SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — Bay Area resident, 95-year-old Lou Conter, is a living reminder of one of the darkest days in U.S. history.
Conter survived the attack on Pearl Harbor nearly 75 years ago and he’s heading back to mark the anniversary.
He was a quartermaster on the USS Arizona battleship when the bombs hit.
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“They call us the heroes, but we’re not the heroes. The heroes are the ones that gave everything, their lives that day, and they’re still there. And we…came home, got married, had children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren. So, we’re just lucky,” Conter said.
1,177 men died that morning on the Arizona and of the 335 survivors, only five are left.
Conter’s memories of that day are still vivid.
He said, “The first bomb started, we knew what was going on immediately.”
“I was the quartermaster 3rd class on the 7th of December on the USS Arizona. We only lasted about nine minutes,” he said.
“We took that bomb down on the starboard side, forward by number two turret. It went through five decks into the lower handling room of the forward magazines and blew up the forward magazines, that’s where you see the blast.”
Conter is one of the five survivors still living.
Conter was given a grand send-off to the 75th anniversary ceremony in Hawaii – but he isn’t traveling alone.
Along with his family, he’s also taking the ashes of another USS Arizona survivor, Clarendon Hetrick, who died earlier this year at the age of 92.
“Five of us left. Three of us will be buried on the ship with our ashes,” he said.
And that, he said, will be his tribute to the men he considers heroes.