Last Living Survivor of Pearl Harbor Attack Dies at 102

At the age of 102, Lou Conter passed away. Conter was the last living survivor who served on the USS Arizona battleship that went down with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

When the Japanese executed their sneak attack on December 7, 1941, he was working as a quartermaster on the main deck of the Arizona. Just thirteen minutes into the fight, Conter said, a single bomb penetrated the ship’s deck, and the ensuing blast set off almost a million pounds of gunpowder lying below. The battleship was engulfed in flames from the mainmast forward after the explosion propelled parts of the Arizona 30 to 40 feet over the ocean.

Conter’s account in his memoirs “The Lou Conter Story” describes how he and other survivors helped others who were hurt, including several who were blind or severely burnt. The crew departed only after the senior officer was assured that they had found everyone still alive. Where the Arizona went down, the corroded remains of the ship remain, and within are the remains of almost 900 sailors and Marines. Only 335 made it out alive.

After Pearl Harbor, Conter enrolled in flight school and eventually became a pilot with the Navy’s PBY patrol bombers. These bombers scouted for submarines and dropped bombs on enemy locations.

He flew 200 combat missions in the Pacific as part of the “Black Cats” squad, which engaged in night dive bombing using planes painted black. He joined the Navy in the late 1950s and became the first SERE officer. The acronym SERE stands for four things:  survival, evasion, resistance, and escape. The next decade, he spent training Navy pilots and crew to survive a jungle crash and ensuing imprisonment as POWs.

Conter served for 28 years in the Navy until he retired in 1967.

The living survivors of the Pearl Harbor assault now number 19, as reported by Kathleen Farley, the California state chair of the Sons and Daughters of Pearl Harbor Survivors, after Conter’s passing.

On the anniversaries of the 1941 assault, the National Park Service and the Navy would jointly hold memorial services at Pearl Harbor, and Conter became a regular at these events.