USS Arizona Sailor dies, 8 known survivors remain

U.S. Navy USS Arizona survivor, retired Lt. Cmdr. Joseph Langdell, pauses to collect his thoughts during an interview as he visits the USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Center, Dec. 5, 2006. U.S. Navy photo

U.S. Navy USS Arizona survivor, retired Lt. Cmdr. Joseph Langdell, pauses to collect his thoughts during an interview as he visits the USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Center, Dec. 5, 2006. U.S. Navy photo

Brandon Bosworth

Assistant Editor, Ho`okele

Joseph Langdell, the last surviving officer from USS Arizona, died Feb. 5 in Yuba City, Calif. He was 100 years old.

Joseph Kopcho Langdell was born Oct. 12, 1914 in Wilton, N.H. Earlier that same year, the keel of USS Arizona had been laid at the Brooklyn Navy Yard with Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin Delano Roosevelt in attendance.

Fresh out of college and officer candidate school, Langdell received his first duty assignment in early 1941. He would be serving as an ensign aboard the Arizona. Fortunately, on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, he was not actually on the battleship.

“Although assigned to the USS Arizona, on the morning of the attack, then Ensign Langdell was on the main base of Pearl Harbor,” said Jim Taylor, Pearl Harbor survivor liaison.

USS Arizona survivor, retired Lt. Cmdr. Joseph Langdell returns a salute as he makes his way through an honor cordon for USS Arizona survivors, Dec. 5, 2006. (Langdell died Feb. 5.) U.S. Navy photo

USS Arizona survivor, retired Lt. Cmdr. Joseph Langdell returns a salute as he makes his way through an honor cordon for USS Arizona survivors, Dec. 5, 2006. (Langdell died Feb. 5.) U.S. Navy photo


From the vantage point of his temporary assignment on Ford Island, Langdell saw the bombs fall and the Arizona sink, taking with it nearly 1,200 of his shipmates. He quickly joined in rescue and recovery efforts.

“Langdell spent the next three or four days pulling bodies, both dead and alive, from the burning waters of the harbor,” said Taylor. “His temporary assignment saved his life, because if he been on board the ship, he would have been killed since his battle station was at the gun turret where the bomb struck and blew up the ship.”

Langdell later served aboard the USS Frazier, a destroyer. He ultimately rose to the rank of lieutenant commander in the Naval Reserve and ran his own furniture store.

According to his son Ted, Joseph Langdell was a longtime classical music fan and was listening to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, the ‘Eroica,’ when he passed away.

Per his wishes, Joseph Langdell’s ashes will be interred aboard the USS Arizona Memorial.

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