Narrated by TBD
A Film by Tim Gray for American Public Television.
On December 7, 2019, USS Arizona crewman Lauren Bruner will be the 44th and FINAL crewmember to have his ashes interred on the famed battleship at Pearl Harbor.
Bruner was the second to last crewman to escape the battleship on December 7, 1941.
Lauren Bruner chronicled his experiences at Pearl Harbor in the book Second to the Last to Leave USS Arizona.
Lauren Bruner was born Nov. 4, 1920, and enlisted in the Navy in 1938. The following year, he was assigned to the USS Arizona as a fire control man in charge of the ship’s .50-caliber guns.
In a 2014 interview with Arizona Public Radio, Bruner recalled that, on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, he raced up from below the ship’s deck when the attack began. There, he saw a Japanese plane fly by so closely that he could see the pilot’s face with “a big old grin on his face, mouth wide open.”
“I could see all those teeth,” he said. “You wanted to reach and bust him one.”
Bruner raced for his battle station, but a Japanese Zero fixed its sights on him, fellow survivor Donald Stratton recalled in his memoir, “All the Gallant Men.”
“A blast from its guns, and bullets bit metal,” Stratton wrote. “One of those shots struck flesh, hitting the back of Lauren’s lower leg. He limped onto the sky platform, a trail of blood following him.”
Arizona was hit with four bombs, one of them crashing through three levels of the ship and into a powder magazine.
“It blew the heck out of everything, just lifted the bow about 30 feet off the water,” Bruner said in the 2014 interview. “It had one hell of a fire.”
Bruner, Stratton and four others were stranded amid the smoke and fire that quickly consumed the Arizona
The men escaped death by grappling hand-over-hand for 70 feet on a rope thrown from the USS Vestal by Vestal sailor Joe George. Bruner had burns on over 70% of his body.
He was taken to the hospital ship USS Solace and transferred to a mainland hospital after the turn of the year.
After he recovered, Bruner was assigned to the USS Coghlan, participating in eight major engagements in the Aleutian Islands and seven operations in the South Pacific.
He retired from the Navy in 1947.
The Dec. 7 attack left Bruner traumatized, and he suffered decades of “nightmares, visions of dead bodies and memories of the stench of burning human flesh,” according to the preface of his book.
He made a last request with its publication: “I do not want to further discuss or answer any questions concerning the actual attack,” Bruner wrote. “As you read these chapters, know they were real and that it was truly Hell on Earth. The horrors of what I witnessed on that morning have kept me from sleep for many years after.
“I chose to face the future and not let my past dictate what might be ahead.”
Article courtesy of Stars & Stripes