Via Washington Post:
The water appeared to be on fire, and the scent of burning oil filled the air.
Donald Stratton stood on the deck of the USS Arizona as a Japanese bomb decimated part of the battleship, stationed in Pearl Harbor off the coast of Honolulu. The ground trembled beneath his feet as explosions rang out and a fireball ripped through him, setting his T-shirt ablaze and destroying part of his ear, he wrote in his memoir, “All the Gallant Men.”
On the ship’s lower deck, other U.S. Navy sailors were engulfed in flames. Stratton took up his station on a covered perch on the main mast and helped try to shoot down the Japanese planes, but their shells couldn’t reach the aircraft, he wrote. Meanwhile, ships all around the Arizona were exploding.
Joe George, a boatswain’s mate on a repair ship about 70 feet away, was cutting the lines that tethered the vessel to the Arizona when he saw Stratton and five other men stranded on the battleship, according to the memoir. In direct defiance of orders from his superior, George shoved a lead-weighted rope to the Arizona’s sailors, who grabbed hold.
“The six of us went hand over hand across the line and above the inflamed water,” Stratton wrote. “My body was burned, my hands were raw, and I was focused on survival. I never thought about not making it.”
In the memoir, Stratton said George’s daring choice was possibly the only reason that Stratton, then 19, lived through the 1941 attack and eventually became one of the Arizona’s last three survivors. After nearly eight decades of recounting his story and joining other survivors at annual anniversary ceremonies, Stratton died in his sleep late Saturday at his Colorado Springs home at the age of 97, according to his family.