Joe Langdell, the oldest living survivor of the USS Arizona, the ship destroyed in a sneak attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, has died. Langdell died on Wednesday in a skilled nursing facility in Yuba City, California. He was 100 years-old. With the passing of Joe, only eight more crewmen from the Arizona remain alive.
When Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese, almost 1,800 sailors were killed aboard the USS Arizona. Joe Langdell was among the 335 men assigned to the ship who survived.
Born on October 12, 1914 in Wilton, New Hampshire, Joe Langdell was the eldest son of Luther and Annie Langdell. Joe worked on the family’s dairy farm and was active in 4-H as a youth. He joined the Boy Scouts and earned his Eagle badge. Joe graduated from Boston University in 1938 with a degree in business administration. He worked as an accountant up to the time he decided to join the Navy. Langdell headed west to Chicago to enlist in an officer’s training program and it was there that he met Elizabeth McGauhy, the woman he would marry several years later.
Langdell’s math abilities garnered him a position working with Navy photographers on better ways to improve the accuracy of the guns on ships. Assigned to the Arizona, Langdell spent the night of December 6, 1941 in the officer’s barracks when the island was awoken by the sound of the Japanese attack.
Joe spent the day of December 7 helping sailors and Marines to the hospital on Ford Island, and in the days following the attack, he helped recover some of the bodies of his fallen shipmates.
Joe Langdell continued to serve in the Navy until the end of World War II. After that, he went back to Boston for a short time before he and his wife moved to northern California, where the couple ran a furniture store for many years.
In 2006, Joe Langdell’s son, Ted, interviewed Joe about that fateful December day in 1941.
“The lesson I’ve learned from that experience is that the 1,177 men entombed on the ship right now will never know the love of a wife or the joy of grandchildren. We all have to remember that they did not die in vain.”
Joe’s son said that his father had been ill in recent weeks, but that he had enjoyed spending the recent holidays with friends and family members. A memorial service will be held in Yuba City, California, for Joe Langdell, but his remains will eventually be interred in the sunken remains of the USS Arizona.