Work Under Way To Restore Muskogee's USS Batfish

Saturday, August 28th 2010, 1:06 pm
By: News On 6

By Lacie Lowry, The News On 6

MUSKOGEE, OK -- A massive restoration project is under way in Muskogee on a true war hero. 

The USS Batfish is a World War II submarine that's highly decorated with military honors, but her condition has highly deteriorated over the years.

A group of Active Duty and Reserve Chief Petty Officers of the United States Navy spent Saturday painting the USS Batfish black, restoring the submarine to her glory days of World War II.

"It amazes me how many people don't realize we have a sub in Oklahoma. To see a sub to begin with is a treasure, to see a World War II sub is an even bigger treasure," said Rick Dennis, Muskogee War Memorial Park Manager.

The officers working are from across Oklahoma and northern Texas. They have volunteered their time as part of their naval training.

"We're trying to give back to the community what the Navy has given us. It's been one of the best parts of our lives and it's given us great things," said MMC Casey Bills, United States Navy.

The project not only restores the sub, but preserves our history, too.

"She was commissioned in 1943. That makes her well over 60-years-old and she has seen some action and it tells a story," said Dennis.

And what a story she has. The USS Batfish was a sub killer. In February of 1945, she sank three Japanese subs in only 76 hours, a naval record that still stands today.

"War is a harsh business, but it sometimes has to happen and we are fortunate to have men like this that are willing to go out and do that for us," Dennis said.

For the officers, the project reflects who they are.

"Protectors of the nation and also to give back and that's what we're trying to show today, and maybe other people can get involved with this kind of stuff as well and show appreciation for our troops that are still overseas," said Bills.

The next step in the restoration project is replacing an old wooden deck. Then, moving inside to clean up and repaint.

The USS Batfish has been in Muskogee since 1972. She earned the Presidential Unit Citation and 9 Battle Stars, while her crew received the Navy Cross, 4 Silver Stars and 10 Bronze Stars.