Tag Archives: History

Our World – The USS Batfish, Oklahoma’s WWII Submarine

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Logan and I ventured down to the town of Muskogee, Oklahoma to look at the USS Batfish. A World War II United States Navy Submarine that is on display there. The Batfish has a distinguished war record highlighted by sinking three Japanese submarines in a 76 hour period. You can read about the history of the Batfish and its war record here.

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The thing about submarines is how cramped they are even though they look big on the outside. They are a war machine after all designed to sink other ships and so everything is secondary to that. Above Logan is standing next to the diesel engines that powered the vessel. I know a little bit about those engines. They are Fairbanks Morse engines and they pack a lot of power in a small space. They have two crankshafts and each power cylinder has two pistons. The crankshafts are linked together.

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Above is an illustration of how it works. I know about them because when pollution regulations really started hitting the energy industry in the 1970’s, somebody figured out that you buy these engines  and derated the horsepower , then the the NOx emissions were very low. So a lot of old submarine engines powered natural gas compressors until manufacturers developed the technology to make new engines very low emitters of NOx. The thing I always wondered about was that the Fairbanks Morse engines were notorious for being VERY LOUD. I don’t know how the submariners could stand it.  (Sorry for the digression)

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I don’t think my 6’3″ son should sign up for the submarine service.

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The vessel is packed with dials, gauges, valves, and all sorts of gadgets. The sub is open and there are very few “don’t touch” signs.

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The sleeping areas are very small. These are triple bunks with very little room. They had cots over the torpedoes. They only had enough beds for half the crew. The crew had to share beds. Yuck.

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All the areas had double duty, dining table, game table, conference table.

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Not too many toilets either and they were not that easy to operate.

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The USS Batfish is part of the Muskogee War Memorial Park and they have a nice little museum and other information. Before you visit check out their facebook page to make sure they are open. There is a small admission charge. The place is run by volunteers who really have a passion for the submarine.

How did a submarine come to be placed in Oklahoma The Wikipedia entry for the submarine has the backstory. The submarine was placed on six barges and towed from the Mississippi River to Muskogee on the McLellen Kerr Navigation System, a 445 mile long water way with multiple locks and dams that has made Tulsa’s Port of Catoosa the most inland seaport in the country.

We had a good time and spent a couple of hours and I “found” a virtual geocache placed in the submarine.

I’m linking with Our World Tuesday

Our World Tuesday – Fort Reno, Oklahoma

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Recently I stopped in Fort Reno just west of Oklahoma City. Fort Reno has a long history. It was initially built in 1875 for the US Cavalry to monitor the Southern Cheyenne and Southern Arapahoe Indians in the area. As time went on and the Indian Wars subsided the post was converted to an Army Remount Facility operated by the Army Quartermaster Corps with the purpose of breeding, raising, and training horses and mules for the military. It held that function until 1947 along with a brief interlude as a prisoner of war facility during World War II. The property is now administered by the US Department of Agriculture as an Agricultural Research Station.

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I love the many old buildings. Many of which are restored. Above is an old Officer’s Quarters.  It looks in good shape on the outside. I wonder what life was like back in day living out in the middle of nowhere.

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One of the original mule barns that it is being restored.

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I love the cemetery located a quarter mile or so from the rest of the post. Lots of old graves here, many marked, “unknown” , a few soldiers who died during the Indian wars and lots of employees and family from the Remount Station days.

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In a walled off section of the cemetery are graves of German and Italian soldiers who were prisoners of war during World War II. They didn’t all die here. Oklahoma had several POW camps and after the war the men who died were all disinterred and brought to Fort Reno.

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The Italian soldiers were all buried together and somebody keeps their graves decorated. A few of the men have been disinterred by the families and the remains returned to Italy.

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This is the most famous POW buried at Fort Reno. Johannes Kunze was a member of Rommel’s Afrika Corps and was taken prisoner in north Africa and sent to Oklahoma. He turned into an informant for the Americans and was found out and brutally murdered by his fellow prisoners. The Americans picked out five prisoners and charged them  with murder.  They stood trial, defended by an Army picked civilian attorney who had never practiced criminal law. The Army prosecutor was Leon Jaworski who later found fame as the Special Prosecutor during the Watergate scandals. Of course the five Germans were found guilty and were hung by the Army at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas right after the war ended. I posted about this last year.  I just love stuff like this.

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Speaking of Prisoners of War. The Germans built this chapel at the Fort during WWII. You can rent it for a wedding or other occasion. I think that would be cool.Check on how to do it here.

Our World Tuesday

Our World – New Route 66 Monument in Tulsa

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a bonus shadow selfie

Tulsa’s Howard Park right on Route 66 in the city’s gritty industrial west side has a brand spanking new monument consisting of three big sculpted pillars of Indiana Limestone by Utah artist Patrick Sullivan.

