Alvin Albert Dvorak was the last man alive to leave the U.S.S. Arizona when it was attacked by Japan at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
Badly burned, he was taken to a hospital ship and then transferred to the Coolidge, a fast troop carrier, but died on Christmas Eve en route to San Francisco.
He was one of six surviving men trapped in the Arizona’s port fire control director above the pilothouse, chart house, when a bomb in the forward magazines split the ship almost in two and ignited enormous fires from the battleship’s fuel tanks. They spotted a sailor, Joe George, on the repair ship U.S.S. Vestal, which was moored next to the Arizona. He was using an ax to cut lines connecting the two ships so the Vestal could head out to sea and perhaps also avoid being destroyed.
In defiance of an officer, George threw a line to the Arizona men, all of them injured and surrounded by fire. One by one, hand over hand, each man crossed 70 feet — high above burning fuel on the water below.
Dvorak went last because he was the most badly injured, with burns over most of his body. Also, he was expert at tying knots and wanted to make sure that the line between the ships held.
Before the Vestal left Pearl Harbor, the Arizona men were put on a launch and taken to shore.
Mr. Dvorak was born April 3, 1918, in South Dakota to Joseph Dvorak and Emma Mach Dvorak. He was nine months old when his parents died four days apart from the flu.
He and his two siblings were raised in Park Township, Minnesota, by his grandparents and other family. Mr. Dvorak attended Pleasant Hill School until 1931, finishing the 8th grade. He enlisted in the Navy on March 2, 1938, and was a boatswain’s mate and petty officer second class when he died. Mr. Dvorak is buried at Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minneapolis.
His brother, Arthur, also served in the navy in World War II and survived.
Sources: “All the Gallant Men,” by Arizona survivor Donald Stratton; cemetery marker; South Dakota marriage license and death index; Navy muster roll; Pine County (Minnesota) Genealogical Society; Pine City (Minnesota) Pioneer; the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; Arthur Dvorak obituary. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.