by Kristin Nador/@KristinNador
Write Anywhere Venues have been a great way to continue to challenge myself to find creativity in all kinds of places, both mundane and unusual. For me, it has helped with my sometimes crushing procrastination by helping me to realize I don’t have to have ‘just perfect’ conditions to write. It’s also shown me that I am creative even when I don’t feel it so much. I love how being intentional about finding different places to write has helped me to mine my own emotional and creative depths.
I found myself experiencing a lot of emotion at this week’s Write Anywhere venue. In honor of Veteran’s Day, I wanted to find a place that symbolized the honor and appreciation we as a country feel for our veterans. I didn’t realize how it would affect me personally.
Write Anywhere#56: Submarine
A half hour’s drive south on the turnpike brought me to one of the most unusual attractions in Oklahoma and the most unusual place I’ve written thus far. Right after you cross over the Arkansas River heading towards Muskogee is the War Memorial Park and Military Museum featuring the U.S.S. Batfish, a World War II submarine.
The museum is a great collection of memorabilia from virtually all the wars the U.S. has been involved with, from the Revolutionary War to San Juan Hill to Afghanistan.
On the grounds you can see the rusted mast of the U.S.S. Oklahoma. The Oklahoma was one of three battleships, along with the U.S.S. Arizona and U.S.S. Utah that were sunk at Pearl Harbor and never returned to sea duty.
It’s an interesting story how a submarine came to settle in landlocked Oklahoma. After veterans worked with the government to sponsor a decommissioned submarine to bring to Oklahoma for memorial/educational purposes, they had to tow it from New Orleans up the Mississippi River through the McClellan-Kerr Navigation Channel to the Arkansas River to the Port of Muskogee and flood the field where it now sits. It’s still near the river and it’s moored, I suppose in case the river rises.
The U.S.S. Batfish is a Baleo-class submarine over 300 feet long, weighing in at just about 700 tons, and fully armed carried 24 torpedoes. She had a proud history serving in the World War II Pacific theatre and brought her crew home.
Many other submarines were not as fortunate. The war memorial features a bronze plaque for each of the 52 submarines lost at sea during World War II, listing its accomplishments, the circumstances of its sinking, and those that know eternally stand duty. I decided to read the majority of them, and it was a sobering experience.
Especially poignant were several stories of subs blown out of the water, a group of sailors somehow surviving that, only to find themselves floating in the middle of the Pacific with no supplies and no way of contact. Of those sailors, a scant few survived to be picked up by the enemy and put in prisoner of war camps. Of those only one or two lived to tell the tale.
After reading about all these brave men, I boarded the Batfish. What is so unique about the sub is that they have kept it pretty much the way it was. There are no signs telling you about what things are or what occurred in which area. (You can take a virtual tour on their website to get more detailed information.) No video mini-documentaries like they have in many museums. It’s just the sub. It still smells of machine oil.
I was the only one on the sub for the majority of my visit. Hauntingly quiet but for the creaks of your own footsteps and the groaning of the metal in the Oklahoma wind, it was like descending to another world.
I have trouble imagining how a crew of a hundred+ men lived and worked in such a small and poorly-lit space. It must have been perpetually hot and stuffy.
Stepping through a hatch, I had to duck and in some of the spaces I couldn’t hold my purse next to me and make it through.
The men must have become so close, counting on one another for survival, for literally the air they breathed.
It is quiet now but there must have never been a lack of noise with the engines, the instruments, and the men themselves. Men worked in shifts and many of them shared the same bunk, but at different shift times, because there was not enough room for a bed for every sailor.
Every moment was shared, there was no helping it, even the most private ones.
One of the biggest spaces was the galley and the crew’s mess. The tables and benches were built-in, as well as the checker boards.
Something I wouldn’t have thought of had a place of its own.
What songs played on that record player? Glenn Miller, Jimmy Dorsey, The Andrews Sisters?
I sat down at one of the galley tables. I imagined sailors writing to their sweethearts or their mothers or their children at these tables. Writing lines to loved ones they might never see again. It seemed like a sacred place as I scribbled some lines in my notebook:
Patrolling the black ocean night
Both predator and prey
Alert to the sounds of war
Sharing the sweat of their brow
Prepared to sacrifice blood
Secret tears shed for heart’s sorrow
While patrolling the black ocean night
If you want to read some poignant words from soldiers, I suggest this article:
My grandfather served in World War II as an aviation mechanic aboard the U.S.S. San Jacinto. Visiting the U.S.S. Batfish helped me gain a greater appreciation for him, my Keeper Hubby Marine and all those who have served our country. I hope it’s inspired you as well.
Thank you to all veterans.