Remembering the Men of the USS Oklahoma

It has been 66 years since 429 brave Americans died aboard the USS Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor.  Sixty-six years, and yet to this very day, those of us who survived the attack can still smell the oil burning on the water, hear the explosions and the cries of our shipmates, and then the quiet tapping sounds as we tried to cut through the ship to save those who were trapped inside.  A few were saved, but others drowned before they could be rescued.

It is for those 429 that we have struggled these past several years to finally create an appropriate memorial to their service, sacrifices and to their lives.  This memorial is not about us, nor is it a monument to the military or any other entity.  It is for the men and boys who were buried in graves that simply say “unknown.”  But they are not unknown, and finally, their names will forever be memorialized on 429 marble markers on Ford Island in Hawaii, not far from where the USS Oklahoma was moored on December 7, 1941.

When we broke ground on this memorial in 2006, there were 105 survivors still alive.  As of this December, there are only 92 of us left.  All along, we have been in a race against time, hoping that at least some of us would still be here to help dedicate this memorial to our fallen brothers. 

We owe thanks to so many people, and cannot possibly begin to thank each of them here, but there are some individuals in particular who must be recognized—without them, this would not have been possible.  First, we want to thank Kevin King.  His vision helped make our dream a reality.  We want to thank Governor Brad Henry, the Oklahoma Centennial Commission, Aubrey McClendon and Chesepeake Energy as well as the ONEOK Corporation and employees, and the countless Oklahomans who contributed financially to the memorial.  Congressman Tom Cole was of tremendous assistance in cutting through the red-tape and bureaucracy.  We want to thank U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe for his assistance as well.  We also want to thank El Luber and Tucker McHugh of the USS Memorial Project Executive Committee, architect Don Beck, and
companies such as Red Carpet Charters, Swift Trucking and so many others for in-kind contributions. 
We especially want to thank State Senator Jim Reynolds for his leadership and friendship.  He was a part of this project from the beginning and always stood by the survivors and our wishes for this memorial.  Jim did all the right things for all the right reasons, and without him, we would likely not have brought our dream to fruition.

December 7, 1941, will forever be remembered as “a day of infamy.”  December 7, 2007, will forever be remembered as the day the 429 who died were finally given the memorial they have so long deserved.  If you listen, deep-down in your heart, you will hear 429 thank-yous.

About the Authors:
Paul Goodyear of Arizona and Ed Vezey of Colorado are survivors of the USS Oklahoma