USS Oklahoma (BB-37)
Oklahoma running trials, 1916
|Name:||USS Oklahoma BB-37|
|Builder:||New York Shipbuilding Corporation|
|Laid down:||26 October 1912|
|Launched:||23 March 1914|
|Commissioned:||2 May 1916|
|Decommissioned:||1 September 1944|
|One battle star for World War II service.|
|Fate:||Sunk in Attack on Pearl Harbor, raised and sold for scrap but sunk again during transport|
|General characteristics |
|Class & type:||Nevada-class battleship|
|Displacement:||27,500 long tons (27,900 metric tons)|
|Length:||583 ft (178 m)|
|Beam:||95.3 ft (29.0 m)|
|Draft:||28.5 ft (8.7 m)|
|Speed:||20.5 kn (23.6 mph; 38.0 km/h)|
|Capacity:||2,042 short tons (1,852 metric tons) of fuel oil|
|Aircraft carried:||as built:
USS Oklahoma (BB-37), the only ship of the United States Navy to ever be named for the 46th state, was a World War I-era battleship and the second of two ships in her class; her sister ship was Nevada. She, along with her sister, were the first two U.S. warships to use oil fuel instead of coal.[page needed]
The Oklahoma which was commissioned in 1916, served in World War I as a member of BatDiv 6, protecting Allied convoys on their way across the Atlantic. She then joined the Pacific and Scouting Fleets. Oklahoma was modernized between 1927 and 1929. In 1936, she rescued American citizens and refugees from the Spanish Civil War. On returning to the West coast in August of the same year, Oklahoma spent the rest of her service in the Pacific.
On 7 December 1941, Oklahoma was sunk by several bombs and torpedoes during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. A total of 429 crew died when she capsized in battleship row. In 1943 Oklahoma was righted and salvaged. However unlike most of the other battleships that were recovered following Pearl Harbor, the Oklahoma was never returned to duty. She was eventually stripped of her remaining armaments and superstructure before being sold for scrap in 1946. She sank in a storm while being towed from Oahu in Hawaii to a breakers yard in San Francisco Bay in 1947.
Authorized along with her sister ship in 1911 under the Naval Appropriation Act,[page needed] Oklahoma was the last ship of the U.S. Navy to be installed with vertical triple expansion reciprocating machinery instead of steam turbines; she had a vibration problem throughout her lifetime as a result.[page needed]
Her keel was laid down on 26 October 1911 by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation of Camden, New Jersey, who bid $5,926,000 to construct the ship. By 12 December 1912, she was 11.2 percent complete, and by 13 July 1913 she was at 33 percent. She was launched on 23 March 1914, being sponsored by Miss Lorena J. Cruce, daughter of Governor of Oklahoma Lee Cruce. The launch was preceded by an invocation given by Elijah Embree Hoss—the first for an American warship in half a century—and was attended by various dignitaries from Oklahoma and the federal government. The battleship was subsequently moved to a dock near the new Argentine battleship Moreno and Chinese cruiser Fei Hung (soon to be the Greek Elli) for fitting-out. On the night of 19 July 1915, large fires were discovered underneath the fore main battery turret, the third to flare-up on an American battleship in less than a month.[a] However, by the 22nd, the Navy believed that the Oklahoma fire had been caused by "defective insulation" or a mistake made by a dockyard worker. The fire delayed the completion of the battleship such that Nevada was able to conduct her sea trials and be commissioned before Oklahoma.
Service history 
Presidential escort 
Oklahoma joined the Atlantic Fleet and was homeported at Norfolk, Virginia. She trained on the eastern seaboard until 13 August 1918, when she joined sister ship Nevada in the task of protecting Allied convoys in European waters. In December she was among the ships that escorted President Woodrow Wilson to France, departing on 14 December for New York City and winter fleet exercises in Cuban waters. She returned to Brest on 15 June 1919 to escort President Wilson in George Washington home from his second visit to France, returning to New York on 8 July.
Overhauled and re-assigned 
A part of the Atlantic Fleet for the next two years, Oklahoma was overhauled and her crew trained. The secondary battery was reduced from 20 to 12 5 in (130 mm)/51 cal guns in 1918. Early in 1921, she voyaged to South America's west coast for combined exercises with the Pacific Fleet, and returned later that year for the Peruvian Centennial. She then joined the Pacific Fleet for six years, highlighted by the cruise of the Battle Fleet to Australia and New Zealand in 1925. Joining the Scouting Fleet in early 1927, Oklahoma continued intensive exercises during that summer's midshipmen Cruise, voyaging to the East Coast to embark midshipmen, carrying them through the Panama Canal to San Francisco, and returning by the way of Cuba and Haiti.
