Fillmore/I-25 bridge named after Pearl Harbor survivor/author Don Stratton
“At 8:06 a.m. on December 7, 1941, Seaman First Class Donald Stratton was consumed by an inferno. A million pounds of explosives had detonated beneath his battle station aboard the USS Arizona, barely 15 minutes into Japan's surprise attack on American forces at Pearl Harbor.
“Near death and burned across two-thirds of his body, Don, a 19-year-old Nebraskan who had been steeled by the Great Depression and Dust Bowl, summoned the will to haul himself hand over hand across a rope tethered to a neighboring vessel. Forty-five feet below, the harbor's flaming, oil-slick water boiled with enemy bullets; all around him the world tore itself apart.”
- From the back cover of Stratton's book, “All the Gallant Men”
Now a Colorado Springs resident - in the Holiday Village retirement community just east of I-25 and scarcely a mile from the new Fillmore/I-25 bridge - Don Stratton was honored June 8 by having that bridge named after him.
He is one of just five remaining survivors from the attack on the battleship Arizona and the only man left who served in both the first and last
The bridge-naming ceremony featured guest speakers, the unveiling of the sign, local boy scouts leading the Pledge of Allegiance, a local Navy JROTC cadet color guard and a special memorial flag presentation to the daughter of the sailor (Joe George) who saved Stratton and five others at Pearl Harbor.
The sign reads: “Donald G. Stratton Bridge - USS Arizona Survivor.”
His 341-page book, telling his Pearl Harbor story, was published in 2016. He was 94 at the time and will turn 96 in July.
Along with an account of his harrowing escape, the book details his lengthy recovery from his Pearl Harbor burns - actually having to learn to walk again - and his determination to rejoin the war.
The naming ceremony was presented by the Pikes Peak Heroes Legacy Committee, sponsored by Comcast NBCUniversal and hosted by the Holiday Village community. Attendees included Navy Rear Admiral Dietrich Kuhlmann III, House District 16 Representative Larry Liston; District 3 County Commissioner Stan VanderWerf and Stratton's wife of 68 years (Velma).
Two I-25 interchanges/bridges have been replaced within the past two years, and both are named after local residents and Pearl Harbor survivors. The Cimarron bridge was named after Jim Downing (then 104 years old) in 2017. He died in February of this year.
Westside Pioneer/press release