Divers from the Army conducted unique and poignant internment when they lowered an urn containing the ashes of Pearl Harbor survivor Lauren Bruner into the wreck of the USS Arizona.
The event took place on the 78th Anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Mr. Bruner died at the age of 98 on the 10th of September 2019.
Lauren Bruner, who served on the USS Arizona, escaped being burned in the attack on the 7th of December 1941 by clambering along a rope suspended 70 feet above the harbor.
What also made this internment so unique was that divers from the 7th Engineer Division, wore vintage World War II diving suits and gear. The dry suit and lead boots weigh around 200 pounds, and the Mark 5 diving helmet added considerably to the weight the divers had to manage before getting into the water.
This cumbersome kit is the same gear was worn by hundreds of men as they conducted the salvage and recovery of bodies in the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The easily recognizable copper helmet from the Mark 5 is perhaps the best-known component of the kit.
Four of the helmets in the military inventory were sent from Virginia so they could be tested and approved for use. Only two of the helmets were deemed safe enough to use. While wearing all of this gear, the two divers carefully made their way across the deck of the sunken USS Arizona until they reached gun turret number 4. From there they descended 22 feet into the turret.They placed the urn where it would sink into the deepest part of the ship and Mr. Bruner could once again join his old shipmates.
Only three of the crew members of the USS Arizona are still living. They have all indicated they prefer to be buried with their families. It is highly unlikely that anyone else will ever be laid to rest as Lauren Bruner was.
This will probably be the last time ashes are interred within this famous wreck, so there was added incentive to make it a unique and memorable occasion.
The remains of over 900 men are entombed inside the wreckage of the USS Arizona. Since 1982 44 men have chosen to have their remains interred within the wreck.
The honor of actually receiving the urn and placing it on the wreck was given to Spc. Julio Melendez, who is with the Army dive detachment that is based at Hickam Field.The 21-year-old was left speechless when he was told he had been selected to undertake the task of conveying the urn down to the wreck.
He said it was a kind of surreal moment thinking about the history that was being made, as well as remembering Lauren Bruner and his service to his country.
The ceremony, held at sunset, was attended by more than 200 people. Lauren Bruner’s brother, 95-year-old Chet Danforth, assisted by caretakers, handed over the urn containing his brother’s ashes.
The urn was presented to a group of divers from the Park Service, Army, and Navy who were in the water beside the memorial. Then Melendez, accompanied by another Army diver, also wearing the Mark 5 kit and one in modern, commercial gear, descended to the historic wreck.
They made their way over the deck until they came to the gaping hole that was once filled with number 4-gun-turret.Taking the urn firmly in his hands, he carefully stepped over the lip, making sure not to snag his umbilical airline.
He followed a guide rope to a 6-foot crack in the steel, 22 feet below the level of the deck. This is the place that is used for the internment of the urns.The urn was carefully placed in the crack behind an I-beam, where it sank into the depths of the ship.
Melendez said he was honored to be chosen for this special dive, though he said the gear was bulky and uncomfortable.He also remarked that it was incredible to think this technology was used until around 40 years ago.
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