Colorado Springs will have a lasting memorial to a Pearl Harbor survivor on display at the airport soon.
The imitative, backed by a mix of military boosters, politicians, nonprofits and business types, will tell the story of sailor Donald Stratton, a Colorado Springs man who survived the sinking of the USS Arizona on Dec. 7, 1941.
Stratton, 96, is one of five living survivors of the battleship, which remains on the harbor’s bottom as a permanent memorial to the more than 2,300 troops killed in the surprise attack that plunged the United States into World War II.
“It’s hard to make an expression that fits this,” Stratton said last week. “It has been a long time coming.”
The exhibit, which will sit in a Colorado Springs Airport concourse for view by the 1.7 million people who use the place every year, includes steel beams from the Arizona that have been donated to the Pikes Peak Heroes Legacy Committee by the Navy.
Stratton was topside on Arizona when the Japanese attacked, and raced to an anti-aircraft post near the battleship’s foremast. The magazine explosion that doomed most of the crew and sank the mighty ship with a dozen 14-inch guns spared the Nebraska teenager.
Stratton, though, suffered severe wounds in the attack, with burns covering more than half his body. Despite his wounds, he managed to scramble over mooring lines to the relative safety of a neighboring ship. He spent more than year hospitalized but returned to the Navy and was aboard a destroyer as America avenged the attack on Pearl Harbor with landings across the Pacific in New Guinea, the Philippines and Okinawa.
Bob Lally, a retired Navy captain who is behind the push to honor Stratton, said remembering Pearl Harbor is the first step in a community movement to honor all local heroes.
“We want it to be an educational effort,” Lally said.
The group is rounding up sponsors for the campaign and for the Stratton exhibit, which will feature a 6-foot-tall interactive screen that will allow visitors to learn about Pearl Harbor, Stratton’s heroics and how that day fit into history.
To learn more about the effort or to donate, go online to pphlc.org.
Of the 1,511 sailors aboard the battleship, just 334, including Stratton, lived through the attack.
Stratton said the goal of the exhibit is to honor his shipmates who perished.
“That’s the main thing,” he said.
Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240 Twitter: @xroederx