In the years following the sinking of USS Arizona (BB-39) and the building of the USS Arizona Memorial, 43 former crewmen who survived the events of December 7, 1941 have chosen the sunken vessel as their final resting place. As the nation commemorates the 78th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack in December 2019, Lauren Bruner will become the last to join his former shipmates. Bruner passed away at the age of 98 on September 10, 2019
A Narrow Escape
On the morning of December 7, 1941, 20-year-old Lauren Bruner escaped from the burning USS Arizona, while Pearl Harbor was engulfed in plumes of black smoke. Caught in the midst of the surprise attack, Bruner found himself staring death in the face as Arizona began to sink, while he and many other crew members were still on board. His harrowing tale of survival in the chaos of the assault has been told many times, including in his memoir, Second to the Last To Leave.
Bruner, along with shipmate Don Stratton and several others, was rescued by Joe George, who threw them a lifeline from his ship, USS Vestal (AR-4), which was moored alongside Arizona. Bruner and Stratton spent years petitioning to have George recognized and honored for his heroics. Their quest was complicated by the fact that to save the men, George had disobeyed a direct order to cut Vestal loose from the burning and sinking Arizona. It took many years, but Joe George was eventually honored for his actions that saved the lives of six sailors.
Lauren Bruner – Last To Join His Shipmates
At the time of his passing, Lauren Bruner was one of the last remaining survivors of USS Arizona. As one of his final wishes, Bruner asked to be reunited with those he once served alongside. On December 7, 2019, as part of the annual Pearl Harbor commemoration ceremonies, his remains will be placed aboard the sunken ship and Lauren Bruner will become the last to join his shipmates.
Those who request to be reunited with their former shipmates aboard USS Arizona aren’t the only remains within the vessel. During the Pearl Harbor attack, hundreds of crew members became trapped within the ship’s hull, unable to escape the blazing ship. Over 900 of them were never recovered. In total, 1,177 men of USS Arizona were killed during the Japanese attack.
Lauren Bruner wasn’t the last living Arizona crewman, but those who remain have no plans to be buried on board the battleship. Donald Stratton, Ken Potts, and Lou Conter all intend to be interred in family plots. Of the remaining three, only Conter is planning to attend Bruner’s interment ceremony.
Lauren Bruner will join 43 others from the USS Arizona’s crew whose ashes have been placed within gun turret 4.