Rescuing Americans and refugees in Spain 
After being modernized by addition of eight 5 in (130 mm)/25 cal guns at Philadelphia between September 1927 and July 1929, Oklahoma rejoined the Scouting Fleet for exercises in the Caribbean, then returned to the west coast in June 1930 for fleet operations through spring 1936. That summer, she carried midshipmen on a European training cruise, visiting northern ports. The cruise was interrupted with the outbreak of civil war in Spain, as Oklahoma sped to Bilbao, arriving on 24 July 1936 to rescue American citizens and other refugees whom she carried to Gibraltar and French ports. She returned to Norfolk on 11 September, and to the West Coast 24 October.
The Pacific Fleet operations of Oklahoma during the next four years included joint operations with the Army and the training of reservists.
Pearl Harbor assignment 
Pre-war Pearl Harbor history 
She was based at Pearl Harbor from 29 December 1937 for patrols and exercises, and only twice returned to the mainland, once to have anti-aircraft guns and armor added to her superstructure at Puget Sound Navy Yard in early February 1941[page needed] and once to have armor replaced at San Pedro in mid August of the same year. En route on 22 August, a severe storm hit Oklahoma, and one man was swept overboard along with three men injured.[page needed] The next morning, a broken outboard coupling on the starboard deck forced the ship to halt, assess the damage, and move to San Francisco, the closest navy yard with an adequate drydock. She would remain in drydock for two months.[page needed]
During the attack on Pearl Harbor 
Based at Pearl Harbor from 29 December 1937 for patrols and exercises, Oklahoma was moored in Battleship Row on 7 December 1941, when the Japanese attacked. Outboard alongside Maryland, Oklahoma took three torpedo hits almost immediately after the first Japanese bombs fell. As she began to capsize, two more torpedoes struck home, and her men were strafed as they abandoned ship.[page needed] Within 12 minutes after the attack began, she had rolled over until halted by her masts touching bottom, her starboard side above water, and a part of her keel exposed.
Many of her crew, however, remained in the fight, clambering aboard Maryland to help serve her anti-aircraft batteries. Four hundred and twenty-nine of her officers and enlisted men were killed or missing. One of those killed—Father Aloysius Schmitt—was the first American chaplain of any faith to die in World War II. Thirty-two others were wounded, and many were trapped within the capsized hull. Julio DeCastro, a Hawaiian civilian yard worker organized a team that saved 32 Oklahoma sailors.[page needed]
Some of those who died later had ships named after them such as Ensign John England for whom USS England (DE-635) and USS England (DLG-22) are named. The USS Austin (DE-15) was named for Chief Carpenter John Arnold Austin who was also posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his actions during the attack. Three Medals of Honor, three Navy and Marine Corps Medals and one Navy Cross were awarded to sailors who served on board the Oklahoma during the attack.[page needed]
The job of salvaging the Oklahoma commenced on 15 July 1942 under the immediate command of Navy Captain F.H. Whitaker and a team from the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard.
Preparations for righting the overturned hull took under eight months to complete. Twenty one derricks were attached to the upturned hull; each carried high-tensile steel cables that were connected to hydraulic winching machines ashore. The righting operation began on 8 March and was completed by 16 June 1943. Teams of naval specialists then entered the previously submerged ship to remove any additional human remains. Cofferdams were then placed around the hull to allow basic repairs to be undertaken so that the ship could be refloated; this work was completed by November. On 28 December, Oklahoma was towed into dry dock No.2 at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard. Once in the dock, her main guns, machinery, and remaining ammunition and stores were removed. The severest structural damage on the hull was also repaired to make the ship watertight.
After several months in the dry dock, the Oklahoma was moved and moored elsewhere in Pearl Harbor. Although there had been initial plans to salvage the ship, Oklahoma was decommissioned on 1 September 1944. All remaining armaments and superstructure were then removed. On 5 December 1946, Oklahoma was sold to Moore Drydock Company of Oakland, California; two days before the fifth anniversary of her sinking.
In May 1947, a two-tug towing operation began to move the hull of the Oklahoma from Pearl Harbor to the scrapyard in San Francisco Bay. However disaster struck on 17 May when the ships entered a storm more than 500 miles (800 km) from Hawaii. The tug Hercules put her searchlight on the former battleship revealing that she had begun listing heavily. After radioing the naval base at Pearl Harbor, both tugs were instructed to turn around and head back to port. But suddenly, without warning, the Hercules was pulled back past the Monarch, which was being dragged backwards at 15 knots herself. The Oklahoma had began to sink straight down causing water to swamp the sterns of both tugs.
Fortuitously both tug skippers, Kelly Sprague of the Hercules and George Anderson of the Monarch, had had the foresight to loosen their cable drums which connected the 1,400 feet (430 m) tow lines to the Oklahoma. As the battleship rapidly sank, the line from the Monarch's quickly played out releasing the tug however the Hercules' cables didn't release until the last possible moment, leaving her tossing and pitching above the grave of the sunken Oklahoma.
