Pearl Harbor Survivor Donald Stratton Dies At 97

Donald Stratton suffered severe burn wounds but went back to serving as soon as he could
Donald Stratton suffered severe burn wounds but went back to serving as soon as he could / Eugene Tanner/AP
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  • Pearl Harbor survivor Donald Stratton passed away in his sleep on Saturday
  • He was aboard the USS Arizona when it was hit by a bomb, causing him to suffer burns to 70% of his body
  • He fought to draw attention to the man who saved his by throwing over a lifeline during all the chaos

 

Donald Stratton, Pearl Harbor survivor, passed away on Saturday, February 15. The Pearl Harbor National Memorial confirmed his death at 97 while he was surrounded by family. The organization remembers Stratton’s bravery and the pain he endured that day.

Pearl Harbor greatly affected Donald Stratton in a lasting way. By 1940, Stratton joined the Navy. His first ship, the USS Arizona, was at Pearl Harbor when it was attacked. As a result, Stratton suffered burn wounds to 70% of his body. Even after these severe injuries, Stratton desperately wanted to serve his country.

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Donald Stratton did not want his injuries to keep him from serving

The memorial details events from that day that scarred Donald Stratton, as well as sharing a post to honor his memory. According to PEOPLE, the memorial wrote, “During the attack on December 7th 1941, he was with 5 others in the burning forward mast and was saved when a sailor from the USS Vestal threw them a line.” His work wasn’t quite done yet, even after help came. “He crawled hand over hand, high above the water to safety, being burned over 70% of his body.”

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Stratton was medically discharged in September 1942. But he did not stay away for long. By January 1944, Stratton had reenlisted and completed boot camp. Following that, the memorial explained, “He served out the war and was discharged in December 1946 at the rank of Gunners Mate Second Class (GM2c).”

Stratton displayed great strength every step of the way

Donald Stratton relentlessly worked hard to honor the unsung hero who threw him and others a lifeline after Pearl Harbor was attacked
Donald Stratton worked hard to honor the unsung hero who threw him a lifeline after Pearl Harbor was attacked / Navy via Navy Times

Decades later, Stratton educated others about that fateful day in a 2011 interview for The National WWII Museum. When the USS Arizona got hit with a bomb, Stratton recalled, “We got caught in that ball of fire with no place to go.” Stratton worked hard to draw attention to the man who helped save him and many others: Chief Petty Officer Joe George, who threw him a lifeline.

Born on July 14, 1922, the Nebraska native died peacefully in his sleep surrounded by family. He is survived by his wife Velma and son Randy. Stratton and Velma had been married almost 70 years before his passing. Even with memories of chaos and death, Stratton emphasized the exceptional loyalty he and so many other ordinary men felt for their country when America was attacked. “We were ordinary men. What was extraordinary was the country we loved. We loved who she was, what she stood for. We loved her for what she meant to us, and for what she had given to us, even in those meager times,” he stated.

After being medically discharged, Stratton enlisted once again to continue serving his country
Donald Stratton always remembered the explosion of fire that hit the USS Arizona / Donald Stratton via Stars and Stripes

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