GROVE — As a child, Carl Reherman said he often studied the story of the USS Oklahoma and its role at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
He said he was fascinated about the ship's history - how it was destroyed in battle claiming the lives of more than 400 crew members, and how when attempts were made to raise the ship for salvage, it broke away from its tow and sunk into 12,000 feet of the Pacific Ocean.
That fascination led to Reherman, then mayor of the City of Edmond, to be part of a group who helped develop the current USS Oklahoma memorial at Ford Island.
On Dec. 7, 2007, Reherman and his wife, Glo, traveled with the official delegation of 100 men and women from Oklahoma to attend the dedication that memorial.
Reherman said the memorial, which honors those who died on that fateful Sunday, is "quite simple" and made from black and white marble.
But the white standards, which stand behind the black marble base, leave visitors feeling "very emotional."
Remembering the dedication
Reherman, who now resides in Grove, recalls the dedication ceremony.
As U.S. Navy officials spoke, a rumble of voices could be heard. Reherman said the crowd noises grew louder and louder.
"They told us those were the voices of the sailors and Marines who died on the Oklahoma," Reherman said. "I'll never forget that day."
Reherman, who had visited Pearl Harbor previously, said after that day, visiting the Oklahoma and other memorials took on a "whole new meaning."
He finds it significant that the Oklahoma memorial is only one of three on Ford Island. It joins the USS Missouri, the site of the end of WWII, and the USS Arizona, which marks the beginning.
"I think that the Oklahoma has a special place [in U.S. Navy] history," Reherman said.
For Samuel Cox, a retired Rear Admiral who serves as the director of the Naval History and Heritage Command and is the Curator of the Navy, the Oklahoma plays a significant role in the events of Dec. 7, 1941.
Significance of the Oklahoma
While much of the focus of the history of Pearl Harbor rests with the USS Arizona, Cox said the USS Oklahoma is worthy of attention.
While smaller in numbers, the second largest number of sailors perished on the Oklahoma during the Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese attack.
"[With] 1,177 killed on the Arizona because of a catastrophic magazine explosion, they are the most famous of the casualties of Pearl Harbor," Cox said.
Cox said the Oklahoma's casualties, 429 of the 1,400 members of the crew, died when the ship rapidly capsized as a result of the numerous torpedo hits.
Cox said on each visit to Pearl Harbor, he finds himself going to the Arizona and the Oklahoma memorials, to pay respect to those who died on that day in 1941.
He said, like the names on the Vietnam Memorial wall, he finds the names listed on both the Arizona and Oklahoma memorials, to make a significant impact.
"You can't go there and look at it and not be incredibly moved," Cox said. "I go to pay respect to those who allowed me to live my life of freedom.
"We owe a lot to what they sacrificed."
The USS Missouri sits almost on the exact spot where the Oklahoma sunk.
Sitting on Battleship Row, near Ford Island, the Missouri represents the end of the war, while the Arizona and Oklahoma represent the beginning.
Cox said it's appropriate that the Missouri has found its home in Pearl Harbor, as people can stand on the spot where the war ended, and look out over the water to see the Arizona memorial - where the war began.
"It's powerful," Cox said. "In the sense, you can see the beginning and end [of the war] in one view."