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Battleship Oklahoma BB-37

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Battleship Oklahoma BB-37
By Jeff Phister, with Thomas Hone and Paul Goodyear. (University of Oklahoma Press, Norman: 2008. Pg. xv, 256. B & W Photos.) ISBN: 978-0-8061-3936-4.

Reviewed by Herbert White - October 24, 2008

Launched in 1914, the USS Oklahoma BB-37, was at the time a top-of-the-line, technologically advanced battleship that sported, among other weapons, 10 and 14-inch guns. She was also clad with improved armor protection, had the best engines available, and was one of the first battleships to be fueled with fuel oil. During its long career this mighty battleship served valiantly and with honor, and was the pride of the men who served upon her. She came, however, to an inglorious end on December 7, 1941 when she was sunk during the Japanese bombardment of Pearl Harbor. After the attack, the USS Oklahoma was raised off the shallow floor of the harbor, and for a brief while, it appeared that she was destined to live again. However, her injuries where too severe and she was eventually decommissioned and sold for scrap. While being towed toward the west coast, she escaped this final indignity when she foundered and sunk in deep water, about 540 miles northeast of Oahu, where she remains to this day.

In the book Battleship Oklahoma BB-37, Jeff Phister, along with Thomas Hone and Paul Goodyear, tell the story of this mighty battleship - the only naval vessel ever to be named after the state of Oklahoma. While the book covers the entire history of the USS Oklahoma from the events that led to her creation to her final moments, the bulk of the book's focus is on the events surrounding the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the aftermath for the ship and its crew. The book includes graphic, black and white photos of the ship, a list of the ships commanding officers, a detailed overview of the numerous medal citations given to various crew members of the USS Oklahoma for actions carried out on December 7, 1941, and a complete crew roster for all the sailors and marines serving upon the ship at the time of the attack. In all, 429 crew members died during the attack. The authors provide a glimpse at the memorial constructed to the memory of the USS Oklahoma crew members that perished, and the difficulties that have been encountered in identifying the dead.

From beginning to end, Battleship Oklahoma BB-37 offers a mesmerizing account of a gallant ship and the men who served upon her. This book was well researched, and the story's poignancy is authentic. Paul Goodyear was a survivor the December 7, 1941 attack on the USS Oklahoma, Jeff Phister works for the USS Oklahoma Family, Inc., a group that is devoted to preserving the memory of the ship, and Thomas Hone is a naval historian who has written extensively on naval history. The authors' account of the heroic efforts taken to free the numerous crew members that were trapped in the ship, after it sank at Pearl Harbor, is particularly chilling and one of the most memorable sections of the book. More important, the heroism of the men who struggled to save their comrades, during the very heat of the battle, is awe-inspiring. In short, in writing Battleship Oklahoma BB-37, the authors have helped ensure that the ship, and her men, will never be forgotten.

Battleship Oklahoma BB-37 is required reading for anyone with an interest in the Battleship Oklahoma BB-37, American naval history, or the Pearl Harbor attack. Its fluid narrative style makes for a relaxed read for general readers, while the book's solid historical foundation and detailed endnotes make it useful for academicians. As such, this book would make an engaging supplemental text for both high school and university level classes.

Related Reviews:

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Four Commanders and the Last Great Naval Campaign 1941-1945. A history of the Battle of Leyte Gulf told from the viewpoint of four different commanders, two American and two Japanese.

The Quiet Hero, by Gary W. Toyn
The Untold Medal of Honor Story of George E. Wahlen at the Battle for Iwo Jima.

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