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The pillars depict Tulsa sights like Cain’s Ballroom, art deco architecture, the energy, aviation, and railroad industries and Native American heritage.

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I love stuff like this. This monument is here to stay. An F5 tornado may topple them but they are not going anywhere.

An article from Route 66 News with video and a lot of the backstory on the monument and the artist who created it.

Howard Park’s Facebook site

I’m linking with Our World Tuesday

 

Pearl Harbor Day

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Japanese naval aircraft prepare to take off from an aircraft carrier (reportedly Shokaku) to attack Pearl Harbor during the morning of 7 December 1941. Captured Japanese Photograph courtesy of the National Museum of the U.S. Navy on Flickr Commons, public domain

Seventy Five years ago 365 Japanese aircraft from six aircraft carriers attacked Pearl Harbor.

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A Japanese Navy “Zero” fighter (tail code A1-108) takes off from the aircraft carrier Akagi, on its way to attack Pearl Harbor. Courtesy of the National Archives on Flickr Commons

The Japanese damaged eight Battleships, sinking four, and sunk or damged numerous other ships, 188 landbased aircraft, and other facilties.

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Photograph from a Japanese aircraft of the attack on Peal Harbor. Courtesy of the National Museum of the U.S. Navy on Flickr Commons

2,403 Americans were killed and 1,178 others were wounded

Naval photograph documenting the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii which initiated US participation in World War II. Navy's caption: The battleship USS ARIZONA sinking after being hit by Japanese air attack on Dec. 7,1941., 12/07/1941

USS Arizona after attack on Pearl Harbor. Photo courtesy of the US National Archives on Flickr Commons

The Japanese attack, along with numerous other attacks at other American facilities the same day, was meant to keep America from interfering with Japanese plans to dominate Asia.

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USS Shaw Exploding during the Pearl Harbor Attack. Courtesy of the State Archives of North Carolina, on Flickr Commons

It didn’t work. All it did was make the United States to declare war on Japan.

NO_41_12_395 Front page of the Raleigh N and O-Japan Declares War

Courtesy of the State Archives of North Carolina

Japan awoke the sleeping giant and made us mad. It took several years but we beat them.

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National Archives at College Park – Archives II (College Park, MD) on Flickr Commons

It is one of those events that wwe will never forget. We were caught unawares and paid the price. Nothing like it ever happened again until the radical Islamic cowards killed thousands of civilians in the US years later.

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So a couple years ago we got to visit the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.

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Normally I take lots of photographs everywhere I go, but it didn’t seem right to do so when I was actually there. The place is so sacred and humbling. Time stands still.  It is actually a tomb for sailors whose bodies are still inside the ship.

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Across the way, is the USS Missouri. My brother Bob served on her during the 80’s when she re-entered service. I got to attend the rechristening in San Francisco. That was a highlight of my life.

I am linking with Skywatch Friday

The Chapel at Fort Reno

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Fort Reno has a chapel built by German Prisoners of War in 1944. It is a solid concrete structure with a basement. I don’t think any church services are held there but you can rent it for a wedding for a mere $500.  There are some by gum federal government paperwork to get the required permits out so if you are going to rent it, start early. And if you are going to toast the bride and groom with anything stronger than ginger ale, don’t do it here.

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So I couldn’t find out who designed it or if they just told the prisoners to go build it or just what but it has a definite German feeling on the outside and a kind of Western/German vibe on the interior.

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The windows are a translucent yellow and the walls and ceiling are pine and so the interior is very yellow, subdued and kind of pleasant. It is simple yet gets the job done.

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I loved the ceiling joists, and the chandeliers, they show a definite sense of style. 

Downstairs is a fully equipped kitchen and a big dining room. Just saying if you were wanting to have a wedding and reception with an old west military flair this would be just the place.

Ghosts of Fort Reno

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The Fort Reno Visitor Center. The nicest vintage building in the fort. Formerly it was Officer’s Quarters built in 1936. 

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The trees of the Fort tell the history with the wind whistling through them. they have been through broiling hot summers, freezing winters, drought, ice storms, and tornadoes. The ones that survive are ugly but tough. I think there are ghosts here, ghosts of soldiers, their families, and over 1300 prisoners of war. The ghost of Amelia Earhart is here, she flew here. Will Rogers used to visit because of the polo matches, Frederic Remington spent time here making drawings of the Soldiers and Native Americans.

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These two trees with their parallel lean look like they are dancing.

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The guardhouse. It doesn’t look like a good place to go for a timeout.