In 2003, the U.S. Navy recovered part of the mast of the Oklahoma from the bottom of Pearl Harbor. In 2007, it was flown to Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, then delivered to War Memorial Park in Muskogee, Oklahoma for permanent display.
On 7 December 2011, a memorial for the crew of the Oklahoma was dedicated on Ford Island, just outside the entrance to where the Missouri is docked as a museum. The Missouri is moored where the Oklahoma was moored when she was sunk.
See also 
- List of commanding officers of the USS Oklahoma (BB 37)
- List of U.S. Navy losses in World War II
- Pearl Harbor Survivors Association
- "Pearl Harbor: Why, How, Fleet Salvage and Final Appraisal, Homer N. Wallin,". Naval History Division. Retrieved 10 October 2011.
- DANFS Oklahoma (BB-37).
- Gardiner & Gray 1985, p. 115.
- Fitzsimons 1978, p. 1982.
- Fitzsimons 1978, p. 1982, is mistaken saying four.
- Phister, Hone & Goodyear 2008.
- New York Times 5 January 1912.
- New York Times 13 December 1912.
- New York Times 13 July 1913.
- New York Times 24 March 1914.
- New York Times 20 July 1915.
- New York Times 21 July 1915.
- New York Times 22 July 1915.
- New York Times 19 September 1915.
- New York Times 23 October 1915.
- Breyer 1973, p. 210.
- Newell, p. 42.
- Newell, p. 39.
- Newell, p. 39, 42.
- Oklahoma Memorial.
- This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.
- Beigel, Harvey M. (2004). Parallel Fates: The USS Utah (BB 31/AG-16) and the USS Oklahoma (BB-37) in Peace and War. Missoula, Montana: Pictorial Histories Publishing Co. ISBN 1-57510-113-0.
- Breyer, Siegfried (1973). Battleships and Battle Cruisers 1905–1970. Doubleday and Company. ISBN 0-385-07247-3.
- Fitzsimons, Bernard, ed. (1978). "Nevada". Illustrated Encyclopedia of 20th Century Weapons and Warfare 18. London: Phoebus. p. 1982.
- Gardiner, Robert; Gray, Randal (1985). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships: 1906–1921. London: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-87021-907-3.
- Madsen, Daniel (2003). Resurrection-Salvaging the Battle Fleet at Pearl Harbor. U. S. Naval Institute Press.
- Newell, Gordon (1957). Pacific Tugboats. Seattle, Washington: Superior Publishing.
- Phister, Jeff; Hone, Thomas; Goodyear, Paul (2008). "1". Battleship Oklahoma: BB-37. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 978-0-8061-3936-4.
- Young, Stephen Bower (1991). Trapped at Pearl Harbor: Escape for Battleship Oklahoma. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press.
- "Oklahoma". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Navy Department, Naval History & Heritage Command. Retrieved 18 September 2011.
- "USS Oklahoma Memorial Official Site". Retrieved 4 December 2011.
New York Times
- "Battleship Bids In". The New York Times. 5 January 1912. p. 2. Retrieved 27 September 2011.
- "Navy Yard Still In Lead". The New York Times. 13 December 1912. p. 6. Retrieved 27 September 2011.
- "Two Best Warships to be Built for U.S.". The New York Times. 13 July 1913. p. 9. Retrieved 27 September 2011.
- "Giant U.S. Warship Takes the Water". The New York Times. 24 March 1914. p. 8. Retrieved 27 September 2011.
- "Two Fires Break Out on New Dreadnought". The New York Times. 20 July 1915. p. 1. Retrieved 27 September 2011.
- "Navy Investigating Fires on Oklahoma". The New York Times. 21 July 1915. p. 2. Retrieved 27 September 2011.
- "[No Title]". The New York Times. 22 July 1915. p. 4. Retrieved 27 September 2011.
- "Mightiest U.S. Ship Coming". The New York Times. 19 September 1915. p. 12. Retrieved 27 September 2011.
- "The Nevada Leaves Quincy". The New York Times. 23 October 1915. p. 5. Retrieved 27 September 2011.
- "Ill-Fated Battleship Dies at Sea". The State (20,417) (Columbia, S.C.). AP. 18 May 1947. p. 1-A.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: USS Oklahoma (BB-37)|
- US Navy Historical Center gallery
- Maritimequest USS Oklahoma BB-37 Photo Gallery
- 2003: Survivors dedicate Pearl Harbor USS Oklahoma Memorial highway
- Photo gallery of BB-37 USS Oklahoma 1912–1919 at NavSource Naval History
- USS Oklahoma (BB-37) official web site