On Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese aircraft attacked Pearl Harbor in Oahu. The USS Arizona exploded and sank to the bottom of the harbor, bringing the ship’s 1,177 crewmen with it.
On Feb. 4, 2015, Joe Langdell, the oldest remaining survivor of the attack on the USS Arizona, passed away in a skilled nursing center in Yuba City, CA. He was 100 years old.
According to website AZ Central, Langdell started his adult life as a Boston accountant before deciding to join the Navy in 1940, with war on the horizon. Because of his college degree, he was placed in an officers’ training program, and his first assignment was the USS Arizona.
During the Pearl Harbor attack, the USS Arizona faced the most intense bombing, and was one of the only ships that couldn’t be salvaged after the attack. Langdell and 334 other crewmen survived. Another 1,177 were entombed in the ship, which now serves as a memorial to all lives lost in the attack.
Langdell was in the officer’s barracks on Ford Island the night of Dec. 6, and was awoken by the sound of the Japanese attack. He brought injured marines and sailors to the hospital on the island during the attack and would later help recover the bodies of some of his shipmates from the USS Arizona.
Much of Langdell’s later life was dedicated to keeping their memory alive. He served as the president and reunion coordinator of the USS Arizona Reunion Association for many years, and returned frequently to Pearl Harbor.
After Langdell’s passing, only eight crewmen from the USS Arizona remain. Four of them, John Anderson, Louis Conter, Lauren Bruner and Donald Stratton were able to attend a reunion on the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack last year.
Underwater divers provided the four men with a live view of the sunken battleship, which is still leaking oil after 73 years at the bottom of the harbor. The survivors then toasted their fellow sailors using a champagne glass salvaged from the USS Arizona.
“The USS Arizona Memorial is such a special place to visit because it serves as a very solemn reminder of our nation’s involvement in WWII,” says Dale Palileo, E-Commerce Manager, E Noa Corporation. “It’s a place people visit to honor our fallen and to remember our past.”
Like 32 other survivors of the attack, Langdell will be interred in the sunken wreckage of the USS Arizona near the No. 4 gun turret.