Lauren Bruner, USS Arizona Survivor, Dies
Lauren Bruner was the second to the last man to leave the USS Arizona as the ship began to sink into its fiery death beneath the waters of Pearl Harbor. Only 335 crew members survived out of 1,512… and there are only 3 left now that Lauren Bruner has passed. He died on Tuesday he was 98.
Twenty-one year old Lauren Bruner was serving as a fire controlman third class when the Japanese attacked the USS Arizona. He escaped the burning ship with burns over 73% of his body. His escape is immortalized in the book “Second to the Last to Leave USS Arizona.” ($34.95 + $8 shipping at ussaz.org). As he and his companion crewmate approached the US hospital ship Solace, an enemy plane once again strafed the water. Fortunately, the hospital ship survived to gather more of the wounded. Bruner survived as well.
“Other launches ferried more wounded Sailors and
Marines toward Solace. Each competed to get in line for the starboard gangway—first-come, first-served.
All medical personnel were engaged in triage on deck.
There would be only one at water level to help victims come aboard or to climb the steps of the gangway once they arrived.
‘So many dying,’ Lauren said. ‘Most picked up,
straight outta’ the water.'” Second to the Last Prologue
After 7 months in a Naval hospital, he was asked to return to duty aboard the USS Coghlan. Originally they were keeping him for 8 months, but duty called. So with a pharmacist aboard to take care of his medical needs, he sailed again with the US Navy, this time in the middle of the war.
Here is that conversation:
Lauren Bruner was part of what we now call the “Greatest Generation.” He told the young sailor that he’d only met maybe two service members that he didn’t like. How different than today’s generations. He was willing to go back into the fight in spite of his injuries – burns do not heal quickly and are exceedingly painful. But he never blinked. He served in 8 major operations in the Aleutian Islands and 7 in the South Pacific. He retired from the Navy in 1947.
He received a Purple Heart for those injuries, and a few years after he received it, an Admiral placed one of his Admiral stars in the middle of his Purple Heart. It was precious to Lauren Bruner.
As his generation leaves us, we are deeply saddened to see them go.
Featured photo: combination via Pearl Harbor National Memorial