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Final USS Arizona Survivor, Lou Conter, Dies

Monday, April 1, 2024

HONOLULU. Lou Conter, the final survivor of the USS Arizona, the Navy battleship that was sunk during the Pearl Harbor attack, died at the age of 102 at his home this morning in Grass Valley, California. His daughter Louann Daley said he was surrounded by family and passed peacefully.

“This is a heartbreaking loss. Lou Conter epitomized what it meant to be a member of the Greatest Generation, Americans whose collective courage, accomplishments and sacrifices saved our country from tyranny,” said Aileen Utterdyke, president and CEO of Pacific Historic Parks.

“He had an exemplary career in the Navy and was steadfast in imploring the schools, parents and everyday Americans to always remember Pearl Harbor,” Utterdyke said.

Conter was a 20-year-old quartermaster who helped rescue fellow crewman during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor the morning of December 7, 1941.

A total of 1,177 fellow Arizona crewmembers were killed that day, most of them still entombed on the ship with their names etched on the USS Arizona Memorial.

Lou Conter Dec. 7, 2019 on USS Arizona Memoria
Lou Conter Dec. 7, 2019 on USS Arizona Memoria

Conter was among the 335 Arizona crewmembers that survived the attack. And he outlived all of them. The second to the last was Ken Potts, who died last year in Provo, Utah at the age of 102.

Conter’s career included becoming a VP-11 Black Cat pilot surviving two shoot downs in World War II including one off the coast of new Guinea in which the crew was surrounded by sharks.

Following World War II, he became an intelligence officer and flew combat missions in Korea. He is widely revered in the military intelligence community, known for creating the Navy’s first SERE program (survival, evasion, resistance and escape) He was a military adviser to Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.

Conter authored a book late in life with co-authors Annette C. Hull and Warren R. Hull titled “The Lou Conter Story: From USS Arizona Survivor to Unsung American Hero.”

In a forward to the book, one of Conter’s closest friends, Ed Bonner, said the book was long overdue. “In World War II, over sixteen million men and women served in the U.S. Military, each one has a story,” Bonner wrote. “Their service to the country ran between tedium and terror, stateside to the far parts of the globe. Many of those voices are now silent. We continue to lose our World War II veterans at an alarming rate. The Lou Conter is one such story, and it is an exceptional exploration of one man’s journey through life.”

“Our prayers go out to his close-knit family and friends that made up what became known as the ‘Conterage.’ They followed Lou every year he attended December 7 events in Honolulu” Utterdyke said. “They still came when he was unable to travel due to health reasons. And even then, Lou went the extra mile and provided a taped message from his home in California.”

Ed Bonner and members of the Conterage were at Pearl Harbor this past December 7 to represent Lou Conter and his family.

The keynote speaker was a 29-year-old Marine fighter pilot whose great uncle is Lou Conter. When Conter turned 100, he pinned the pilot wings he earned in World War II to Capt. Ray Daniel Hower.

“Capt. Hower delivered a powerful speech,” Utterdyke said. “This passage is particularly poignant.”

“Whenever my Uncle Lou or any other veteran is recognized or thanked for their service they humbly answer, we just did what we had to do” Capt. Hower said. “Fair enough. But the fact that you did it, the sacrifices you made, the courage and heroism you showed, the determination to succeed that you demonstrated. The lives sacrificed by the fallen, the legacy that you all built, remains unmatched in a lesson that keeps on teaching. Let there be no misunderstanding, without you just doing what you had to do and the victory you won for us all, we would not enjoy the freedom, opportunity, and prosperity we have today. On behalf of a grateful national I thank you for the gifts you have given us and the legacy we inherit.”

“May our dearest friend and great American rest in peace and never be forgotten” Utterdyke said.

Funeral arrangements are pending.



Jim McCoy, PHP Director of Communications

Email:  |  Mobile: 808-373-0419

ABOUT: Headquartered in Waipahu, HI, Pacific Historic Parks is the non-profit cooperative association of the National Park Service and has been raising funds and providing support to NPS operations at Pearl Harbor since 1979, when the organization was known as the Arizona Memorial Museum Association. PHP also supports NPS operations at: Kalaupapa National Historical Park on Molokai; the War in the Pacific National Historical Park on Guam, and the American Memorial Park on Saipan. And PHP partners with the state of Hawaii to support the Diamond Head State Monument. PHP’s mission is to Remember, Honor and Understand World War II in the Pacific.

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