DAmerican Lou Conter, the last surviving crewman of the battleship USS Arizona, which was destroyed in Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, has died, his family said the former soldier died of heart failure Monday at his home in Grass Valley, California. Conter was 102 years old.

As the helmsman at the time later recalled in his autobiography, The Lou Conter Story, he was standing on the deck of the USS Arizona on the morning of December 7, 1941, when Japanese air forces began attacking the United States Pacific Fleet at Pearl. Harbor, Hawaii bomb. More than 2,400 Americans died, every second of whom was a crew member of the USS Arizona. Nearly 20 American ships were killed or seriously damaged. At the time, Conter was one of about 330 survivors of the USS Arizona explosion. The day after the attack, the United States declared war on the Empire of Japan, entering World War II.

Although Conter, then 19, saved many of his comrades and helped put out fires for two days, he repeatedly rejected praise for being a hero. “We the survivors are not the heroes. The people who lost their lives back then are the heroes. They gave everything when we returned to America and got married and had children and grandchildren,” Conter told California station KCRA 3 last year.

After a near-fatal shoot-down as a pilot off New Guinea in 1943, Lou Conter became the U.S. Navy's first officer in survival and escape training in the late 1950s. “Under no circumstances should you panic. The first thing I taught the soldiers was to survive,” he recalled after retiring in 1967. “If you panic, you're as good as dead.”

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