The Bartlesville Area History Museum is hosting a new exhibit, “Guardian of the Seas: 1914-1941 Oklahoma Battleship BB-37” — with an appearance by the SS Bartlesville Victory. In conjunction with the exhibit, a special presentation by Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., is planned on March 31, and programs geared for children will be held this week, during Spring Break.
The USS Oklahoma
“The USS Oklahoma has a rich history of defending the United States of America during World War I and World War II,” said Bartlesville History Museum Collections Manager Debbie Neece.
“The USS Oklahoma was in Battleship Row on Dec. 7, 1941, the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Nine ships were sunk, including five battleships. The USS Oklahoma was hit by eight torpedoes; she capsized, and 429 lives were lost on her that day.”
Neece says the ship entered dry dock for salvage in 1944 and, after being stripped, was sold to a dry dock company in California.
“In 1947, she was in tow when she sank 540 miles out from Pearl Harbor,” Neece said. “Today there is a memorial to the USS Oklahoma on Ford Island at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.”
But what many people don’t know, Neece says, is that Bartlesville had a victory ship that served in the war effort as a cargo ship.
“Seventeen-year-old Betty Lou Findley, a senior at Bartlesville College High School, was chosen from her classmates to receive the honor of christening the ‘Victory Ship Bartlesville’ on Jan. 13, 1945,” Neece said. “The History Museum has the bottle Miss Findley used to christen the SS Bartlesville on exhibit for our visitors to enjoy.”
Spring Break programs
In conjunction with Spring Break, BAHM is offering two programs connected to the exhibit that are geared toward children. On Wednesday, from 1-3 p.m., grades two through five can participate in discussions about the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Each child will receive a ration card and learn about scrap drives, flags used by the Navy for signaling, as well as many other interesting facts about World War II.
On Thursday, from 1-3 p.m., grades six through 12 can participate in a more in-depth focus on the background of the war and the examination of maps.
“The focus will be on Pearl Harbor, what took place that devastated everyday life and how we, as a nation, came together to deal with the tragedy,” Neece said.
The programs are free, but seating is limited. To enroll your child, call Jo Crabtree at 918.338.4294.
Congressman to speak at BAHM event
Rep. Bridenstine will be the featured speaker at a brown bag event from noon to 1 p.m. on March 31. Bridenstine, who represents Oklahoma’s Congressional District 1, which includes Bartlesville, is a former naval aviator with extensive carrier operations experience and combat veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The USS Oklahoma has a rich history of defending this country in both World War I and World War II, and I am thankful many of my constituents will have the opportunity to learn more about the critical role it played in fighting our country’s battles,” Bridenstine said.
The event is free to anyone wishing to attend. Light refreshments will be served.
The “Guardian of the Seas” exhibit may also be viewed during regular museum hours, 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. The museum is located on the fifth floor of City Hall, 401 S. Johnstone Ave. in downtown Bartlesville.