Ken Potts, one of just two people still alive today who made it off the sunken USS Arizona during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, has passed away. He was 102. According to Randy Stratton, whose late father Donald Stratton was a shipmate and friend of Howard Kenton Potts in Arizona, Potts passed away on Friday in the house he shared with his wife of 66 years in Provo, Utah.
On the 15th of April, Stratton called Potts to wish him a happy 102nd birthday. “But he knew that his body was kind of shutting down on him, and he was just hoping that he could get better but turned out not.” Honey Bend, Illinois is where Potts spent his childhood.
In 1939, he signed up to serve in the US Navy. According to a 2021 article by the Utah National Guard, he was working as a crane operator transporting supplies to the Arizona on the day of the Pearl Harbor attack. This was on 7 December 1941. Potts mentioned this in an oral history interview with the American Veterans Center scheduled for 2020.
“When I got back to Pearl Harbor, the whole harbor was afire,” he said. “The oil had leaked out and caught on fire and was burning.” The attack on the Hawaii naval base, which drew the United States into World War II, resulted in the loss of dozens of ships. A number of other sailors were rescued by Potts and his comrades.
The Arizona sank nine minutes after being bombed, with roughly half of the sailors killed in the attack being accounted for by its 1,177 casualties. More than 900 people perished when the battleship sank, and its remains are still there.
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Decades after the fact, Potts recalled that there were still people issuing commands amid the confusion of the attack. “Even after I got out of the navy, out in the open, and heard a siren, I’d shake,” he said.
According to Stratton, the last known Arizona survivor is a 101-year-old man named Lou Conter who currently resides in California. “This is history. It’s going away,” Stratton said. “And once [Conter is] gone, who tells all their stories?” Many of the Arizona’s survivors have chosen to have their remains placed on the ship’s ruins. Stratton, though, claims that this is something Potts did not want.
“He said he got off once, he’s not going to go back on board again,” he said. Stratton observed that many Arizona survivors had the same wry outlook on life. His own father was severely burned and refused to have his ashes returned to him in an urn.
Once, I was incinerated. Donald Stratton, according to his son, joked around about being cremated once before his death in 2020 at the age of 97. “They had that all throughout their lives. They had the sense of humor,” Randy Stratton said. “Our job now is to keep their memories alive.” Doris, Potts’s wife, will be left behind. There was a lack of instant information on more survivors.
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