(NEW YORK) — Don Stratton, one of the few remaining surviving veterans from the bombing of Pearl Harbor, had been holding on to his memories for more than 70 years.
“It’s a long story and a hard one,” says Stratton, 95, whose memoir, “All the Gallant Men,” about his experiences on the USS Arizona, came out in 2016. “We lost so many men that day, friends of mine. I’m not sure how many people are interested in this anymore, but I’ve had a lot of people call me and say they’ve read my story and recommended it to others.”
Stratton’s book is among a recent wave of World War II memoirs notable in part because it may well be the last wave. Even veterans who were teenagers when the war ended in 1945 are at or approaching 90 by now. The 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack came last December, and publishers will likely have a hard time finding fresh accounts for the 75th anniversaries of milestones such as D-Day (June 6, 1944) and V-J Day (Aug. 14, 1945). According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, some 558,000 World War II veterans are still alive, a fraction of the millions who survived the conflict. By the end of the decade, the number is expected to drop to under 300,000.
At the National World War II Museum, in New Orleans, a yearslong project to record veteran’s accounts is winding down after compiling more than 9,000 interviews.