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Sailor Remembers USS Oriskany

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A Navy veteran from Tulsa is sharing his memories of the first time he set foot on a floating piece of American history.

The USS Oriskany is now on it's way to becoming the Gulf Coast's largest artifical reef. But long ago, News on 6 reporter Heather Lewin says a young sailor from Oklahoma sailed aboard the USS Oriskany.

It was back in 1946 when a young man named Tom Gay left Tulsa to see the world. “Young and gung ho.”

Stationed in Guam for years, Tom Gay was about to be discharged when he was chosen for a special mission. It was the start of the Korean War, next thing he knew, he was setting foot aboard a brand new state of the art aircraft carrier for the first time."Oh, you could walk forever.”

The USS Oriskany, known to sailors as the "Mighty O." "For 880 feet. It's quite a bit of ship." For 2 months the crew trained day and night. "It was awsome, but at night it was terrifying." A radioman in the bridge, Gay had a view of the flight deck. "Each one of em you see come in you'd have kind of a tightness will they make it."

Gay remembers only one spectacular crash. Still a good landing, because everyone walked away. "We almost lost that pilot."

Gay never did go off to war, the crew returned to port and the ship sailed into history without him. "I liked that ship and when I finally left it, would've like to stayed."

It played a part in Cuban missile crisis, had a visit from JFK and Senator John McCain was stationed on it when he became a POW in Vietnam.

Though in the scheme of things, Tom Gay’s part was small, the man who went on the first mission wanted to be there for the last. He went to Florida to see his beloved ship turned into a sunken artificial reef. "I wanted to see her one more time." But it was bittersweet, time has aged both ship and sailor. "I saw her when she was brand new and she was always just shipshape." That's the way he'll always remember her.
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