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Pearl Harbor survivor who was one of the last to leave sinking USS Arizona dies at 98

Lauren Fay Bruner was one of just 330 people who escaped the burning Pennsylvania-class battleship during the attack on Pearl Harbor. After his death, only three remain alive.
UPDATED MAR 31, 2020
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Lauren Fay Bruner, one of the last survivors of the bombing of USS Arizona during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II, has died. He was 98.

The news of his death was confirmed by the Pearl Harbor National Memorial which released a statement on Facebook paying tribute to Bruner's service and bravery.

"We are deeply saddened to share the news that Pearl Harbor Survivor Lauren Bruner has passed away," the statement read. "Lauren was one of the last remaining survivors of the USS Arizona."

"Lauren has come back to Hawaii many times over the years and was well known to many of us here at the visitor center. He will be greatly missed."

On December 7, 1941, Bruner, a sailor, was on the deck of the USS Arizona when he heard the whine of a low-flying aircraft, according to the Voices of Pearl Harbor. In the minutes that followed, the ship was hit by four armor-piercing bombs.

One of those bombs, dubbed 'Lucky Bomb,' penetrated the deck and detonated, engulfing Arizona in a massive fireball and breaking it in two.

Of the 2,403 Americans killed that day, 1,177 were working on the USS Arizona. While most of his fellow crew members died, Bruner managed to escape — he was one of the final two men rescued from the ship —  though not without suffering grievous injuries of his own. 

Bruner had been wounded by machinegun rounds and suffered burns to over 73% of his body. He spent the next seven months recuperating in a Navy hospital. When he was released, he went straight back into action joining the USS Coghlan, where he served the rest of the war and participated in eight major engagements. 

He was transferred to the USS Duluth, CL-87 in Shanghai, China, where he served until his discharge in late 1946 at the rank of Chief Fire Controlman.

Long after retirement, at the age of 94, he established the Lauren F. Bruner USS Arizona Memorial Foundation to help honor the crew of the ship through public education, support the USS Arizona Memorial, and provide assistance to other military families in Hawaii.

He also founded My Dream Gift to America, a charity aimed at completing one of his last dreams, which was "to honor my fellow crew members of the USS Arizona whose spirits now rest as a part of the USS Arizona Memorial".

"His passing is mourned by thousands of Americans and people across the world," said Jay Blount, chief of interpretation and education at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial. "I'll never forget the joy and genuine nature of who he was as a person."

Bruner's death means that, of the 330 people who survived the bombing of the Pennsylvania-class battleship on that fateful day, just three remain living: Don Stratton, Lou Conter, and Ken Potts.  He will be buried with the wreckage of the USS Arizona.