‘The Fire Was All Around’: One Of Two Surviving USS Arizona Crewmen Recalls Pearl Harbor

Department of Defense/Cpl. Hilda Becerra

Font Size:

Louis Conter, one of the two remaining USS Arizona (BB 39) survivors described the events of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in an interview, reported Monday.

Conter had served on the Arizona for two years before the attack on December 7, 1941. He told a local reporter he wasn’t surprised, according to

“We knew that something was going to happen long before that; we’d been training for it for a year and a half,” he explained.

The battleship USS Arizona (BB 39) burning during the attack on Pearl Harbor. (National Archives)

Conter was near the back end of the ship when it received the fatal bomb hit. When it happened, he began helping wounded sailors escape.

“The fire was all around the ship where the oil was,” he said.

Conter stayed on board the stricken vessel after the attack, helping to fight the fires and to recover the bodies of shipmates who didn’t escape the battleship.

Adm. Cecil Haney, left, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and Daniel A. Martinez, chief historian at the USS Arizona Memorial, stand in the shrine during a wreath laying ceremony at the USS Arizona Memorial. The shrine bears the names of the men who lost their lives on the USS Arizona. (U.S. Navy photo by: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class David Kolmel)

After the attack, Conter became a pilot, and flew the Consolidated PBY Catalina in the Solomons, helping to rescue over 200 coast watchers and surviving being shot down twice. He retired from the Navy in 1967 as a lieutenant commander, according to (RELATED: President Trump Meets With 106-Year-Old Pearl Harbor Veteran)

“I’m no hero. I don’t believe myself as a hero. I just did my job and did what had to be done to protect America and the American flag,” he said.

Conter was unable to attend commemorative events for the Pearl Harbor attack this year due to the coronavirus, but hopes to attend next year, when he will be 100.