He was only one of the 335 sailors who survived the bombing of the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Donald Stratton now lives in Colorado Springs. He's one of just a couple dozen Arizona survivors still living. He shared his story with 11 News because he doesn’t want people to forget.
He was just 19-years-old when the Japanese attacked his ship. “I was in this part,” Stratton said as he pointed to a picture of the USS Arizona on his living room wall.
"Right down here, it went into the magazines. There were one million pounds of ammo and it exploded. There was a fireball that went 800 feet into sky," Stratton said.
It was an explosion and fire that would burn more than 65 percent of Stratton's body. “We burned so bad… we took our skin off like this."
Sixty-seven years after Pearl Harbor, you can see the scars on the surface and sense the ones you can't see. "It was a horrible day. I've seen more courage, more heroics, more valor and more sacrifice that day than a guy ought to see if he lived 10 lifetimes."
1,177 men on the USS Arizona died that day. Seaman First Class Donald Stratton was one of just 335 who survived. "It's one of those things you don't forget. I never talk about, but I want America to be aware. It could happen again."
Stratton remembers December 7th like it was yesterday. On the back of his truck is a tribute to his ship.
He's got his Purple Heart, but Stratton doesn't consider himself a hero even if the rest of us do. He said that title is reserved for the men who didn't come home.
After Pearl Harbor, Stratton was medically discharged from the military only to re-enlist a year later. He said he just couldn't sit back and watch the war. He had to go back and fight.
Stratton goes to Hawaii every five years to reunite with the surviving members of his crew.
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