Oldest Pearl Harbor Survivors

11 Oldest Pearl Harbor Survivors (Updated 2021)

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December 7, 1941 is a date that everyone in America has committed to memory. This day, which marks the attack on Pearl Harbor, has come to be known as the “Day of Infamy” (derived from President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s speech the day after the attack). That fateful day led the United States to officially enter World War II, which had already been going on since September 1, 1939. Along with the rest of the Allied Powers, America was able to bring the War to an end on September 2, 1945.

After the dust had settled in Pearl Harbor, the total number of people killed in the attack was 2,403 – 2,008 navy personnel, 109 marines, 218 army, and 68 civilians. A majority of those killed came from the USS Arizona (1,177 crew members). Despite the devastation, many people did manage to survive the attack and went on to live long lives. A handful of people on this list are currently still alive (at the time of this writing) and may even go on to live for a few more years.

To help remember those who were lost at Pearl Harbor, the survivors formed a group called the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association. Surviving members often make appearances at Pearl Harbor memorial events, speak about their experiences, and even write memoirs about what happened.

As of April 2021, the information on this list is as accurate as possible and will be updated as needed.

11. Donald Stratton (July 14, 1922 – Present)

Oldest Age Reached: 97 years, 7 months, 1 day on February 15, 2020
Place of Birth: Inavale, Nebraska
Military Branch and Rank:  U.S. Navy Seaman First Class
Served Aboard:  USS Arizona

photo source:  DVIDS via U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Hilda Perez

Donald Stratton was the youngest member of the surviving group of USS Arizona crew members before he passed away at the age of 97 in early 2020. Stratton was only 19 on December 7, 1941. According to Stratton’s personal account, that fateful day started out normal but as soon as the attacks started, Stratton ran for his battle station. After fighting for awhile and helping as many people as he could, Stratton a few others were forced to flee as the Arizona burned up.

Stratton, along with still-living survivor Lauren Bruner and four other men, were saved when a sailor named Joe George threw them a line from USS Vestal. Due to severe burns and injuries, Stratton was medically discharged in September 1942. In 2017, Stratton and Bruner finally succeeded in convincing the Navy to posthumously award Joe George with a Bronze Star Medal for saving their lives.

Did You Know?

Although Donald Stratton was severely injured after the USS Arizona went down, he worked hard to regain his strength and convinced the draft board to allow him to re-enlist in the Navy. Stratton fought to the end of World War II and participated in the Battle of Okinawa.


10. John Anderson (August 26, 1917 – November 14, 2015)

Oldest Age Reached: 98 in 2015
Place of Birth: Verona, North Dakota – grew up in Dilworth, Minnesota
Military Branch and Rank:  U.S. Navy Boatswain’s Mate Second Class
Served Aboard:  USS Arizona

John Andersonphoto source:  Wikimedia Commons via U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Laurie Dexter

John Anderson was one of a handful of USS Arizona survivors until he passed away at 98 years old in late 2015. While all of the Pearl Harbor attack survivors have harrowing stories, Anderson’s is one of the saddest as he wasn’t the only member of the Anderson family there that day. John’s twin brother, Delbert “Jake” Anderson, was also serving aboard the USS Arizona and unfortunately, he did not survive.

After a bomb hit Anderson’s turret before he could make it to his post, the explosion killed several crew members, including his brother. At the time, Anderson did not know that Jake did not survive and he ended up taking a small boat back to the wreckage to look for his brother. Anderson’s shipmate Chester Rose joined him and they picked up survivors, but tragedy struck again and Anderson was the only survivor when the small boat was hit.

Did You Know?

A year after John Anderson’s death, his ashes were interred in the remnants of his old turret at the USS Arizona Memorial, to be spiritually reunited with his twin brother, whose body was never recovered.


9. James Bilotta (January 5, 1920 – September 9, 2018)

Oldest Age Reached: 98 in 2018
Place of Birth: Somerville, Massachusetts
Military Branch and Rank:  U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant
Served Aboard:  N/A

James Bilottaphoto source:  Pearl Harbor Visitors Bureau

James Bilotta died at the age of 98 and is one of the few ex-Marines on this list. Bilotta joined the Marines when he was just 19 years old and two years later was eating his breakfast when the first bombs dropped on Pearl Harbor.

After surviving the attack, Bilotta stayed in the military until he was honorably discharged in 1945 at the end of World War II. Bilotta returned to Massachusetts and met his wife not long after. The couple eventually settled in Derry in 1985 and raised a family together. Near the end of his life, Bilotta said, “One thing I must say is that I have had a very good life and I don’t believe I would change any of it. I married a wonderful woman and I have wonderful children. What other man can be that blessed?”

Did You Know?

Before his death, James Bilotta was the oldest citizen of Derry, New Hampshire and had received Derry’s Boston Post Cane, which is given to the oldest resident of many New England towns.


