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

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

The last known survivor of the attack on the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor has died at the age of 102. Lou Conter was on the battleship in December of 1941 when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, drawing the U.S. into World War II. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke to Congress the following day.

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FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT: The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces.

MARTÍNEZ: Close to 1,200 sailors and Marines on the Arizona were killed.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Conter, a Navy quartermaster, was on the main deck when the bombing began. In this 2018 interview with the American Veterans Center, he recalled how one bomb pierced the ship's steel decks and set off a huge store of gunpowder below.

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LOU CONTER: There were a million pounds of powder that blew up. And that's in the pictures you all see of it. And the bow came about 30, 40 feet out of the water, and it fell straight back down.

MARTÍNEZ: He said guys were running out of the fire, and he was told to knock them unconscious if necessary.

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CONTER: Because if they jumped over the side, they would get burned to death in the fire. So we laid 15 or 16 of them down on the deck there that were coming out burned.

MARTÍNEZ: Conter went on to flight school and flew some 200 combat missions in the Pacific. He retired in 1967 after 28 years in the Navy.

MARTIN: Lou Conter died yesterday at his home in Grass Valley, Calif. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.