughter as a “survivor” who swore by the mantra of “never give up”

The last surviving crew member from the USS Arizona battleship – which was sunk in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii – has died. He was 102.

Louis Conter was on watch when the US Pacific fleet was bombed on December 7, 1941 off the island of Oahu.

The surprise assault propelled America – which had been neutral – to enter World War Two, joining Allied forces.

Conter went on to carry out bombing missions in the Pacific as a US Navy pilot during the conflict.

He died at his home in California on Monday after heart failure, his daughter said.

The news leaves only 19 survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack still living, according to the AP news agency, citing an organization representing descendants of those caught up in the assault.

Conter, who was then a 20-year-old quartermaster, later described himself as lucky to have survived the attack on the Arizona – which lost the majority of its crew after sinking just minutes into the attack.

More than 2,000 Americans were killed during the raid at Pearl Harbor and elsewhere off Oahu – more than half of whom had been on the Arizona.

Many bodies were never retrieved.

It was those personnel who were the true “heroes” of the day, Conter told AP in 2022. “And we’ve got to honor them ahead of everybody else.”

In a separate interview in his later years, Conter recalled how a bomb had ignited a store of gunpowder below deck – causing an explosion that lifted the Arizona 30 to 40 feet (9 to 12 metes) out of the water.

Describing the chaos in the moments afterwards, he said: “Guys were running out of the fire and trying to jump over the sides, and oil all over the sea was burning.”

He described in his memoir how he and other survivors helped the injured and performed rescues before abandoning ship.

Conter’s subsequent service as a pilot in the night-time Black Cats squadron in the Pacific proved to be eventful.

He was shot down in a 1943 mission – remembering that he managed to get his crew into a lifeboat. The group were said to have drifted through shark-infested waters to an enemy-occupied island – New Guinea – where they successfully hid before being rescued.

Conter also flew missions during the 1950-53 Korean War. He later served as a military advisor to Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson.

He was described by his daughter in an interview with Reuters as “a survivor” who swore by the mantra of “never give up”.

Image source, Department of the US Navy/Reuters

Image caption,

The surprise Japanese attack on US ships – including the Arizona, pictured – prompted America to enter World War Two

The article is in Dutch

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