Lt. Cmdr. Louis Conter
U.S. NAVY (RETIRED)
USS ARIZONA SURVIVOR
GRASS VALLEY, CALIF.
I started going [to Pearl Harbor anniversary
commemorations] for the 50th and then the
60th and the 65th. I’ve been going every
year for the last six or eight years because
there are only five of us from the Arizona
who are still living.
My wife [Valerie] went with me until she died last
year, so my daughter and son went with me this year.
They bought me a brand-new dress white uniform, so
I wore it that day. We had a lot of our relatives there.
We had a good time. They have every minute
of the day set for us to do something. I told them,
“Don’t you realize we’re 95 years of age, we need a
little time to rest.” I’m going again next year, naturally. I hope anyway.
In 1939, after I graduated from high school outside
of Denver, I was working at Swift & Co. for 30 cents
an hour, eight hours a day, hard labor. Our neighbor’s
brother came home on leave. He was a third-class signalman on the USS Nevada, and in those days, when
your four years were over, you could come home for 90
days. If you signed up before the 90 days were up, you
could go back to active duty at the same rate.
One morning, he and his brother said, “Lou, why
don’t you come with us. I’ve got to go sign up for
another four years.” While we were there, the Navy
recruiters grabbed us and said, “Why don’t you take
the examination; there’s a nine-month waiting list
anyway to get into the Navy.”
So we took it and passed it and forgot about it. I
was going to go to CU [University of Colorado] that
year and play football. I was in bed one morning and
my mother came up and said, “Are you in trouble,
“Because someone’s on the phone and they want to
talk to Louis Anthony Conter.”
This was about 8: 15 in the morning. I went down
and answered the phone and it was the Navy Depart-
ment. They said, “You took the exam about 10 days
ago and passed, and we’re having a draft going out
tonight at 5: 45 to boot camp in San Diego. We’ve got
six places in it, so we want to talk to you to see if
you’ll sign up for four years.”
I went down, talked to them and said, “OK, I’ll go
for four years, I might as well.”
We had three months of boot training in those days.
We did our three months and I was assigned to the USS
Arizona, which was anchored up in Long Beach. We
took the bus up, there were about five of us, and said,
“reporting for duty.”
The chief was there and he took me down to second
division and said, “There’s the hook for your hammock,
there’s the hammock storage and I’ll see you on deck in
20 minutes.” That’s the way we started in the Navy.
USS Arizona survivor Louis Conter participates in the “Walk of Honor”
at the conclusion of the 75th Commemoration Event of the attacks on
Pearl Harbor and Oahu at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Dec. 7.