Joseph Langdell: Last remaining officer from the USS Arizona - lost, along with four-fifths of its crew, at Pearl Harbor in 1941


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The Independent Online

The oldest living crew member of the battleship USS Arizona to have survived the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor has died in Northern California at the age of 100.

Retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. Joseph Langdell died at a nursing home in Yuba City, according to his son, Ted. A tally maintained by the USS Arizona Reunion Association identified him as not only the oldest Arizona survivor, but the last surviving officer from the naval ship that lost 1,177 men – nearly four-fifths of its crew – when it was bombed on 7 December 1941.

Langdell was an ensign on an assignment that had him sleeping on a military base adjacent to the ship in Honolulu on the morning Pearl Harbor was attacked. He spent the following hours and days trying to rescue shipmates from the burning water, preparing for another possible air assault and leading the survivors tasked with removing the remains of the dead from the partially sunken ship, his son said.

“I felt absolutely helpless as I watched the attack,” Langdell told The Associated Press on the 56th anniversary of the attack that drew the US into the Second World War. “If I had been aboard, I would have been killed in that No. 2 (gun) turret.”

Langdell spent another four years in the Navy before going to work as an auctioneer, a furniture manufacturer’s representative and eventually the owner of a Yuba City furniture store.

Ted Langdell said his father returned to Pearl Harbor for the first time since the war in 1976, when his older son was in the Navy. After that, Langdell took comfort in meeting with fellow survivors and pride in always wearing a USS Arizona hat.  

Joseph Langdell, Navy officer: born Wilton, New Hampshire 12 October 1914; married (two sons); died Yuba City, California 4 February 2015.