One thousand, one hundred and seventy-seven men from the battleship USS Arizona were lost in the infamous Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. The Arizona was sunk, and unlike other ships from the attack, she was too damaged to be raised. The wreck still sits on the on the harbor floor. On Monday evening this week, the AP reported that Retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. Joseph Langdell, the oldest surviving member of that ship's crew, died on February 4 at age 100. Langdell was an Ensign at the time, and was the ship's last surviving officer.
The AP reports Langdell was ashore when the attack hit, but spent the minutes, hours, and days after attempting to rescue his shipmates and prepare for a potential second wave:
"I felt absolutely helpless as I watched the attack," Langdell told The Associated Press on the 56th anniversary of the attack that drew the United States into World War II. "If I had been aboard, I would have been killed in that No. 2 (gun) turret. That was the one that blew up. It was my luck to be assigned off the ship that day."
Langdell remained in the Navy until the end of World War II. After the war, he did not return to Pearl Harbor until 1976, His son, Ted Langdell, said his father didn't talk much about that day, but Ted interviewed him about the attack in 2006. His observation about life lost is a poignant moment now as his own is remembered.
"The lesson I’ve learned from that experience is that the 1,177 men entombed on the ship right now will never know the love of a wife or the joy of grandchildren. We all have to remember that they did not die in vain."
Atop the remains of the famous battleship sits the USS Arizona Memorial, honoring Langdell's shipmates, his fellow sailors and friends. It is there that the veteran will join them once more and forever. His ashes will be laid to rest with them on December 7th of this year, 74 years and a lifetime after the ship was lost.