8. Lonnie Cook (November 19, 1920 – Present)

Oldest Age Reached: 98 in 2018 – will be turning 99 later in the year
Place of Birth: Morris, Oklahoma
Military Branch and Rank:  U.S. Navy Seaman First Class
Served Aboard:  USS Arizona

Lonnie Cookphoto source:  DVIDS via U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Hilda Perez

Lonnie Cook was one of the few living Pearl Harbor survivors before he passed away at the end of July 2019. Cook had been facing increased health challenges and he started a GoFundM to help with his continued care. Due to his declining health, Cook no longer attended Pearl Harbor related events and the last time he visited the Pearl Harbor Memorial in Hawaii was on the 70th anniversary of the attack.

Cook had just taken a shower on the USS Arizona and made plans to explore Honolulu just a few moments before the first wave of attacks at Pearl Harbor. Initially, Cook and his fellow crew members thought nothing of the rumbling as they were below deck, but chief turret captain informed them that the Japanese were bombing the fleet. Cook rescued as many people as he could as the Arizona sank and immediately volunteered the next day to go back to sea.

Did You Know?

Lonnie Cook had never received the 12 battle stars he earned from his time in the Pacific, but he was finally presented with them in 2018.


7. Lauren Bruner (November 4, 1920 – Present)

Oldest Age Reached: 98 in 2018 – will be turning 99 later in the year
Place of Birth: Shelton, Washington
Military Branch and Rank:  U.S. Navy Fire Controlman Third Class
Served Aboard:  USS Arizona

Lauren Brunerphoto source:  DVIDS via U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Hilda Perez

Lauren Bruner was one of the oldest and last living survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack before his death in the Fall of 2019, just a few months shy of his 99th birthday. Prior to his death, Bruner and a team of researchers were working tirelessly to assemble a complete database of the USS Arizona’s crew members. Bruner and the team were compiling biographies, personal stories, and portraits and hope that one day visitors to Pearl Harbor will be able to access this information.

Bruner was only 21 years old when the attack took place and he was known for being the next-to-last man to leave the Arizona. In late 2017, Bruner released his memoir titled Second to the Last to Leave USS Arizona, which is one of the most detailed personal accounts of the events that took place on December 7, 1941. Bruner was living in Hawaii and often gave guided tours of the Arizona Memorial through Voices of Pearl Harbor. 

Did You Know?

As part of Lauren Bruner’s final wishes, he was interred on the USS Arizona and according to a Pearl Harbor National Memorial spokesperson, Bruner will most likely be the last USS Arizona survivor to rest on the ship as the remaining survivors have made other arrangements.


6. Howard Kenton Potts (1921 – Present)

Oldest Age Reached: 97 in 2018
Place of Birth: Illinois
Military Branch and Rank:  U.S. Navy Coxswain
Served Aboard:  USS Arizona

photo source:  DVIDS via U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Hilda Perez

Howard Kenton Potts, who prefers to go by Ken, is one of two living survivors who served aboard the USS Arizona. Unlike some of the other survivors, Potts is more reluctant to talk about what happened on December 7, 1941. Potts has told his story numerous times, but often won’t go into too much detail. He also rarely participates in Pearl Harbor memorial events, but did show up for the 75th anniversary because the family of another (former) survivor, Don Stratton, had worked so hard to organize the event.

At the time of the attack, Potts was a coxswain and was transporting goods onto the Arizona when chaos broke out. Potts was later assigned to the diving crew that was tasked with retrieving bodies from the sunken part of the ship. For the remainder of World War II, Potts worked in the port director’s office, delivering classified mail and documents to the captains of Navy ships. Potts currently resides in California and says that he is still in excellent health and that two members of his family lived to 100.

Did You Know?

After World War II, Ken Potts remained in the Navy as an intelligence officer and created the Navy’s first survival evasion resistance and escape program.


5. Louis Conter (September 13, 1921 – Present)

Oldest Age Reached: 97 in 2018
Place of Birth: Ojibwa, Wisconsin
Military Branch and Rank:  U.S. Navy Quartermaster Third Class
Served Aboard:  USS Arizona

Louis Conterphoto source:  DVIDS via U.S. Marine Corps Hilda Perez


Louis Conter is one of two remaining USS Arizona survivors. Conter joined the Navy just a few months after high school and was only 20 years old on December 7, 1941. According to an interview from 2016, Conter went to the Arizona right after boot camp.

Conter was on duty when the first Japanese planes came in and he saw the initial attack unfold before his eyes. After fighting for about 35 minutes, Conter and the crew members still standing saved as many injured men as possible and took them to the hospital when the bombings subsided. Before the attack, Conter had received permission to attend flight school, but his orders were lost during the attack. However, Conter was sent to flight school the following January and went on to serve went on to serve with Navy squadron VP-11.

Did You Know?

In early 2021, Lou Conter released a book titled The Lou Conter Story, which chronicles Conter’s military career, survival tips, and anecdotes of interactions with celebrities like Shirley Temple and Bob Hope.


