HAWAII (ABC) – One of three remaining USS Arizona crew members who survived the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor has died.
The National Park Service confirmed on Sunday the death of 97-year-old Donald Stratton, while announcing in a Facebook post that the flag over the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii would be flown at half-staff “in honor of his life and service.”
Stratton grew up in Nebraska and joined the U.S. Navy in 1940. The USS Arizona was his first ship, the National Park Service said.
The battleship was hit by Japanese torpedo bombers during the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, followed by the United States’ entry into World War II the next day. A total of 2,390 American service members and civilians were killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor, including 1,177 crew members on board the USS Arizona, according to the National Park Service’s website.
Stratton was among the 334 crew members who survived the battleship sinking. He was with five other crew members in the ship’s burning forward mast and was saved when a sailor from the USS Vestal threw them a line, according to the National Park Service.
“He crawled hand over hand, high above the water to safety, being burned over 70% of his body,” the National Park Service wrote in its Facebook post.
Despite his injuries, Stratton re-enlisted and served out the war until he was discharged in December 1946 at the rank of Gunners Mate Second Class, the National Park Service said.
In 2016, Stratton published a memoir called “All the Gallant Men: An American Sailor’s Firsthand Account of Pearl Harbor.” The book, an eyewitness account of the Pearl Harbor attack, became a New York Times bestseller.
The veteran‘s death makes Lou Conter and Ken Potts the last living members of the USS Arizona crew.
Stratton’s son told The Associated Press that he died in his sleep at his home in Colorado Springs on Saturday, surrounded by family.
“He was a very humble, very quiet hero,” Randy Stratton said. “He didn’t want or seek the attention he received.”