By: Pat Austin
MIAMI, OK: As I mentioned last week, we are on the road this week and as of this writing find ourselves on Route 66 in Miami, OK.
One of our travel stops today was pretty fabulous and worth sharing with you. It may never have crossed your mind that a 311 foot, Balao class submarine could be found in the middle of Oklahoma, but sure enough, that’s where you can find the USS Batfish at the War Memorial Park in Muskogee.
The sub is open to the public and is lovingly tended and kept in tip-top shape through private donations; the state of Oklahoma doesn’t fund the project (and therefore there is no sign on the turnpike or highways alerting tourists to the park).
The Batfish was commissioned in 1942 and was in service for 26 years and is known primarily “for the remarkable feat of sinking three Imperial Japanese Navy submarines in a 76-hour period, in February 1945.”
The sub sits now in a depressed area of a large field at the War Memorial Park in a shallow basin of water. After touring the museum, visitors then can walk outside and go aboard the sub. The first thing that hits you is the smell of the oil and machinery of the sub, but once you descend the ladder into the Batfish, you can see the torpedo holds, banks of brass gauges, dials, and levers; you can see the bunks where the crew rotated sleep shifts, the officer and the enlisted mess, a couple of office areas, and all along the tour are either guides or video monitors with information.
If I lived closer to Muskogee, I’d take part in some of the cool events that the park offers like Bands on the Batfish, or the overnight stays that they do to raise funds to support this fascinating piece of history.
What impressed my husband almost as much as the USS Batfish was the large section of the mast of the USS Oklahoma which was destroyed at Pearl Harbor. It was sobering to stand next to that mast and realize its role in history.
Read more about the USS Batfish here, and about the park that has given her a home here. And if you find yourself in Oklahoma, go by and see it. If you want to donate to the upkeep and maintenance of the sub, go here. The park goes beyond just preserving the submarine, but also works to educate young people and to bring history alive.
For me, it was fascinating to walk through the submarine and think about the masterful engineering involved in putting so much equipment in such a small space. It is well worth the trip.