Long overdue, groundbreaking on a memorial for the 429 crewmen who died on the USS Oklahoma will take place this year in Hawaii on the 65th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack that capsized the battleship. Plans call for the memorial to be dedicated Dec. 7, 2007, Oklahoma's centennial year. A fund-raising effort for the $750,000 memorial was kicked off Friday at a news conference at the state Capitol. The USS Oklahoma Memorial Committee's goal of $750,000 will pay for the memorial as well as provide perpetual maintenance funds under the direction of the National Park Service. The memorial will be on Ford Island, near where the USS Oklahoma capsized. Gov. Brad Henry announced that the Oklahoma Centennial Commission would raise $100,000 in private funds for the project. It also was announced that the Inasmuch Foundation would donate $50,000. Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin asked Oklahomans to help by donating $1 each. Fallin said it is important to get the memorial completed as soon as possible. "The youngest survivors of the Oklahoma are now in their 80s, and they want to see this memorial in their lifetime," she said. Ed Vezey, who was assigned to the battleship in April 1941 and was a 21-year-old ensign when the attack occurred, said about 120 survivors remain. "We're going pretty fast," said Vezey. Vezey, 85, said there was no warning of the attack that killed his roommate, Frank Flaherty, and 428 others. "We separated, he went to his battle station, to his death, to a congressional Medal of Honor," Vezey said. "I went to my station and did nothing but survive. I'm so thankful to see this memorial going up to represent him as well as all the rest of the crew that was snuffed out that day so abruptly." Don Beck, an Oklahoma City architect, has volunteered to design the monument. He met with some survivors and has a preliminary design, said Beck, who designed the Oklahoma History Center. "We thought that the memorial should be more than just simply a brass plaque or a historical marker in the ground," Beck said. "What evolved out of these discussions is that the memorial would contain 429 three-dimensional elements to represent each lost soul." The site is hallowed ground, he said, because it is the exact area where the sailors and Marines came ashore after the battleship capsized. State Sen. Jim Reynolds began working on the project about five years ago. "The crewmen of the USS Oklahoma were heroes, and they deserve this honor," said Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City. The Dec. 7, 1941, attack at Pearl Harbor put the USS Oklahoma out of commission. The ship stayed in the harbor and eventually was stripped of its superstructure and was prepared for a tow in 1947 to San Francisco, where it would have been sold as scrap. "By God's mercy, it broke its tow and sunk and sits at the bottom of the Pacific," Reynolds said. "It's not scrap metal today."
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The Oklahoma Centennial Commission will raise $100,000 in private funds for the project. USS Oklahoma