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The Continuing Adventures of the USS Batfish
The year was nineteen seventy-two in Oklahoma. The legislature was in session with the usual back and forth, we must have this, we don't need that, and we sure don't have the money for that. Our dear subject matter falls right in the middle of the latter.
There had been talk for years of bringing something unusual to Oklahoma as a tourist attraction. But alas no one could pin point just the right thing. Some wanted a naval vessel, but Oklahoma being in the middle of the united states was far from being a coastal area.
The Vietnam War was still ongoing with the military disarray, and everyone knowing we had to get out of that, and a military type attraction was not on the top of anyones list.
The Navy over the years had been using decommissioned vessels for target practice by towing them out to sea and bombarding them with modern munitions. This was also called scrapping. Of course scrapping today is dismantling and then recycling, an endeavor not worth consideration in those times.
Many a craft had met that fate, with a few escaping to become memorials in one form or another.
Several groups had been in contact with the Navy about saving some of the boats and ships, but usually failed to meet governmental guidelines, and of course payment of fees. There were just a few vessels left at this time with all efforts being exhausted to save them. No one had any answers in the State after the prospect of bringing a WWII Submarine inland was being kicked around the State legislature.
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The fear of being a laughing stock, and being ridiculed stopped those sporadically involved from further work from either of the House of Representatives or the Senate of Oklahoma.
Then the situation became dire as the last two submarines were scheduled for destruction. The call went out to find someone willing or stupid enough to take the heat. They wanted a sucker for a sure loosing battle. Not only can't you get a multi ton boat to the middle of America, there was no funds to pay the Naval Department for it. Then one of the Senators said, "Hey, who is a chairman of the military affairs committee."
Of course all of this discussion was taking place on the floor of the in session Senate where everyone was present. Including said Chairman, the Senator from Tulsa, George Hargrave, Jr. Visit www.judgehargrave.com Hargrave, without skipping a beat knew he had been tagged, said "Thanks a hell of a lot."
Soon after Hargrave contacted the Department of the Navy about the two boats, and their regulations. The Navy made their demands for which Senator Hargrave told them that none of the demands could be met by the State of Oklahoma, we could not pay for a vessel. Hargrave though that would be the last of that conversation.
After a few weeks the call came in from the Department of the Navy that the State of Oklahomas terms were acceptable, "Senator Congratulations you've got yourself a submarine. Now which one do you want. We have the Piranha and the Batfish. They were deleted from the register so we can't find anything on their service records, but we will keep looking. Also either one may sink while being towed as no one has been on them in years to evaluate their condition." After a moment Hargrave said "We will take the Batfish"'visit www.okhistory.net
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Days later on the Senate floor there was heard grumbling, and snickering from the members. Senator Hargrave's brother State Representative Gerald Hargrave came on the floor to give his brother the bad news. The Batfish was never engaged in combat, and the other Submarine not chosen was the victor of naval battles.
Hargrave was now surrounded by many Senators who were taunting him for picking the "looser," then in a loud voice one said, "Now how are you going to get your Submarine here?" Hargrave loudly said," I am going to put it between barges and sail it up the Kerr McClellan."
The Senators disbursed only leaving his brother and the President Pro Temp-ore of the Senate who said, "You can really do that George?" Hargrave said, "Hell if I know, I just came up with it." "Now I have to call the Corps Commander to see if it can be done."
Word came down not only that it could be done, but the battle records of the Batfish were mixed up with another vessel, and that the new Oklahoma submarine was in fact a killer sub. Hargrave was later asked why he picked the Batfish, he said, "It just sounded like a winner."
Eventually the Submarine arrived in Muskogee Oklahoma, after trying to escape several times along the way. The huge task of moving it inland belonged to the brave people at the Muskogee War Memorial. Nothing came easy for anyone involved in the moving of a war legend.
Decades after its placement in dry land the Batfish yet again attempted to head out to sea. Flooding of the Arkansas river in 1986 and again this month in 2019, saw the Submarine leaving its mooring and moving towards open water, as if its restless spirit was being called upon to fight again.
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