He was there when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and his ashes will likely be placed inside the memorial honoring the hundreds of shipmates whose deaths he witnessed that fateful morning.
Joseph Langdell, the last known surviving officer of the USS Arizona, died last week. He was 100.
At the time of the Pearl Harbor bombing, Langdell was sleeping at a military base near the Arizona. Four-fifths of the ship's crew – 1,177 men – died during the attack.
In the nine minutes between when the ship was struck and when it sank, the 27-year-old rushed to try to save his colleagues.
"I felt absolutely helpless as I watched the attack. If I had been aboard, I would have been killed in that No. 2 [gun] turret. That was the one that blew up. It was my luck to be assigned off the ship that day," Langdell told the Associated Press on the 56th anniversary of the bombing.
This Dec. 7. 2008 photo provided by Ted Langdell shows retired Navy Lt. Commander Joseph Langdell standing in the Shrine Room of the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Ted Langdell)
A native of New Hampshire, Langdell died Feb. 4 at a nursing facility in Northern California. His son, Ted Langdell, posted on Facebook following his father's death.
"He was 100 years, three months and 24 days old. A long-time listener to classical music, Beethoven's Symphony No. 3, the 'Eroica' played him off this life's stage," Langdell's son wrote. "His skills ranged from the use of wood stoves and outhouses in cold, New Hampshire winters, milking cows in his father's barn, guiding horse-drawn buggies and driving early motor cars, building crystal radio sets and cranking party-line, operator-connected telephones, to using cell phones, e-mailing and surfing the Internet."
Langdell eventually was named a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve. He ran his own furniture store in Yuba City, California, until he retired.
The Pearl Harbor veteran didn't revisit the site of the attack until 1976, when his son was serving in the Navy. Langdell regularly met with other survivors and was always sure to wear his USS Arizona hat, Reuters reported.
"It drew attention not just to him, but gave him the chance to tell stories. Anyone in the service has stories to tell if you make the effort to listen and to really hear and try to understand what they are saying," Ted Langdell said.
Langdell's wish was for his ashes to be placed onboard the USS Arizona Memorial. Yahoo News reported the ceremony is expected to happen on Dec. 7, on the 74th anniversary since the attack that thrust the U.S. into World War II.
Editor's note: This post has been updated.
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