Oklahoma highway renamed for battleship that sank in Pearl Harbor

Friday, July 4th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Paul Goodyear hadn't talked much about what happened to him and others aboard the USS Oklahoma on Dec. 7, 1941.

When officials gathered Thursday to rename a portion of Oklahoma Highway 77H as Pearl Harbor/USS Oklahoma Memorial Highway, Goodyear, 85, broke his silence.

In delivering the keynote address, the Casa Grande, Ariz., resident recalled being a 23-year-old sailor scheduled for signal-watch duty that morning.

Goodyear and his other shipmates were on the signal bridge when they heard a bomb drop. Planes would sometimes drop bombs on a nearby deserted island, he said.

``Then I looked over my left shoulder and I saw a torpedo just as it left the mid-ships,'' he said. ``Then it hit.''

Goodyear said things turned from routine to panic and dread when they realized this was no bombing practice.

The USS Oklahoma took three torpedo hits and was vertically upside down in a matter of 11 minutes.

Goodyear said he doesn't remember much about what happened around him. Thirty-two survivors were trapped in the ship's hull and were rescued, but the others who couldn't be saved continued to tap Morse code on the ship's walls as it went down.

Goodyear went into water filled with burning oil and swam to another ship. Eventually he made it to safety, but his ship and 429 of his shipmates were gone.

More than 61 years later on a highway far removed from those Hawaiian shores, Goodyear and his colleagues were thanked for what they did that day.

``The freedoms of this country are enjoyed and made possible by the sailors and Marines that fought at Pearl Harbor ... their sacrifices were not in vain,'' said state Sen. Jim Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, who authored the Senate bill to rename the highway.

The USS Oklahoma was raised in 1943 and decommissioned Sept. 1, 1944. The battleship sank again May 17, 1947, about 540 miles from Pearl Harbor on its way to San Francisco Bay.

Oklahoma 77H will bear the new name from State Highway 9 in Cleveland County to the Interstate 240 intersection in Oklahoma County.

For Goodyear, the highway dedication was an honor he was glad to see his colleagues finally receiving.