Navy Vet Ken Potts, One of Two Living USS Arizona Survivors, Celebrates 100th Birthday

by Suzanne Halliburton
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Ken Potts, one of the final two survivors of the USS Arizona, hit a milestone this week. He turned 100 years old.

First, congratulations to Ken Potts. Thank you for your service to our country. Here’s to surviving one of the most devastating attacks on our nation. Prayers to your friends and shipmates still lying at rest in the sunken USS Arizona, that was hit the worst on Dec. 7, 1941, in the Battle of Pearl Harbor.

So how do you celebrate 100? Very well.

You get your own day in your home state. Utah Governor Spencer Cox declared April 15 as “Ken Potts Recognition” day in the state. Cox said Utah, along with the nation, will be in debt to Potts and other veterans for their “heroism and bravery.”

Ken Potts got to take a birthday ride on a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. That was courtesy of the Utah National Guard’s 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion. Potts settled in Utah. He grew up in Illinois.

Meanwhile, the White House Secret Service acknowledged the special day for Ken Potts as well. Jonathan Stockeland, a member of the Secret Service, taped a birthday greeting in front of the White House. He spent 35 years in the Marines.

Ken Potts Was On Deck When Japanese Bombs Started Falling

As then-President Franklin Roosevelt said, the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, is a “date that will live in infamy.”

God willing, the other Arizona survivor celebrates his 100th birthday, too. Lou Conter hits the milestone in September.

Ken Potts joined the military as a teenager. He was 20 on Dec. 7, when the first Japanese aircraft began flying over Pearl Harbor. It was a surprise attack on a beautiful Sunday morning. The first bombs hit just before 8 a.m.

Potts worked a crane on the deck of the USS Arizona. He was able to escape the ship with other sailors who were lucky enough to be above deck when the bombs started falling from the sky.

1940s DECEMBER 7 1941 BATTLESHIP USS ARIZONA BURNS & SINKS DARK CLOUD OF SMOKE AFTER ATTACK BY JAPANESE PEARL HARBOR HAWAII USA (Photo by Charles Phelps Cushing/ClassicStock/Getty Images)

The USS Arizona, which was commissioned in 1916, stayed stateside during World War I. In the fall of 1940, the Arizona finished a refurbishment in Bremerton, Wash., then headed to Hawaii. On Dec. 7, the Japanese peppered the Arizona with torpedo bombers, which were designed to pierce the armor on a ship. The ship was hit four times with three near misses. At 8:06 a.m., a torpedo bomb split the ship in half. The damage was catastrophic.

The Japanese bombs killed 1,177 of the 1,512 crewmen on the USS Arizona. The total represented about half the people who died in the attack.

Ken Potts recovered stateside. He then reenlisted. Potts served on a destroyer and fought in the invasion of the Philippines, according to Stars and Stripe.

Lei in front of list of names of servicemen killed on the USS Arizona during the Pearl Harbor attack by the Japanese on December 7, 1941. USS Arizona Memorial, World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii, USA.
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