Last Surviving Officer of the USS Arizona Passes Away at 100

The last surviving officer of the USS Arizona has passed away

Joe Langdell was renowned for his life-stories. His life had been an adventurous one, and he was proud of it. It started on Oct. 12, 1914, when he was born in Wilton, New Hampshire.

Having joined the navy at the age of 28, Langdell spent December 6th, 1941 at Ford Island near Pearl Harbor, asleep. The next morning he was standing on the beach of Ford Island and watched in stunned silence as his ship, the USS Arizona, was bombed to the floor of Pearl Harbor. Langdell wasn’t deterred though; he assisted in helping surviving comrades get to shore. He even had the sad duty of helping gather in all the bodies of the men that were floating on the water.

He would continue to serve with distinction, gaining the rank of Lieutenant Commander before he retired. Returning to Wilton, he became a salesman before heading to California with his wife. Making a home in Yuma County, he became the owner of the Village Mart store servicing the county.

He ended up spending the rest of his life in Yuba City, California.  He had no qualms about retelling the tale of that fateful day. It helped that he had a very healthy, outgoing personality, and he enjoyed the spotlight that surviving the battle automatically provided him.

Despite his advanced age (he was four months past his 100th birthday when he passed away) and having been committed to The Fountains care facility, Langdell remained in high spirits, unlike many others who end up in that situation. A native of Marysville, he never missed out on his obligation to take part in the annual Veterans Day Parade in downtown Marysville. His own need for the spotlight propelled him into becoming one of the focal points of the parade, the Stars and Stripes reports.

His local paper, the Appeal-Democratic, prided itself in helping the veteran tell his tales. Several times it featured Langdell’s story of the medals he won and the lives both saved and lost on that fateful day. He was the last surviving officer from the USS Arizona and one of only seven of that ship’s crew remaining. His passing reminds us that death’s call is inevitably reducing the ranks of his generation. Langdell died on Wednesday, February 3rd.  According to his family his remains are to be interred at the Arizona memorial — his sons believe that would have pleased him a great deal.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE