USS Oklahoma Mast On Display

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Updated: 6/24/2010 8:29 am Published: 6/23/2010 10:30 pm

It was part of the deadly attack that sent the U.S. into World War II.  The USS Oklahoma was part of the fleet of American ships attacked at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  And the entire ship has remained under water until now.  A key piece of the battleship is now here in Oklahoma.

Commissioned in 1916, the USS Oklahoma first served in World War I, protecting allied convoys on their way across the Atlantic.  She was based at Pearl Harbor in 1940, for patrols and exercises.  Oklahoma was part of battleship row on December 7th, 1941, when the Japanese attacked.  Oklahoma took three torpedo hits almost immediately, after the first Japanese bombs fell. 

“It was in the middle.  It took more torpedoes than anyone else,” recalls Pearl Harbor survivor Jim Gailey.

He was on the USS Helena during the attack and remembers watching Oklahoma get hit.

“It rolled over.  It went in the mud.”

It rolled until it stopped when the masts touched the bottom.  When it capsized, 429 marines and sailors lost their lives. 

Now, 69 years later, one of those masts is coming to rest in the state the ship was named after.  The new addition to the Muskogee War Memorial and Museum arrived four years after a museum volunteer made the first call to procure it. 

“Just seeing that come in here makes me so proud.  It’s like having the whole ship here,” says museum volunteer Rod Mish.

“I think it’s wonderful for Oklahoma.  I think it’s going to help our kids when the study history.  Anytime we can get them to think about World War II, about how our freedom was paid for, it’s a good thing,” says Gailey.

The Muskogee War Museum is preparing a special dedication ceremony for the mast.  It will include a survivor of the USS Oklahoma and will be held on July 10th.

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