Pearl Harbor Day — the USS Oklahoma — a Post Redux “x” Three

Posted By: 'Okie' | 1:20 pm — 12/7/2008 | 2 Comments See comments below:

The original post below I wrote in 2005 and updated last year to note that the USS Oklahoma was finally getting its official monument. As we close out the Bush administration chapter of U.S. history and begin with a new President-elect Obama, we hope and pray that he will do honor by those brave men and women that gave their all on that terrible day, 67 years ago and to all that have done so since then and for those that will do so in the terrible tomorrows that we all know will come.

Others remembering Pearl Harbor today:

Michelle Malkin
Ed Morrisey

Ace reminds us that some days are A Day For War.

This post is one that I wrote in 2005 to commemorate this tragic, special day. Instead of just linking to it I decided to post it anew, as the stories of those that worked valiantly to save as many lives as possible deserve to be told again. The comments that I made about our brave men and women serving in Afghanistan and Iraq are even more true today. Our fathers, mothers, uncles and aunts — The Greatest Generation — stepped up, took on the mantle of terrible responsibility and did their duty — history awaits whether we will stay the course and complete the tasks that destiny has assigned to our own.

What’s making this particular December 7th more memorable is that the U.S.S. Oklahoma is finally getting the recognition it has for so long deserved.

The monument to its sailors features slabs of black marble arranged in a V and bearing the ship’s name and image. Behind it are 429 white-marble pillars, each 7 feet tall and engraved with the name of a victim.

Kevin King, an artist from Oklahoma, spearheaded the drive for the monument after visiting Pearl Harbor with his son in 2000. He was stunned to find no mention of the ship at Ford Island or at the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, the graveyard in the Punchbowl crater – part of an inactive volcano – where the Oklahoma victims’ remains were interred in mass graves after the battleship was raised in 1943.

“It just got my blood up – especially being from Oklahoma – that these 429 people are just forgotten,” King said.

He worked with the USS Oklahoma Association and crisscrossed the country at his own expense to interview the ship’s survivors. The association raised $1 million to build the monument.

[From ‘Okie’ — 2005:]

It’s Pearl Harbor day, and most veterans, especially those that saw battle, never talk to non-veterans about their military service. In my own family, I know that all of my uncles served, many in WWII, but only much later, most after their passings, did I find out only a little of what they had done in the war.

My wife’s and my father were Navy guys, mine a pharmacists mate on a troop/supply transport ship named the “Mighty A”. The most dangerous thing that he ever told me about was his ship being hit with a dud torpedo. If it hadn’t been a dud, the story would have been more exciting, but he would not have been the one to tell me about it! I know nothing about my wife’s father’s Navy experiences, I just have a picture of him in his dress blues, dashing in appearance, with a small earring worn in a defiant manner, along with a scan of his honorable discharge that I worked into a pictorial tribute that accompanied his funeral almost a decade ago. Several of his brothers were also in the Navy, a couple were in the BUDs area of service that later became the Navy SEALS, and were covert operatives in Naval Intelligence and served in later branches of the intelligence services during Korea and Vietnam.

Which brings me to today, Pearl Harbor Day. I don’t know if any of my uncles were at Pearl Harbor. If they were, they never talked about it with me. In reading the LA Times this AM, I learned that the USS Oklahoma, a 27,500-ton Nevada class battleship, and the men who served and died aboard her, have finally been given their own special acknowledgment.

Tribute to Pearl Harbor Battleship Is Unveiled

From Times Wire Reports

Sixty-three years after the surprise attack that plunged the United States into World War II, hundreds of men who died aboard the battleship Oklahoma are finally getting their own special tribute.

A new exhibit of photos, artifacts and oral histories was unveiled in Honolulu to honor the 429 men from the Oklahoma who died in the Dec. 7, 1941, attack by the Japanese.

That is the second-highest number of Pearl Harbor casualties behind the battleship Arizona, where most of its 1,177 killed crew members remain entombed after the ship sank in the attack.

I guess King Neptune had plans for this mighty ship, other than allowing her to be scrapped. The Kansas City Star adds more information to the above.

The Oklahoma was refloated in 1943 and sold for scrap after the war, but it sank in the Pacific Ocean while being towed to California.

Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and other military bases on Oahu lasted two hours. Twenty-one ships were heavily damaged, and 320 aircraft were damaged or destroyed. In all, about 2,390 persons were killed and about 1,178 were wounded, according to the National Park Service, which maintains the Arizona site.

has a wonderful tribute that includes President Franklin Roosevelt’s speech asking Congress for a declaration of war and Churchill’s reaction.

As we remember those lost and those who fought so bravely on this day, 63 years ago, let us reflect on the fact that Japan is now one of our strongest allies and important trading partners. It took a long time to help them overcome the damage to their country and society caused by their leaders’ wartime ambitions, but with our guidance and financial help, Japan was brought into the modern world and became an important part of the world’s economy. They are a part of the “Coalition of the Willing” in Iraq.

We must look to our past and not be too impatient in our present. The same fighting spirit of our fathers and forefathers exits within the warriors that are helping the Iraqi people even at this very minute. Many will come back, and not tell their stories for years to come, if at all, but they will be valiant stories, none the less! . . . db

[Update] LGF provides this link to the Navy’s archive of images and information, with some of the pics taken from Japanese warplanes.

Battleship row at Pearl Harbor

According to the Navy site the following is what was going on here, as taken from a Japanese fighter:

Torpedo planes attack “Battleship Row” at about 0800 on 7 December, seen from a Japanese aircraft. Ships are, from lower left to right: Nevada (BB-36) with flag raised at stern; Arizona (BB-39) with Vestal (AR-4) outboard; Tennessee (BB-43) with West Virginia (BB-48) outboard; Maryland (BB-46) with Oklahoma (BB-37) outboard; Neosho (AO-23) and California (BB-44).
West Virginia, Oklahoma and California have been torpedoed, as marked by ripples and spreading oil, and the first two are listing to port. Torpedo drop splashes and running tracks are visible at left and center.
White smoke in the distance is from Hickam Field. Grey smoke in the center middle distance is from the torpedoed USS Helena (CL-50), at the Navy Yard’s 1010 dock.
Japanese writing in lower right states that the image was reproduced by authorization of the Navy Ministry.

U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

Battleship row at Pearl Harbor

Vertical aerial view of “Battleship Row”, beside Ford Island, during the early part of the horizontal bombing attack on the ships moored there. Photographed from a Japanese aircraft.
Ships seen are (from left to right): USS Tennessee with USS West Virginia moored outboard; USS Maryland with USS Oklahoma moored outboard; and USS Neosho, only partially visible at the extreme right. West Virginia and Oklahoma are gushing oil from their many torpedo hits and are listing to port. Oklahoma’s port deck edge is already under water. Nevada has also been torpedoed.

Battleship row at Pearl Harbor

Rescue teams at work on the capsized hull of USS Oklahoma (BB-37), seeking crew members trapped inside, 7 December 1941. The starboard bilge keel is visible at the top of the upturned hull.
Officers’ Motor Boats from Oklahoma and USS Argonne (AG-31) are in the foreground.
USS Maryland (BB-46) is in the background.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

I hope that the Navy won’t mind that I’ve “borrowed” these three images and descriptions to help make this a better presentation and memorial for this day. I urge anyone interested in Pearl Harbor to follow the links to the Navy Archives site to better comprehend the full extent of the tragedy and valiant courage that defines this “day that lives in infamy”!


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