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USS Arizona survivor Lou Conter remarks on 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbor attack

<i>KITV</i><br/>Lou Conter is one of the last two survivors of the USS Arizona.
Lou Conter is one of the last two survivors of the USS Arizona.

By Rick Quan

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    HONOLULU (KITV) — Dozens of veterans have gathered in Honolulu to mark the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. But among the notable who won’t be able to attend the Dec. 7 ceremony is Lou Conter — one of the last two survivors of the USS Arizona.

Last Friday, Conter had a hernia operation and was not able to make the trip. KITV4’s Rick Quan recently had a chance to catch up with him.

Conter now lives quietly in Grass Valley, Calif., about an hour north of Sacramento. What happened on December 7, 1941 is never far from his mind. His home is filled with memorabilia from the USS Arizona, including a piece of the wreckage.

“Each morning I wake up, pay homage to the 2,403 military men killed that day, including the 1,177 of my shipmates on the Arizona and go from there,” Conter said.

Lou Conter was just 22 years old when the attack came, but the memories remain vivid. He was towards the back of the shop when it was destroyed by an armor piercing bomb.

“It was just a lucky hit, the 1,600-pound armor-piercing bomb went through five decks in the starboard side near the number two turret, got the lower engine room and blew up a million pounds of powder. The bow went about 30 feet out of the water and settled straight down and that’s where she still is,” Conter said.

“We were just doing what we were told. People were coming out of there, we laid down about 15 men coming out of the fire, their skin would come off their hands when you would grab them. We didn’t have time to be scared. We just automatically did what we’re supposed to do and had to do and trained to do,” he continued. “I was extremely lucky. I had an older sister who was a nun and she was praying for me.”

After the war, Conter became an intelligence officer, flew combat in Korea and created the Navy’s first survival, evasion, resistance and escape program. But he’ll always be best known for surviving that Sunday morning aboard the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor — a day that would change the world forever.

“And I walk on board and walk into the backroom and see those 1,177 names there and the other 45 names down below that have been buried there since, and it just does something to your body. That says I’m supposed to be on that board up there, but I’m not. So something God has given me some life to take care of people or do something afterwards. I’m not a hero, I was just doing my job,” Conter said.

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