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Interment at the USS Arizona Memorial

By: Amanda Thomson, Pacific Historic Parks and Daniel A. Martinez, Chieft Historian, NPS
Photo Credit: Brett Seymour, A/V Production Specialist / Deputy Chief, NPS Submerged Resources Center
Remembrance- Winter 2020 article

Upon entering the Shrine Room of the USS Arizona Memorial, visitors are confronted with a massive marble wall that lists 1,177 names of the officers, sailors and Marines killed aboard the battleship on that fateful day, December 7, 1941.

At the base of the memorial wall there are two box-like structures made of marble that flank each side (left & right) of the Shrine Wall. Engraved on these structures are the 44 names and dates of men who have had their remains interred within the ship. Unlike the men on the wall behind them, these survivors lived full lives, had careers, families and were given the opportunity of returning to the Arizona to rejoin their shipmates upon their passing. These gentlemen in particular, felt the calling to come back to the ship and re-join their shipmates for their eternal rest.

 

Today, interment ceremonies are hosted by the National Park Service and the United States Navy. It takes place aboard the USS Arizona Memorial located along Battleship Row in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Certainly it is one of the most unique ceremonies in the United States and for the most part, the world. Beginning in 1982 with GM2c Stanley Teslow, the U.S Navy began interring the remains of USS Arizona survivors upon their request.

 

Candidates for interment must have been aboard the USS Arizona during the December 7, 1941 attack. Also, they are required to sign paperwork and submit required documents to validate a military funeral. Interment services are coordinated closely with the family to ensure that the ceremony is handled in the manner and wishes of the departed. The solemnity is felt by all who attend as it serves as a funeral service for the departed. It includes a military committal service, the interment of the cremains, a rifle salute, TAPS, a flag presentation for the family and the unveiling of his name in the Shrine Room.

 

These traditions of the ceremony were established by the USS Arizona Reunion Association. The US Navy decided that the rate or rank was to be recorded on the interment marker as to the one they held on 7 December 1941.There was one exception, Ensign Joseph Langdell, was off the ship at the time of the attack as he was assigned to the Fleet Camera Party on Ford Island. Special consideration was made for Langdell to be interred. A new policy was then set that now allows any crew member assigned to the Arizona on December 7, 1941 to be interred on the ship. So on December 7, 2015, Joseph Langdell was interred and recorded as an Ensign.

 

Beginning with Jim Taylor, a retired Navy Chief who worked in Public Affairs for Navy Region Hawaii, the duties of the interment coordinator were determined by the Navy and managed from 1982-1994. In 1994, the Navy extended an invitation to the National Park Service to partner in hosting the Interment Ceremony.

 

On September 10, 2019, Fire Control Chief Lauren Bruner, one of the 4 living survivors of the USS Arizona passed away at 98 years old. Being the last living survivor who intended to be interred within the ship, the coordinating committee knew that this ceremony needed to be special. Arrangements began with the family for the ceremony to be held on the 78th anniversary of the attack.

 

When the day came, the mood was somber. Lauren was loved by all who knew him. His infectious smile, his cunning wit affected us all, but there was an undying feeling of calm. On that day, active duty US Army divers from the 7th Engineer Dive Detachment wearing original WWII dive suits and vintage Mark 5 helmets took Lauren to his final rest.

 

As the sun was setting over the waters of Pearl Harbor, the Interment procession of Lauren’s caretakers, Sheila & Max Callison, and brother Chester Danforth, made its way to the dock that rests alongside the USS Arizona Memorial. Once there, Lauren’s family and friends touched the urn for the last time. The divers cradled the urn and elevated it above the water so that all could see. Slowly, they descended and moved toward the well of barbette of gun turret number 4.

 

That day Lauren Bruner not only joined his shipmates who had perished aboard the Arizona, but he also became the 44th member of that special band of brothers that chose to return to the ship that had been so much a part of their lives.

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acific Historic Parks is a 501(c)(3) Non-profit Organization, Tax ID 99-0194501