Second to the Last to Leave: The Story of the USS Arizona’s Greatest Escape

On the fateful morning of 7 December 1941, battleship USS Arizona, carrying her crew of 1,512 men, was attacked and bombed by the Imperial Japanese Armed Forces. As the battleship sunk to her fiery death, only 335 of her crew made it out alive, and today, only five survivors remain.

 

Lauren Bruner is a ninety-six year old survivor of USS Arizona and one of only five living crew members today.

Aerial view of the USS Arizona on the East River of New York City, 1918. Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

Bruner’s experience had been locked away in the depths of his memory. He had been unwilling to share the pain of these events with anyone until he met Ed McGrath, a fellow survivor. They dedicated themselves to writing the most detailed first-hand historical novel/memoir of the attack on Pearl Harbor ever to be written.

It was a chance meeting, five years ago, when McGrath sought to find a living survivor from USS Arizona, as he began to do research on a documentary he was planning to produce. McGrath called Bruner on the phone who extended the invitation, “Come on over.”

This year’s Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day marks the the eighth time the two have visited Pearl Harbor together and the visit coincides with the release of their book, “Second to the Last to Leave USS Arizona,” co-written by novelist Craig Thompson.

The title is taken from the fact that Lauren Bruner was the second to the last to leave USS Arizona in what military historians consider to be the USS Arizona’s greatest escape.

USS Arizona, at height of fire, following Japanese aerial attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

Bruner recalls heading for the hospital ship USS Solace within an hour after escaping USS Arizona, which had been bombed and was sinking. He and his fellow crew member, Alvin Dvorak were the most severely burned of their battle station crew of six, with Bruner being burned over 73% of his body and Dvorak more that 80%. These injuries were sustained when the ship blew up and became a fiery inferno.

Lauren Bruner was also wounded by machine gun fire from an enemy aircraft on his run to his battle station, which was located high in the ships main mast. Dvorak and Bruner were the last two to leave Arizona making their escape, hand-over-hand, over a ship line eighty feet above the burning waters of Pearl Harbor to a repair ship USS Vestal, which was tied up alongside the Arizona.

Bruner and McGrath have gone even further in their commitment to preserve the history of that fateful day by establishing a non-profit foundation dedicated to honoring the crew of USS Arizona for future generations.

A special and limited edition of “Second to the Last of Leave” has been published by Bruner’s foundation with all sales during the month of December going to the organization. All donations to purchase Bruner’s book are tax-deductible and each copy through December will be personally autographed by Lauren Bruner.

“Second to the Last to Leave USS Arizona” is Lauren Bruner’s first historical novel, and is the most detailed account of the attack on Pearl Harbor you will ever read.To learn more about Lauren’s story and order the book visit, USSAZ.org.