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The Commissary a long rambling building. I love the brick, the windows and the arches over the windows.

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The cemetery has a few soldiers,  lots of children and few wives. I think life was hard out here.

If you are of such a mind to believe in ghosts there is a ghost tour monthly starting in March. Check it out.  My ghosts are in my imagination thinking about all the people that came through the Fort over the years. 

Our World – Oklahoma’s Historic Fort Reno

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Officer’s Quarters

Fort Reno is located about a half hour west of Oklahoma City just off Interstate 40.  I have been driving past it off and on for about 30 years and always wanted to go see it but you know I was always busy and in a hurry. Superbowl Sunday I said what the heck I’m stopping. Son Logan was with me and he didn’t really care as long as it was not geocaching. He hates doing that.

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Cavalry Barracks

So I checked it out. Fort Reno was established by the US Army in 1875 to help control the Native American’s in the area during  the Indian Wars. The post was abandoned in 1907 but stayed in service for the Army as a Remount Facility for horse breeding until 1949.  The Fort has a bunch of old buildings and I’ll be making several more posts of my visit there in the coming weeks.

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Close by is the Fort Cemetery. I found this grave of Corporal Pat Lynch who died in the Battle of Turkey Springs in 1878. That battle was the last fight in then “Indian Territory” now Oklahoma between the US Cavalry and the Native Americans. Guess what, the Native Americans won. Check out the details here. Better than any movie is what I think. The Northern Cheyenne were trying to get back to their lands in Montana and fought the US Cavalry all through Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska during their flight. It didn’t end well. 

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Fort Reno was a prisoner of war camp during World War II and the Fort Cemetery has many graves of German soldiers. Most of them died in other prison camps and were interred there and then reinterred at Fort Reno after the war. The man above is the most famous German POW buried at Fort Reno. He was held at another POW camp in Oklahoma, the Tonkawa Camp. While there he was accused by some hard core Nazi prisoners of being an informer and was beaten to death. The five who killed him were tried and convicted by the US Army for murder and then were executed by hanging at a makeshift gallows in an elevator shaft of a grain elevator at Fort Leavenworth Kansas. Their execution was delayed until the surrender of Germany to the Allies in order to avoid Germany from executing American prisoners in retribution. There are two books about this, “Extreme Justice” by Vince Green is a novel by Vince Green written in 1995 and “The Killing of Corporal Kunze” is a non-fiction book published in 1981 by Wilma Parnell. Both book are on Amazon for under a dollar plus three times that shipping.

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And there were a few graves of Italian POW’s. 

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And I love serendipity. As Logan and I were leaving the cemetery I saw this old barn on the outskirts of the Fort and I so I drove up and took a picture of it. Later that night I posted it on a Facebook Group “Forgotten Oklahoma” as kind of an open ended post. Turns out that several people knew all about it. It was Mule Barn Number Three and was heavily damaged in the last tornado that came through the area in 2013. Further, the US Cavalry Association is raising money to restore the barn.

President John F. Kennedy

Courtesy of the US Embassy of New Delhi of all places on Flickr (click on photo for full license info). Trying to find third party photos to post without running afoul of copyright matters is a devil.

Fort Reno bred at least one famous horse. Black Jack, the riderless horse in John F. Kennedy’s funeral procession was foaled at Fort Reno. Black Jack did that funeral gig and those of Franklin Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, Douglas MacArthur, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Lyndon B. Johnson and thousands of other funerals during his 24 year career. He was laid to rest with full military honors in 1976 and is buried on the parade ground of Fort Myers.

The next little tidbit of information that I am trying to verify is that the sire of the famous Depression era  racehorse Seabiscuit spent time at Fort Reno.  The horse’s name is Hard Tack. The US Cavalry Association headquartered at the Fort has a photograph of him at the base. I am still trying to find out more about that.

Anyways, what I thought was just an old barn turned out to be quite historic.  I love that kind of stuff.

I’m linking with Our World Tuesday

Our World – The Jim Thorpe Home in Yale, Oklahoma

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Note, despite the sign, the hours are Wednesday through Saturday from 10 to 5.

I love serendipity and it happened to me this past weekend. Saturday I went to Stillwater, Oklahoma for a trail race and went via back roads from Tulsa instead of my more usual route on the turnpike. On the way out, going through the small oilfield town of Yale I saw a sign that pointed out the Jim Thorpe Home. So coming back after the race I stopped and checked it out.

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A volunteer greeted me and invited me to sign the register where I noticed that I was the first visitor that day. She gave me a tour of the small home and its contents. It was really fascinating. Thorpe was not born in Yale, he and his wife, Iva, purchased the house in 1917 and left in 1923. The house has many of the original furnishings and is painted the original colors and duplicated the wallpapers used. The volunteer told me that it was originally a mail order house from Montgomery Wards.  The house also contains many photographs and memorabilia of Thorpe’s.

