Notable Deaths ›

Lauren Bruner (1920–2019), one of the last survivors of Pearl Harbor’s USS Arizona

AP Photo / Rick Scuteri

He retold the story of his harrowing escape from the sinking ship in his book, "Second to Last to Leave the USS Arizona"

Lauren Bruner was a U.S. Navy veteran who was aboard the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor when it was attacked on December 7, 1941. Having joined the Navy in 1938, Bruner was serving as a fire controlman on the ship when Japanese aircraft flew so close to the Arizona’s deck as they dropped their bombs that Bruner recalled seeing one pilot’s face so clearly that he could see his grin. Bruner was shot during the attack, and, trapped on a control tower, he nearly missed his chance to escape. He was one of the last few crewmen who escaped before the Arizona sank. With his death, only three crewmembers who were on the Arizona that day still remain. Bruner wrote a book about his experiences, “Second to Last to Leave the USS Arizona.”

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Died: September 10, 2019 (Who else died on September 10?)

Details of death: Died in California at the age of 98.

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A hero’s burial: Bruner requested in 2014 to be cremated after his death, with the urn holding his ashes to be interred in the Arizona’s sunken hull at the site of the USS Arizona Memorial. It’s an honor that’s been offered to any service member who was aboard the Arizona when it was attacked. Bruner offered his reasoning for the choice at a 2014 news conference: “All my family and friends have been buried in various places, cemeteries. But it seems like after a while, nobody pays attention to them anymore after about five years. I hope that a lot of people will still be coming to the Arizona. I would be glad to see them.”

Notable quote: “I do not want to further discuss or answer any questions concerning the actual attack. 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.” —From the preface of “Second to Last to Leave the USS Arizona”

What people said about him: “Lauren was always quick with a laugh and had a smile that would brighten an entire room. We are beyond heartbroken.” —Fellow USS Arizona survivor Don Stratton

“One of the most harrowing tales from our interviews with USS Arizona survivors in 2014 was Lauren Bruner’s escape from the ship in its final moments. Lauren has died at 98, but his story lives on.” —Journalist Shaun McKinnon

Full obituary: Arizona Republic

Related lives:

  • Dick Churchill (2019), last surviving WWII “Great Escape” team member
  • Joseph Iscovitz (2019), one of the oldest Pearl Harbor survivors
  • Richard Cole (1915–2019), last surviving member of WWII’s Doolittle Raiders