Sky Salute Honors Last Survivors of U.S.S. Arizona, Pearl Harbor 75th Commemoration
Today marks the 75th anniversary commemoration of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack at Pearl Harbor that launched the United States into World War II.
The last survivors of the U.S.S. Arizona returned for a final salute with an aerial tour conducted by Blue Hawaiian Helicopters above the Arizona on Monday and a tribute to the 1,777 shipmates they lost.
The five survivors are all in their 90s and include: fire controlman third class Lauren Bruner, 96; seaman first class Lonnie Cook, 96; quartermaster third class Lou Conter, 95; coxswain Howard Kenton Potts, 95; and seaman first class Donald Stratton, 94.
The flights over the U.S.S. Utah and U.S.S. Missouri concluded at the U.S.S. Arizona. Blue Hawaiian Helicopters received special permission to hover within 300-feet above the U.S.S. Arizona, allowing the survivors a more intimate look at the ship they once called home and to honor their fallen comrades.
The survivors also flew over the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center to receive a salute from the U.S. Pacific Fleet Band. Names, ranks and information about the survivors were announced as each of the three helicopters passed.
The return of the survivors and their families to Pearl Harbor was made possible through the U.S.S. Arizona Final Salute campaign that raised more than $100,000 through donations. In addition to bringing the survivors and families back, the funds are being used to create “The Final Salute” documentary project aimed at preserving the historic moments surrounding the 75th Anniversary of the attack.
The campaign is a joint effort between eight families of Arizona survivors, three passing away in the last two years. The three sailors were also honored in the sky salute and interred with their shipmates in the Arizona. They are: coxswain Raymond Haerry who passed away in September at the age of 95; seaman first class Clarendon Hetrick who passed away in April at the age of 92; and boatswain’s mate second class John Anderson who passed away in 2015 at the age of 98. Anderson will rejoin his twin brother who perished during the attack.
“These brave men have given so much for our country and freedoms enjoyed by Americans today,” said Nicole Stratton, granddaughter of Stratton. “The outpouring of support to honor these survivors in a manner befitting the National Heroes they are is overwhelming and appreciated.”
“These men epitomize the strength, resilience, courage and loyalty that make our country great,” said Gregg Lundberg, president and chief executive officer of Blue Hawaiian Helicopters. “Flying them over Pearl Harbor and the eternal memoir of their ship is an honor that humbles our entire team. They are heroes.”
Blue Hawaiian Helicopters is the benefactor of the sky salute donating the three helicopters and resources that flew the survivors and their families. The three participating Blue Hawaiian Helicopters pilots are U.S. Veterans Gardner Brown, Kristi Hicky and Loren Sampson.