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Battleship memorial to honor WWII dead

By Michael McNutt Published: May 20, 2006
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.

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The Oklahoma Centennial Commission will raise $100,000 in private funds for the project.

USS Oklahoma

  • It was authorized by an act of Congress on March 4, 1911, and the keel was laid in 1912.

  • The ship was 583 feet long and about 108 feet wide.

  • The Oklahoma was christened on March 23, 1914, by the daughter of Oklahoma's Gov. Lee Cruce.

  • The ship joined the World War I fight in August 1918.

  • The USS Oklahoma capsized after the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor.

  • 429 men died -- the battle's second-highest casualty total, behind only the USS Arizona.



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