Donald Stratton, one of the last three remaining survivors of the U.S.S. Arizona warship sinking in Pearl Harbor, has died at the age of 97.
Stratton reportedly died peacefully at his home in Colorado Springs, Colorado, accompanied by his wife, Velma, and his son, Randy.
The Navy shared this tweet, thanking Stratton for his service followed by the saying: “Fair winds and following seas — We have the watch!”
According to War History Online, Stratton, who worked one of the five anti-aircraft guns on the warship, suffered third-degree burns when he caught fire after the U.S.S. Arizona was “torpedoed” during the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
A sailor on a nearby ship threw a rope across to the U.S.S. Arizona and Stratton managed to evacuate the battleship by climbing hand-over-hand along 80 feet of rope, with the burns on his hands and arms making it even more difficult.
He was medically discharged after serving in the Navy from 1940 to 1942.
Stratton reportedly returned to his hometown of Red Cloud, Nebraska, but then re-enlisted in the Navy, where he served in New Guinea, Papua and Okinawa.
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Stratton would go on to spend years teaching about the events that transpired at Pearl Harbor to remind people of the great sacrifices made on that day. He published a book titled All the Gallant Men recounting the attack, discussing his injuries and recovery, and documenting his eventual return to combat in World War II.
On Feb. 27, Sen. Cory Gardner announced the Senate had unanimously passed a resolution he introduced honoring Stratton’s life.
Although U.S.S. Arizona survivors are allowed to have their bodies cremated and have their ashes placed in an urn among the wreckage as a way of joining fallen comrades, Stratton had said in the past he didn’t want to be interred this way.
His friend, National Park Service historian Daniel Martinez, told War History Online, that Stratton thought he had been too close to being burned alive to want to be cremated.
The National World War II Museum produced this oral history video of Stratton in 2011:
Of the approximately 1,500 men on the U.S.S. Arizona, the only two remaining survivors are now Lou Conter and Ken Potts.
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