Pearl Harbor Reading: Lauren Bruner’s Second to the Last to Leave USS Arizona


By: Mark Loproto

There are many sources you can go to for your history lessons, especially for something that was as relatively recent in American history as the attack on Pearl Harbor. Occurring 75 years ago—a short time in the arc of American history—December 7, 1941 was a devastating day that will always be remembered for the over 2,400 lives lost. Learning about Pearl Harbor can be as easy as asking Google, but you have to stop and question whether the information you’re reading gives an accurate picture of what actually happened.

When you’re tired of having to second-guess the things you read online, you need to turn to the most reliable source available – somebody who was there lived the experience. When it comes to Pearl Harbor, and specifically the USS Arizona, that would refer to one of the ever-dwindling number of men like Fire Controlman Third Class Lauren F. Bruner.

An American hero who was recognized by President Donald Trump in July of 2017 for his service in the US Navy, Bruner opted to leave a lasting, written legacy rather than an just the stories he told his family and friends. He wanted to ensure that later generations have access to first-hand information, rather than anecdotes that tend to change over time or become forgotten completely. His book, Second to the Last to Leave USS Arizona, chronicles more than just life aboard the USS Arizona. It focuses on the attack on Pearl Harbor, opting to leave Bruner’s own service in the US Navy in the background.

Lauren Bruner

The author details what life was like on the Arizona, which also helps build a connection between the reader and the young sailor Lauren Bruner. It’s a tactic that helps sharpen the sense of tragedy that comes when he starts recounting the assault on the Pearl Harbor, something that he does in great detail.

Lauren Bruner and Pearl Harbor

Bruner starts the book off on a graphic note, a prologue that very quickly sets the tone for the former sailor’s eyewitness account of the Pearl Harbor attack. It’s a heavy topic, describing the deaths of thousands of sailors, and the book winds up being more powerful than some readers may find comfortable.

As the USS Arizona sank, Bruner was left floating in misery in the oil-slicked salt water of the harbor, burns covering his  over 73% of his body. He never expected to survive, even as medical staff worked to clean his wounds and ease his pain.

Miraculously, he did survive, taking it upon himself after the war not just to write Second to the Last to Leave USS Arizona, but also to seek commendation for the man responsible for his survival – Joe George.

Well into his 90s, having finished his book that detailed the sinking of the Arizona and the Pearl Harbor attack, Lauren Bruner set his sights on Joe George’s recognition, which was finally granted during a trip to Washington D C with fellow Arizona survivor Donald Stratton.

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