About 30 of the remaining 149 survivors of the attack on the U.S.S. Oklahoma have come to Oklahoma City for their annual reunion. On Thursday morning some of those veterans came to the State Capitol to be honored by lawmakers. Later, at a press conference, they shared their frustrations in trying to secure a permanent memorial for the U.S.S. Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor.
Senator Jim Reynolds has been working with the group for two years on the project. He said it is high time for the U.S.S. Oklahoma to have the kind of memorial the ship and crew deserved.
“During the attack on Pearl Harbor, 429 lives were lost on the U.S.S. Oklahoma alone. And of the many ships attacked in those terrible minutes, only three never sailed again—The U.S.S. Arizona, the Utah, and the Oklahoma,” explained Reynolds, R-OKC.
“The Arizona and the Utah are there today as part of a permanent memorial, but the Oklahoma was sold for scrap metal and sank while being towed back to the states. The loss of this ship and its crew, and the bravery and sacrifices of the survivors, deserves a permanent tribute, but that’s not what we’ve been offered,” Reynolds said.
Members of the group “Citizens for a USS Oklahoma Memorial at Pearl Harbor” said they have encountered problems with different entities involved, including the Parks Department and the U.S. Navy.
“So far, they’ve offered a very small location in a restricted area that would be difficult for visitors to reach. We’d like something near the U.S.S. Arizona Visitors Center, which is much more visible and easy to reach. It isn’t right that the U.S.S. Oklahoma and its crew are not being afforded a proper memorial,” Reynolds said.
Paul Goodyear is one of the survivors and organizers of the annual U.S.S. Oklahoma Family Reunion.
“The U.S.S. Oklahoma is the only U.S. battleship not to have a permanent memorial at Pearl Harbor. The boys on the Arizona were killed instantly, but most of those who died on the Oklahoma suffered a much more frightening death. They slowly suffocated or drowned in pitch-black compartments. We cannot even begin to imagine the horror they experienced in their final minutes,” said Goodyear.
“It is absolutely disgraceful that the U.S. Navy and the Parks Department will not help us create a fitting tribute to these men. We’re not asking for money, just an appropriate location for the project.”
Goodyear pointed out the youngest of their group was nearly 80 years old, and that they were fewer in number every year.
“If we don’t do this now, these men will be completely forgotten. Is that the way we thank them for the supreme sacrifice they made for this country? That would be shameful,” said Goodyear.
Reynolds and other members of the group said at this point it was critical to get the full support of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation. He called on the public to let their U.S. Representatives and Senators know they want their support in erecting a permanent memorial.
“This ship was named for our great state. The courage and the tremendous losses that are a part of that history should not be lost to us. We need our delegation to help make this memorial a reality. To do less would simply be wrong,” said Reynolds.