By Jug Varner

The 429 Navy men who died aboard the battleship USS Oklahoma during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor received their own special tribute in a special ceremony in Honolulu on the 63rd anniversary of that infamous attack.

Next to the USS Arizona 1,177 personnel losses, the Oklahoma’s 429 were the next highest number of any ship’s casualties in the harbor on that that fateful morning in 1941. Officials honored these heroes December 7, 2004 with a new photo-artifacts-oral history exhibit.

Special guests included USS Oklahoma Survivors Association president Paul Goodyear and five other Oklahoma shipmates, all now in their 80s, along with U.S. Representative Tom Cole (R-OK). Goodyear spearheaded arrangements for the long-overdue tribute to the fighting men of this gallant ship “before the last of the remaining survivors were deceased.”

Simultaneous ceremonies were held for the USS Oklahoma on shore at the National Park Service Visitors Center and on board the USS Arizona Memorial. Each featured a silent pause at 7:55 a.m. - the minute the attack started. The Japanese Navy launched this surprise attack against Pearl Harbor and other military bases on Oahu from their undetected aircraft carriers far North of the Islands. It lasted two hours.

According to the National Park Service which maintains the Arizona Memorial, the attack destroyed or heavily damaged 22 ships, 322 aircraft, killed some 2,390 people and wounded another 1,178. Anchored next to the USS Maryland in battleship Row off Ford Island, the Oklahoma took the brunt of Japanese torpedoes, leaving the Maryland relatively intact.

The Navy floated the sunken ship in 1945 and sold it for scrap, but it sunk in deep Pacific waters during its tow on course to California.