On Dec. 7, 1941, then-21-year-old Lauren Bruner was the second-to-last man to escape the burning wreckage of the USS Arizona after a Japanese plane dropped a bomb that ignited an enormous explosion in the battleship’s ammunition storage compartment. He lived to be 98 years old, marrying twice and outliving both wives. He worked for a refrigeration company for nearly four decades. This weekend, divers will place Bruner’s ashes inside the battleship’s wreckage, which sits in Pearl Harbor where it sank during the attack 78 years ago that thrust the United States into World War II, per the AP. The Southern California man will be the 44th and last crew member to be interred in accordance with this rare Navy ritual. The last three living Arizona survivors plan to be laid to rest with their families.
Bruner said he wanted to return to his ship because few people go to cemeteries, while more than 1 million people visit the Arizona each year. He also saw it as a way to join old friends who never made it off the warship. “I thought, well, all my buddies are right here. And there are a lot of people who come to see the ship,” Bruner told the AP in 2016, three years before he died in his sleep in September. Bruner traveled from his La Mirada, California, home to attend Pearl Harbor anniversary events many times. The Navy began interring Pearl Harbor survivors on their old ships in 1982. (The somber ceremony and other events marking the anniversary of the attack come on the heels of a deadly shooting at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard on Wednesday.)
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