Pearl Harbor attacks commemorated

Jaymes Song and Jaymes Song

HONOLULU — Sixty-three years after the sneak attack that plunged the United States into World War II, hundreds of men who died aboard the battleship USS Oklahoma are finally getting their own special tribute.

A new exhibit of photos, artifacts and oral histories was unveiled yesterday to honor the 429 men from the Oklahoma who died in the Dec. 7, 1941 attack. That is the second-highest number of Pearl Harbor casualties behind the USS Arizona, where most of its 1,177 killed crewmen remain entombed.

The anniversary also will be marked with simultaneous ceremonies today aboard the Arizona Memorial above that sunken battleship, and on shore at the National Park Service’s visitors center. Each ceremony was to feature a silence pause at 7:55 a.m. — the minute the attack started.

While the better-known Arizona has a gleaming white memorial straddling its hull, the Oklahoma has gone largely unrecognized over the years.

Yesterday, Paul Goodyear, head of the USS Oklahoma Survivors Association, and five other survivors were to join Republican Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma at the exhibit’s unveiling at the Pearl museum and visitors center.

Goodyear, who organizes an annual USS Oklahoma reunion, had lobbied for the exhibit at the Oklahoma state capitol earlier this year.

“The youngest of our survivors is already 80,” he said then. “If we don’t do this now, these men will be completely forgotten. Is that the way we thank them for their supreme sacrifice they made for this country?”

When it sank, the Oklahoma was anchored off Ford Island on Battleship Row in the middle of the harbor, next to the USS Maryland. The Oklahoma took the brunt of the torpedoes, leaving the Maryland relatively intact.

The Oklahoma was refloated in 1943 and sold for scrap after the war, but it sank in the Pacific while being towed to California.

The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and other military bases on Oahu lasted two hours. Twenty-one ships were heavily damaged, and 320 aircraft were damaged or destroyed. In all, about 2,390 people were killed and about 1,178 were wounded, according to the National Park Service, which maintains the Arizona site.