On December 7, 1941, the Japanese planes came at dawn, without warning, dropping out of the sky with a devastating hail of bombs and torpedoes that would sink ships, kill American servicemen by the thousands, and change the course of history. Moored at Pearl Harbor on the fateful day of December 7, 1941, was the battleship U.S.S. Oklahoma. As the ship sank, 429 sailors and marines lost their lives. It was the second highest number of casualties among the ships in the harbor that day.
Sixty-five years later, Oklahoma is ready to honor those who served on its namesake battleship. On December 7, 2006, Governor Brad Henry and U.S.S. Oklahoma survivors gathered at Pearl Harbor to break ground for a memorial commemorating the service and sacrifice of those who lost their lives in the bombing. Those who, in the words of President Abraham Lincoln, gave “the last full measure of devotion.” Edmond resident Tucker McHugh is one of the key individuals working to make this remembrance possible.
"We’re trying to correct a shameful oversight. This is what we do in America. We honor our fallen veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice," said McHugh. "We want to make sure those who served and perished on the ship are honored in a proper and lasting manner.”
McHugh, a retired Navy Commander and Senior Vice President of Lending at First Commercial Bank, along with retired Rear Admiral Greg Slavonic, Account Executive with KFOR, serve as co-chairs of the executive committee for the memorial. To date, more than half of the necessary funds has been raised. The committee’s goal is $750,000.
The memorial, designed by local architect Don Beck of Beck and Associates, pays fitting tribute to the lost veterans, presenting their sacrifice in a moving, tasteful and historically accurate fashion. Like the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., the names of the lost are inscribed on the "wall" of the chevron-shaped monument. Also presented are the specifications for the U.S.S. Oklahoma, along with inspiring quotes that capture the attitude of those that fought on the ship.
Behind the granite wall is a touching "field of standards," one for each of the 429 sailors and marines that were killed. In the middle is a lighted American flag that will fly twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. It is hoped that an actual authenticated piece of the U.S.S. Oklahoma, a partial portion of one of the tripod masts, can be incorporated into the design.
At the groundbreaking, Governor Henry, urged others to support the memorial and stated, “This memorial will help all of us remember the full impact of that infamous day. Equally important is the simple fact that a memorial to those who perished on the U.S.S. Oklahoma is long deserved. Of the three battleships attacked at Pearl Harbor that did not subsequently return to action – the Arizona, the Utah, and the Oklahoma – only the U.S.S. Oklahoma is still without a memorial commemorating it.”
McHugh concurs with Governor Henry and hopes that visitors to the finished memorial will realize, in his words, “Freedom is not free. These lost lives are what it costs.”
State Senator Jim Reynolds (R – Oklahoma City), instrumental in the early organization of the memorial project, proudly notes, “It is deeply important to remember those that made this kind of sacrifice. When we honor one veteran we honor them all and this project has been a real labor of love for me. It’s my favorite thing I’ve done as an elected official.”
Though ground has been broken for the monument, fund-raising for the effort is still underway. Tax-deductible donations can be sent to U.S.S. Oklahoma Memorial, P.O. Box 7734, Edmond, OK 73083-7734, or call (405) 348-3737 for more information.