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What really piqued my interest were the stories about Thorpe. She described how in the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Thorpe on the Gold Medals in both the Pentathlon a and Decathlon by competing in fifteen events in just three days. He went on to play professional baseball and football and act in movies. Many consider him the greatest athlete of the twentieth century. The end of his sporting career coincided with the beginning of the Great Depression and he struggled to make a living and died in near poverty in 1953. His death set off a chain of events that is still playing out today.

[Jim Thorpe, New York NL, at Polo Grounds, NY (baseball)] (LOC)

Library of Congress Photo – No restrictions on use, courtesy of Flickr

You see Thorpe was married to his third wife, Patricia, and she wanted the State of Oklahoma to build a memorial to house her husband’s remains. The State refused and she sold his body to the towns of Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania. The story goes that Mrs. Thorpe showed up midway through the Oklahoma funeral services with a hearse and a court order to take possession of the body. You couldn’t make this stuff up, nobody would believe it. As part of the contract of sale the towns and to merge and rename themselves Jim Thorpe. The towns hoped to cash in by making Thorpe’s grave a tourist attraction.

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Library of Congress Photo – No restrictions on use, courtesy of Flickr

Thorpe’s family has been fighting for the body ever since. The latest move was in 2014 when a Federal Appeals court reversed an earlier Federal District Court decision ordering his body returned. Reportedly the family is now considering an appeal to the United States Supreme Court.

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Library of Congress Photo – No restrictions on use, courtesy of Flickr – 1912 United States Olympic Team

I’m kind of pulling for the family. Doing the research for this post one sees that Thorpe although a great athlete encountered great tragedies and reversals in his life. His twin brother died when he was nine. Thorpe’s first son Jim Thorpe, Jr died at three years of age. In that very house in Yale. His Olympic Medals were taken away from him unjustly (they were later returned, long after his death.)

[Jim Thorpe, New York NL, at Polo Grounds, NY (baseball)] (LOC)

Library of Congress Photo – No restrictions on use, courtesy of Flickr

In the meantime, if you are traveling through north central Oklahoma you can tour Thorpe’s home for free.

In an October 2015 update, the Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal by the Thorpe family to move Jim’s body back to Oklahoma.

Linking with Our World Tuesday

Our World – Oklahoma Frontier Drugstore Museum

Last week it was Spring Break for the kid so I took a day off and we loaded up his Grandmother Nana and off we went to Guthrie to visit the Oklahoma Frontier Drugstore Museum.

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They had a soda fountain. All it needs is stocked and plumbed up and would be ready to go.

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And it has all sorts of things with all sorts of colors.

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It is built like an old timey pharmacy, kind of narrow and deep. That’s the kid down there. His grandfather, Heather’s dad, was a pharmacist.  Charles is gone now but Nana had donated some items from their store to the museum and she wanted to go down and visit with the lady who runs it.

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While they chatted I learned that maybe medical marijuana isn’t anything new. But Cocaine??!!

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I’m old enough that I remember some of these things. Those old school syringes were brutal.

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These signs are before my time, thankfully.

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Hey look what I found? I wondered where politicians got their beliefs. You know what I think? Well I’m going to tell you anyway smartypants: They all use the same bottle. That’s what I think. Tell me I’m wrong, go ahead.

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And look at this Superb Manhood for a dollar a box. Well give me a case is what I say.

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The museum has an apothecary garden next door. We went out there. On the wall behind us is a plaque remembering Charles. He was a  great guy. He’s been gone some years now but we’ll never forget him. He was Logan’s best friend and fishing buddy and a great guy.

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RIP Boompa

Linking with Our World Tuesday

InSPIREd Sunday – Sioux Valley Baptist Church

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Sioux Valley Baptist Church is a small clapboard church sitting on a dirt road a few miles from Trent, South Dakota and right across the Big Sioux River from my Great Great Grandfather’s original homestead. He donated the land the church sits on. The church was dedicated in 1888 and has been in service ever since. It is a tradition in my Dad’s family that they attend services in connection with the annual reunion. It is pretty cool to see the church still holding services and knowing that my ancestors had a hand in getting it started.

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The service is simple and heartfelt. The music is great. The prayers and praises concern thankfulness for a safe rodeo season and livestock showings at the County Fair, concerns about illnesses. Somehow the pastor, Rita Webber remembers everything and mentions it during the prayers. The sermon is likewise great.

Somehow this is all accomplished without powerpoint slides, amplified guitars, video segments and all that. Totally Old School and relaxing.

InSPIREd Sunday