December 7, 1941
Early on the morning of December 7,1941, the Oklahoma was moored alongside Maryland on Battleship Row in Pearl Harbor. In a surprise attack on the island of Hawaii, the Japanese used dive-bombers, fighter-bombers and torpedo planes. The Oklahoman took three torpedo hits almost immediately after the first Japanese bombs fell. Five battleships were hit in all.
Many of the crew remained in the fight, climbing aboard Maryland to help serve her anti-aircraft batteries. 429 of the Oklahoma’s officers and crew were killed or went missing. One of those killed was Father Aloysius Schmitt, the first American chaplain of any faith to die in World War II. It took less than 12 minutes for the Oklahoma to capsize and sink, taking dozens of servicemen with her. Of note, some of the men who died this day had ships named after them, including Ensign John England for whom USS England (DE 635) and USS England (DLG 22) are named. USS Austin (DE 15) was named for Chief Carpenter John Arnold Austin, who was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his actions in the attack. And there were two Medal of Honors awarded to Oklahoma sailors – Ensign Francis C. Flaherty and Seaman James R. Ward received the military highest award.