- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 6, 2016

GROVE, Okla. (AP) - As a child, Carl Reherman said he often studied the story of the USS Oklahoma and its role at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

He said he was fascinated about the ship’s history - how it was destroyed in battle claiming the lives of more than 400 crew members, and how when attempts were made to raise the ship for salvage, it broke away from its tow and sank into 12,000 feet of the Pacific Ocean.

The Grove Sun (https://bit.ly/2g5kSXE ) reports that fascination led to Reherman, then mayor of the city of Edmond, to be part of a group that helped develop the current USS Oklahoma memorial at Ford Island.

On Dec. 7, 2007, Reherman and his wife, Glo, traveled with the official delegation of 100 men and women from Oklahoma to attend the dedication that memorial.

Reherman said the memorial, which honors those who died on that fateful Sunday, is “quite simple” and made from black and white marble.

But the white standards, which stand behind the black marble base, leave visitors feeling “very emotional.”

Reherman, who now resides in Grove, recalls the dedication ceremony.

As U.S. Navy officials spoke, a rumble of voices could be heard. Reherman said the crowd noises grew louder and louder.

“They told us those were the voices of the sailors and Marines who died on the Oklahoma,” Reherman said. “I’ll never forget that day.”

Reherman, who had visited Pearl Harbor previously, said after that day, visiting the Oklahoma and other memorials took on a “whole new meaning.”

He finds it significant that the Oklahoma memorial is only one of three on Ford Island. It joins the USS Missouri, the site of the end of WWII, and the USS Arizona, which marks the beginning.

“I think that the Oklahoma has a special place (in U.S. Navy) history,” Reherman said.

For Samuel Cox, a retired Rear Admiral who serves as the director of the Naval History and Heritage Command and is the Curator of the Navy, the Oklahoma plays a significant role in the events of Dec. 7, 1941.

While much of the focus of the history of Pearl Harbor rests with the USS Arizona, Cox said the USS Oklahoma is worthy of attention.

While smaller in numbers, the second largest number of sailors perished on the Oklahoma during the Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese attack.

“(With) 1,177 killed on the Arizona because of a catastrophic magazine explosion, they are the most famous of the casualties of Pearl Harbor,” Cox said.

Cox said the Oklahoma’s casualties, 429 of the 1,400 members of the crew, died when the ship rapidly capsized as a result of the numerous torpedo hits.

Cox said on each visit to Pearl Harbor, he finds himself going to the Arizona and the Oklahoma memorials, to pay respect to those who died on that day in 1941.

He said, like the names on the Vietnam Memorial wall, he finds the names listed on both the Arizona and Oklahoma memorials, to make a significant impact.

“You can’t go there and look at it and not be incredibly moved,” Cox said. “I go to pay respect to those who allowed me to live my life of freedom.

“We owe a lot to what they sacrificed.”

The USS Missouri sits almost on the exact spot where the Oklahoma sunk.

Sitting on Battleship Row, near Ford Island, the Missouri represents the end of the war, while the Arizona and Oklahoma represent the beginning.

Cox said it’s appropriate that the Missouri has found its home in Pearl Harbor, as people can stand on the spot where the war ended, and look out over the water to see the Arizona memorial - where the war began.

“It’s powerful,” Cox said. “In the sense, you can see the beginning and end (of the war) in one view.”

The USS Oklahoma ceremony, set for 5 p.m. CST, Wednesday, Dec. 7, (1 p.m. in Hawaii) is designed to commemorate the loss of the ship and 429 of its crew members.

The Oklahoma was torpedoed relentlessly and capsized within 14 minutes. It represents the second greatest loss of life of the ships struck at Pearl Harbor.

Since the inception of the Memorial on Ford Island, the National Park Service has conducted on every Dec. 7 a special ceremony in the early afternoon of that honored day. The event is open to the public.

Those slated to participate include Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb and the Pacific Fleet Band.

Admiral Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, is slated to present the keynote presentation. The event will also include a wreath presentation, a salute to the fallen by the rifle detail, the playing of taps and a floral tribute.

Until 2007, the memorial for the USS Oklahoma at Ford Island was limited to plaques.

A majority of the sailors and marines who died were buried, unidentified, in “Punchbowl Cemetery” or the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

In 2000, a movement began to bring about a monument to the Oklahoma on Battleship Row. In 2006, then-President George W. Bush signed the memorial into law, entrusted to the National Park Service.

The memorial features black marble, designed to represent the hull of the Oklahoma. It has 429 white marble standards, created to represent the sailors and Marines who died, symbolizing them in white dress uniform standing in the naval tradition of manning the rails.

Each standard lists the name of a sailor or Marine who died in the attack.

A ceremony honoring National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day and the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor will take place at the USS Oklahoma anchor located at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 7, at Campbell Park, in Oklahoma City.

Hosted by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the ceremony will honor our veterans and pay tribute to those who gave their lives. The event will include special guests and feature a short program and refreshments.

In 1943, U.S. Navy officials began a process to salvage and attempt to repair the USS Oklahoma. It broke free in transit between Hawaii and San Francisco.

In 1947, the Navy located a piece of the fire control tower support during a dredging operation. Due to a three-year, multi-group effort, the Navy agreed to loan the mast to the Muskogee War Memorial Park.

In 2010, the mast came home to Oklahoma by way of Tinker Air Force Base.


Information from: The Grove Sun Daily, https://www.grovesun.com

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