Pearl Harbor Remembered: Brave Survivors Return 75 Years Later

Family History
15 December 2016
by Randal A. Burd Jr.

Even after 75 years, December 7, 1941, the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor, remains a date that lives in infamy.

Gunner’s Mate Third Class Donald Stratton survived the attack. He and another 3 of the last 5 survivors from the U.S.S. Arizona returned to Pearl Harbor for the 75th anniversary ceremonies on December 7, 2016.

To honor these men and 8 other brave Pearl Harbor veterans, Ancestry researched their family and military histories.

Here are some of the remarkable stories of the Pearl Harbor survivors who returned for the 75th anniversary. Each one is as incredible and inspiring as the next.

Lauren Bruner

Lauren Bruner is 96 years old, but his experiences on December 7, 1941, still keep him awake at night. After suffering severe burns, he narrowly avoided having his hands amputated.

And after spending no less than seven months recovering from his injuries, Bruner returned to service. He was awarded a Purple Heart.

Lauren Bruner (photo via

Courage, it seems, runs in the family. His 3rd great-grandfather Hendrick Roseboom was a Revolutionary War soldier who served with General George Washington. He also reenlisted, multiple times in fact.

Louis Conter

Louis Conter is 95, but he still vividly remembers escaping from his sinking ship. Conter went on to become a Lieutenant Commander and created training camps across the United States where crewmen learned skills like evading capture and how to survive and escape a prison camp.

Louis Conter
Louis Conter (photo via

He also shares the distinction with his ancestor, Thomas Bliss, of having fought in the first battle of a major military conflict in American history.

Thomas Bliss served as a corporal in Captain Paul Langdon’s company, which marched on April 20, 1775, in response to The Lexington Alarm, which was the first battle of the Revolutionary War.

Lonnie Cook

Lonnie Cook, 96, not only survived the attack on the U.S.S. Arizona but went on to fight in numerous battles, including the Battle of Midway, which military historian John Keegan deemed “the most stunning and decisive blow in the history of naval warfare.” He was awarded 7 medals.

Lonnie Cook
Lonnie Cook, photo via

His ancestor, James Cobb Sr., was appointed a captain of the militia by the governor in Virginia during the Revolutionary War. Another ancestor, Daniel McMurphy, emigrated from Ireland and earned his citizenship through his Revolutionary War service in a Georgia militia unit. McMurphy went on to hold multiple public offices, including state senator.

Donald Stratton

Donald Stratton, 94, also suffered severe burns aboard the U.S.S. Arizona. His burns required skin-grafting surgery and led to a Medical Honorable Discharge after 199 days of military service.

Donald Stratton (photo via

Donald’s great-grandfather, Daniel Griffin Grice, served in the Illinois Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War. Daniel had his thumb amputated in 1862 but nevertheless reenlisted, only to be shot through the foot during an engagement at Fort Blakely on April 9, 1865.

Raymond Chavez

Raymond Chavez was not on board the U.S.S. Arizona, but he joined fellow Pearl Harbor survivors for the 75th anniversary event. At almost 104-years-old, Chavez has earned the distinction of being the oldest surviving veteran of the Pearl Harbor attack.

Raymond Chavez
Raymond Chavez (photo via

Chavez was stationed at the helm of the U.S.S. Condor, a re-purposed fishing boat, sweeping the channel for mines in the early morning hours of December 7, 1941. Near the entrance to the harbor, a midget submarine attempted to sneak by but was spotted through the periscope by the Condor’s crew.

Almost immediately, the destroyer U.S.S. Ward responded and sank the enemy sub, scoring the first strike for the U.S. in World War II. His connection to his ancestors came via an AncestryDNA test, which showed an ethnicity estimate of 75% Native American.

Who’s Your War Hero?

These five and the other brave men aboard the U.S.S. Arizona and the other ships attacked in Pearl Harbor will stand out as military heroes on the family trees of their descendants. And their personal stories also highlight that many a family tree has a war hero or two.

Who are the war heroes you’ll discover in your family story? Explore over 113 million WWII records on fold3 by Ancestry.