Base association remembers USS Oklahoma

Petty Officer 3rd Class Kristofer Piros, Strategic Communications Wing ONE, and state Rep. Gary Banz listen during the Aug. 16 Tinker Management Association luncheon as USS Oklahoma survivor Paul Goodyear holds a copy of the U.S. Constitution he presented to Petty Officer Piros in a ceremony symbolizing passing the responsibility of defending the constitution from one generation to the next. (Air Force photo by Dave Faytinger)

Petty Officer 3rd Class Kristofer Piros, Strategic Communications Wing ONE, and state Rep. Gary Banz listen during the Aug. 16 Tinker Management Association luncheon as USS Oklahoma survivor Paul Goodyear holds a copy of the U.S. Constitution he presented to Petty Officer Piros in a ceremony symbolizing passing the responsibility of defending the constitution from one generation to the next. (Air Force photo by Dave Faytinger)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE -- Tinker Management Association members were taken back to Dec. 7, 1941 at this month's luncheon.
   District 101 State Rep. Gary Banz interviewed 89-year-old Paul Goodyear, a crewmember aboard USS Oklahoma during the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor.
   Mr. Goodyear, then a 23 year-old signalman third class and supervisor of the signal watch, witnessed the first Japanese bombs strike the sea plane hanger on Ford Island, he said.
   "The Oklahoma was a happy ship. It was always considered good duty to be on the Oklahoma," Mr. Goodyear said.
   The USS Oklahoma, also known as the BB-37, suffered the second highest number of causalities, 429, of all nine ships in the harbor. USS Arizona lost 1,177 crew members.
   Mr. Goodyear explained how an unusual course of events left the harbor exposed. He said they weren't even supposed to be there.
   "We went for a training session in 1940 and somebody in Washington decided we would stay there," he said.
   Mr. Goodyear said Adm. James Richardson, U.S. Fleet commander-in-chief until Feb. 1941, didn't want to be there and neither did the crew members because it was not a home port, therefore Sailors couldn't bring their families.
   As the weekend approached in that first week of December 1941, the officer in tactical command ordered all ships to the harbor, which was unusual, Mr. Goodyear said, because normally only certain ships were ordered to the harbor. 
   The USS Oklahoma had orders to have an admiral inspection. On Friday night, the crew began preparing for the inspection, including opening a series of water tight doors and hatches that compartmentalize the ship and protect the vessel from total damage if one section is struck.
   "Everything in our ship was opened up, including our torpedo blisters," Mr. Goodyear said. "Instead of being a combat ship, we became an eggshell."
   At least nine torpedoes hit the USS Oklahoma that Sunday morning and because there was no compartmentalization, the Oklahoma capsized at 8:08 a.m.
   "There was a 250-foot gash and that water was coming in," Mr. Goodyear recalls. "We just rolled over in 11 and a half minutes and those kids were trapped in there."
   Currently, the USS Oklahoma is the only one of the nine ships in the harbor that does not have a memorial. As part of the Oklahoma Centennial Project, the USS Memorial at Pearl Harbor will be dedicated Dec. 7 this year.
   With the memorial of the USS Oklahoma's past, it is time to look forward to the future, Rep. Banz said.
   The luncheon featured and Exchange Zone ceremony. The ceremony is named for the most critical part of a relay race, the passing of the baton, in the area known as the exchange zone, said Rep. Banz. The ceremony was to symbolize the passing of the baton from one generation to the next.
   "For society or civilization to survive, it must successfully pass, from one generation to the next, the traditions and values they embrace," Rep. Banz said. 
   Petty Officer 3rd Class Kristofer Piros, an aviation machinist mate with Strategic Communications Wing ONE, accepted the baton made of a rolled up parchment copy of the U.S. Constitution from Mr. Goodyear as a symbolic reminder for everyone to do their part in defending the constitution and the American way of life.