Last month marked 73 years since the deadly Dec. 7 attack on Pearl Harbor by the Empire of Japan, but the anniversary became a historic moment in its own right when four out of the nine remaining survivors of the USS Arizona came together for what may be the last reunion of its kind.
During the attack in 1941, the USS Arizona came under fire and exploded, sinking to the bottom of the bay and bringing 1,177 sailors with it. Today, the ship remains at the bottom of Pearl Harbor, a final resting place for many of those sailors — and a memorial for those who come to pay their respects.
“Memorial events at Pearl Harbor are always very solemn, as it is a time when we honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our country,” says Dale Palileo, Online Marketing Manager, E Noa Tours.
Last month, those who visited the memorial that straddles the sunken ship included four of the ship’s original sailors: John D. Anderson, 97; Louis Conter, 93; Donald Stratton, 92; and Lauren Bruner, 94.
The four survivors gathered at the USS Arizona memorial to look back, hold a news conference with family and friends, and share a drink from wine glasses salvaged from the USS Arizona. A glass will also be placed in the Arizona’s fourth turret barbette, which holds the urns of 38 other survivors who decided to be interred at the memorial.
At the news conference for the reunion, Bruner and Conter announced their plans to be interred there as well. Conter compared it to being “with our shipmates for our permanent duty station.”
Though this year’s event was called a final reunion, Conter is already planning to come back next year.
“My wife saves quarters every year from the time we have the reunion so she’ll have money for Mai Tais, and she’s already saving them for next year. So I don’t think this is going to be our last,” Conter told Stars and Stripes. “John’s our eldest man here, and Don’s our youngest, but we’ve still got time to go. So we’ll be back out here no matter whether the rest of the crowd can make it or not.”