According to an official statement of the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, the 97-year-old Donald Stratton, one of the last survivors of the USS Arizona, has died on February 15.
Stratton joined the Navy in 1940 after being raised in Nebraska. A statement from the National Memorial reported that the USS Arizona was the first ship he joined in.
He was a Seaman First Class when he became one of the 334 crew members to survive the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Nearly 2,500 Americans died as a result of the Pearl Harbor attack that prompted America’s entry into World War II.
A post on Stratton’s Facebook page stated:
“One of Donald’s final wishes was that people remember Pearl Harbor and the men aboard the USS Arizona. Share their story and never forget those who gave all for our great country.”
According to the statement, during the attack on Pearl Harbor, Stratton was with five other sailors in the burning forward mast when he was saved by a sailor from the USS Vestal who threw the group a line.
Because of the attack, Stratton suffered burns to over 70% of his body while trying to escape and received a medical discharge in September 1942.
In the name of his service to his beloved country, Stratton reenlisted in 1944, served out the war and was discharged, once again, in December of 1946 at the rank of Gunners Mate Second Class.
In 2016, he published a memoir entitled “All the Gallant Men: An American Sailor’s Firsthand Account of Pearl Harbor.” The book, who became a New York Times bestseller, is a unique eyewitness account of the Pearl Harbor attack.
The official statement said the flag over the USS Arizona Memorial will be flown at half staff in honor of his life and service for his country.
Stratton’s son, Randy Stratton, told The Associated Press that the hero died in his sleep at his home in Colorado Springs on Saturday, surrounded by family.
Stratton’s son remarked in the statement:
“He was a very humble, very quiet hero,”
“He didn’t want or seek the attention he received.”