4. Joe Langdell (October 12, 1914 – February 4, 2015)

Oldest Age Reached: 100 in 2015
Place of Birth: Wilton, New Hampshire
Military Branch and Rank:  U.S. Navy Ensign – retired as a Lieutenant Commander
Served Aboard:  USS Arizona

Joe Langdellphoto source:  Wikimedia Commons via U.S. Navy

Joe Langdell was one of the oldest surviving member of the USS Arizona before he died in early 2015 at the age of 100. Langdell was not on the Arizona when the attack on Pearl Harbor started, but was asleep in an officers’ barracks because of his temporary shore duty. As soon as Langdell and the other soldiers in the barracks realized what happened, they rushed to shore and Langdell hopelessly watched as the entire USS Arizona was set ablaze.

Langdell continued his naval service until the end of World War II and retired as a lieutenant commander. About fifty years after the attack, Langdell took part in a reconciliation ceremony. Langdell and former dive bomber pilot Zenji Abe, who took part in the Japanese raid, visited the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor and placed a wreath at the wall that listed the names of the Arizona’s fallen crew members. The moment was captured in the documentary film, USS Arizona: The Life & Death Of A Lady.

Did You Know?

Joe Langdell was the last surviving officer of the USS Arizona.


3. Mickey Ganitch (November 18, 1919 – Present)

Oldest Age Reached: 101 years, 4 months, 25 days as of April 12, 2021
Place of Birth: Mogadore, Ohio
Military Branch and Rank:  U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer – retired as Senior Chief Petty Officer
Served Aboard:  USS Pennsylvania

Mickey Ganitchphoto source: Tampa Bay Times

Mickey Ganitch is currently the oldest living Pearl Harbor survivor at 101 years of age. Ganitch was aboard the USS Pennsylvania, which was dry docked on the morning of December 7, 1941. Because it wasn’t being directly attacked, the USS Pennsylvania was one of the first ships to return fire on the attacking planes. Although Ganitch survived the attack relatively unscathed, he said that a 500-pound bomb missed him by about 45 feet.

After World War II, Ganitch stayed in the Navy for over 23 years and retired as a Senior Chief Petty Officer in 1963. Ganitch currently lives in California and is still in good health and has a sharp mind. Since the mid-2000s, Ganitch has attended annual Pearl Harbor remembrance ceremonies, but it was not held in 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Ganitch and other Pearl Harbor survivors hope that it will be safe to gather in Hawaii, later this year for Pearl Harbor’s 80th anniversary.

Did You Know?

Mickey Ganitch was dressed in his football padding and team t-shirt on the day Pearl Harbor was attacked because a football match between the USS Pennsylvania and USS Arizona was scheduled for that day.


2. Jim Downing (August 22, 1913 – February 13, 2018)

Oldest Age Reached: 104 in early 2018
Place of Birth: Oak Grove, Missouri
Military Branch and Rank:  U.S. Navy Gunner’s Mate 1st Class – retired as a Lieutenant
Served Aboard:  USS West Virginia

Jim Downingphoto source:  U.S. Department of Defense via Lisa Ferdinando

Before his death in early 2018, Jim Downing was known for being the second oldest survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Of all the survivors on this list, Downing made the most of the attention he received for being one of the longest-lived Pearl Harbor survivors. Downing wrote a memoir in 2016, titled The Other Side of Infamy: My Journey through Pearl Harbor and the World of War.

On the morning of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Downing was ashore at home with his wife. Following his initial shock, Downing bravely made his way down to his ship, the USS West Viriginia. As he was putting out fires on the West Virginia, Downing tried to identify every body he passed and after the attack he wrote to as many families of his fallen comrades as he could. Downing continued to serve in the Navy until 1956.

Did You Know?

Jim Downing wrote his memoir when he was 102 years old and was recognized by Guinness World Records as the oldest author ever (when Downing was alive he was the oldest living author in the world).


1. Ray Chavez (March 1912 – Present)

Oldest Age Reached: 106 in 2018
Place of Birth: San Bernadino, California
Military Branch and Rank:  U.S. Navy Quartermaster
Served Aboard:  USS Condor

Ray Chavezphoto source:  U.S. Department of Defense via U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle


At 106 years old, Ray Chavez is the oldest Pearl Harbor survivor. Chavez is still going strong and continues to make public appearances at major events, such as a Memorial Day service earlier in the year in Washington, D.C.

In 1941, Chavez was serving in the U.S. Navy as a Quartermaster aboard the USS Condor. The Condor had detected the Japanese sub the morning of the attack before returning to the harbor. Chavez received a frantic phone call from his wife, who was witnessing the attack back at Pearl Harbor while trying to rouse Chavez from his sleep. As the Condor pulled into the harbor, Chavez recalls seeing all the ships in the harbor on fire. Following the attack, Chavez served on a transport ship that brought soldiers to the Pacific. Chavez left the Navy after World War II ended.


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There are 2 comments

  1. Lori Gutenberg |

    My Dad, Phil Tveten, DOB 10/20/1920 was on the USS West Virginia (right next to USS Arizona). His ship was sunk and more than 100 died. He is alive and well in Tucson, AZ

    Reply
  2. Joseph C Braxton |

    J>L> Wilson, Torpedoman’s Mate 3rd class was aboard USS Dale DD 353, which was moored in Pearl Harbor the morning of Dec 7th 1941. Sept. 11, 1919- present 99 years old La Grange, N.C.

    Reply

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