The Indian Removal Act was signed into law by President Andrew Jackson on May 28, 1830, authorizing the president to grant unsettled lands west of the Mississippi in exchange for Indian lands within existing state borders.
This generally involved the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chicasaw and Seminole; the Indians were to give up their lands east of the Mississippi (typically in the southeast) in exchange for lands to the west. (LOC)
After 11-million acres of Choctaw land was acquired, the Choctaw were to be removed from Mississippi. It was determined that the best method of handling the removal was to move about one-third of the Choctaws per year in each of the years 1831, 1832 and 1833.
The first one-third of the Choctaws started to be removed on November 1, 1831. Overall, nearly 15,000 Choctaws made the move to what would be called Indian Territory (later known as Oklahoma.) (Green)
When the first wagons reached Little Rock, in an interview with an Arkansas Gazette reporter, one of the Choctaw Chiefs (thought to be either Thomas Harkins or Nitikechi) was quoted as saying that the removal to that point had been a “trail of tears and death.”
In the Choctaw language, okla means ‘people;’ homma or humma means ‘red.’ ‘Okla Homma’ translates to ‘Red People’ in Choctaw. On November 16, 1907, Oklahoma was admitted as the forty-sixth of the United States.
In 1911 Congress authorized the building of two battleships, the Nevada and the Oklahoma, to be a modern symbol of the power of the United States (These two battleships were to be the first to burn oil as fuel instead of coal.)
Oklahoma (BB-37) was laid down October 26, 1912 by New York Shipbuilding Corp, Camden, NJ. The ship was christened in March 23, 1914 by Lorena Jane Cruce, daughter of Oklahoma’s Governor, Lee Cruce. Ms. Cruce struck the ship with a bottle of champagne while stating, “In the name of the United States, I christen thee ‘Oklahoma.’”
The Navy had earlier convinced Governor Cruce that it was tradition to use champagne in christening ships. (The Governor had not liked the idea of using champagne to launch a ship named for his state)
The USS Oklahoma was commissioned at Philadelphia on May 2, 1916 with Captain Roger Welles commanding; the commissioning statement noted “that the Oklahoma might never become a mere instrument of destruction nor of strife, but a minister of peace and a guardian of rights and interests of mankind, protecting the weak against the strong.”
Attending the commissioning was the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Franklin D Roosevelt. (As president, Roosevelt would later declare war on Japan in 1941 after the attack at Pearl Harbor.) (Oklahoma Genealogical Society Quarterly)
The Oklahoma, a 27,500-ton Nevada class battleship, needed 2,166 sailors and marines to function properly. She could travel 20,000 miles without refueling. She carried ten 14-inch guns.
The guns on battleships are so big, that they rate them on how large their ammunition is in diameter. A 14-inch gun has shells that are 14 inches in diameter and weigh about 1,400 pounds each. Each of the Oklahoma’s guns could fire almost twelve miles. That’s farther than anyone could see, even with binoculars or a telescope. (OKHistory)
Joining the Atlantic Fleet with Norfolk her home port, Oklahoma trained on the eastern seaboard until sailing 13 August 1918 with sister ship Nevada to join in the task of protecting Allied convoys in European waters.
She then joined the Pacific Fleet for six years highlighted by the cruise of the Battle Fleet to Australia and New Zealand in 1925. She joined the Scouting Fleet in early 1927, Oklahoma was modernized at Philadelphia between September 1927 and July 1929 and conducted exercises in the Caribbean.
In August 1940, the Oklahoma had been in drydock in Puget Sound, Washington after participating in Army/Navy exercises. She was backing down Puget Sound in the fog and hit a tow line of a barge carrying railroad cars which sent railroad cars into the water. A Navy ship had never before collided with a train. (Oklahoma Genealogical Society Quarterly)
She was based at Pearl Harbor December 6, 1940 for patrols and exercises, and was moored in Battleship Row on December 7, 1941 when the Japanese attacked.
Outboard alongside Maryland, Oklahoma took 3 torpedo hits almost immediately after the first Japanese bombs fell. As she began to capsize, 2 more torpedoes struck home, and her men were strafed as they abandoned ship.
Within 20 minutes after the attack began, she had swung over until halted by her masts touching bottom, her starboard side above water, and a part of her keel clear.
The Oklahoma capsized in a position parallel to the shore. Righting and refloating started with the first pull March 8, 1943, the final pull was on May 20, 1943 – it took 74-days to turn the ship over. She was floated by pumping air into air-tight compartments and pumping water out of the hull.
Too old and badly damaged to be worth returning to service, Oklahoma was formally decommissioned in September 1944. She was later sold to the Moore Drydock Co of Oakland, California, for scrapping. On May 17, 1947, while under tow, the Oklahoma sank 540-miles out of Pearl Harbor with no one on board.
In the attack on Pearl Harbor, there were 2,402 US deaths from the attack. 1,177 of those deaths were from the USS Arizona, while 429 of the deaths were from the USS Oklahoma (14 Marines and 415 Sailors.)
Thirty-five crew members were positively identified and buried in the years immediately after the attack. By 1950, all unidentified remains were laid to rest as unknowns at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.
Recently, the Defense Department recovered for identification and return to families the last of 388 sailors and Marines killed on the battleship USS Oklahoma on December 7, 1941, and later buried as “unknowns” in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl. (Lots of information here is from Navy.)
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Terry Razor says
I re-enlisted aboard USS Wisconsin in Norfolk VA just before she was decommissioned. According to the COB (Chief of the Boat) I was the only non-naval military person to ever enlist or re-enlist aboard an Active Duty Battleship.
Anna Derby Blackwell says
“Passing Alcatraz” looks more like passing south of Oahu (Barber’s Point – Pupukea )