USS Arizona survivor Donald Stratton is looking to press Washington DC lawmakers to honor a fellow Pearl Harbor veteran for the heroic act that saved his life and those of several other Arizona crewmen.
After a bomb ignited a huge cache of ammunition, Stratton and five other Arizona sailors were stranded on the burning vessel when an unknown sailor tossed them a lifeline to help them escape the burning inferno. Despite suffering burns to 60% of his body, Stratton took the lifeline and climbed hand over hand to the other ship, the USS Vestal.
Due to the efforts of that one man, Stratton survived the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor, but for sixty years the identity of his savior remained a mystery. Finally, a name was put to the voice that had called across the 70-foot gap, encouraging the wounded sailor to safety. Joe George served as a boatswain’s mate second class on the Vestal, a maintenance ship that had been tied to the Arizona. Defying captain’s orders to cut the Vestal loose, Joe refused to leave the stranded sailors behind.
To provide George with the honor that he believes the Pearl Harbor hero deserves, Stratton and fellow Arizona survivor Lauren Bruner, who also owes his life to George, are planning a trip to Washington D C to meet with Sens. Tom Cotton, R-AR;, Core Garner, R-CO., and Jeff Flake, R-AZ, along with Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson. Stratton and Bruner also hope to meet the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the defense secretary.
In order to help finance the trip, Stratton’s family has created a project on the USS Arizona Final Salute website. Donations are also being accepted for a future planned reunion of the USS Arizona survivors in Hawaii next December.