Too old, too frail, survivors of the USS Arizona to miss annual ceremony

There are only five men left of the survivors of the USS Arizona, sunk by the Japanese in the attack on Pearl Harbor 77 years ago Friday.

For the first time in years, no survivor of the Arizona will make the trip to Oahu for ceremonies and return the salute as a Navy ship passes by the memorial.

It’s understandable. Lauren Bruner, 98, Lonnie Cook, 98, Ken Potts, 97, Lou Conter, 97, and Don Stratton, 96, are too old and/or ill to travel.

Instead, their place will be taken by Everett Hyland, who was aboard the USS Pennsylvania during the attack. He’s 95.

“We’re lucky to have five Arizona survivors left,” Daniel Martinez, chief historian for the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, tells the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “At their age of 95-plus, it’s remarkable that they’ve had that longevity, and it keeps us still secured to the idea that someone could tell us what happened — because they witnessed it.”

Not for long, of course. Time is silencing first-person history.

Conter, one of the last survivors, had made reservations to attend. But then he was hospitalized.

“My doctor said, ‘Lou, damn it, you’re old. It takes twice as long to get well — so remember that,’ ” Conter told the paper.

He’s been attending the ceremonies for the last 15 years.

“We’re all 98 and 97 and that’s why I think that it was hard for us to, you know we get sick and it takes a little longer and we have to just relax and do as the doctor says,” he said.

“It just makes for a tough trip for him. A 6 hour flight you know if my mom had been feeling a little better, they might’ve taken the trip. We’ve been out there 11 straight years, this’ll be the first year in 12 years we’ve missed,” Randy Stratton, Don Stratton’s son, told a local TV station.

(h/t: Paul Tosto)