On July 31, 2019, the United States lost one of the few remaining survivors of the December 7, 1941 attack on USS Arizona (BB-39). Lonnie Cook, a native of Morris, OK, was 98 years old.

Lonnie Cook at Pearl Harbor

Lonnie Cook in 1940

Lonnie Cook in 1940

At the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, Lonnie Cook was serving aboard USS Arizona as a Seaman First Class. He became one of just over 330 sailors and Marines to survive the sinking of the battleship, which took the lives of 1,177 men. Cook had been preparing for a scheduled shore leave in Honolulu, but fate had other plans for him that morning.

As Japanese pilots began bombing and strafing Arizona, Cook made his way to his battle station inside a gun turret pit. He spent what time he had before the battleship started sinking loading primer, gunpowder, and shells. Moments later, a Japanese bomb scored a direct hit on the ship, and smoke began filling the room. Before abandoning the sinking ship, Cook helped launch lifeboats to save as many of his fellow crewmen as possible. Many, he recalled years later, were so badly injured they were unrecognizable.

 

 

After Pearl Harbor

US Marines landing on Iwo Jima

US Marines landing on Iwo Jima

After surviving the attack on Pearl Harbor, Cook continued his military service aboard a series of destroyers. He took part in several major battles of the War in the Pacific, including Midway and Iwo Jima, where he helped secure victory for the United States and its allies.

Lonnie Cook retired from the US Navy in 1948 and returned to Oklahoma, where he met his wife-to-be, Marietta Louise Patton. The couple moved to California, where they lived until 1993, when they returned to the peace and quiet of small-town Oklahoma. Over the years, Cook was able to return to Pearl Harbor on three occasions, the last one for the 70th anniversary of the attack.

For his service in the Pacific Theater, Lonnie Cook was awarded 12 battle stars, although he didn’t actually receive them until he was 97 years old, after his family arranged to have them presented to him prior to leaving his hometown in Oklahoma for Carmichael, CA in 2018.

The Remaining Few

With  Lonnie Cook’s passing, there are only four USS Arizona survivors still living: Lauren Bruner, who is 98 years old; Lou Conter, 97; Ken Potts, 98; and Donald Stratton, 97.

After a memorial service in California, Cook’s remains were returned to his hometown of Morris, OK, to be buried next to his wife of 69 years, Marietta, who passed away in December of 2018. Lonnie Cook is survived by his daughter, Pat Cunanan.

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