USS Batfish History

The USS Batfish during the 2019 flood. Photo courtesy of the Hargrave Family

How did the killer submarine USS Batfish find its way to the middle of Oklahoma.

It took many people to get this project from an impossible thought, to an unlikely agreement with the State of Oklahoma, to an amazing transportation endeavor, the likes of which had never been done.

The thought of having a spectacular tourist attraction for Oklahoma had taken many forms for decades, and it wasn’t until 1972 that the mere thoughts had started to take form in questions to State Lawmakers from the public, and from veterans of World War Two. 

Word good the the Oklahoma house of representatives and State Senate of the successful re allocation of naval vessels had been successful for other states, and that an opportunity window was now open for something for their state.

It was such a far fetched idea, and an impossible task that anyone on government who tried and failed would be a sure laughing stock. Something politicians ran from like the plague.

Senator George Hargrave Jr. from Tulsa, was experienced with Veterans and Military affairs, reluctantly took on the task when no others would, even though he knew this was a loosing proposition. Even if they got the vessel how would it be moved to Oklahoma.

Senator Hargrave contacted the Department of the Navy and located someone who was in charge of the decommissioned naval vessels. The Navy relayed to him that there were many conditions and terms to be agreed upon, and payment for the submarines. Hargrave told the administrator that the State could not meet the conditions, which included no payment.

Later the Navel Department called Senator Hargrave congratulating him on being chosen to receive one of the two submarines, and asking which one he wanted, the Piranha or the Batfish. This was during the Vietnam War, and also before digitized records, so they did not have any information on hand about the war records of the boats. Hargrave chose the Batfish. All records were in storage.

The Senator from Tulsa was the recipient of some joking and ridicule from his fellow legislators due to the impossible task of how to get the submarine here, and it was said the submarine he chose was not the decorated war ship, but the Piranha. Later Hargrave was proven right as the Batfish was known as the WWII Sub Killer, having taken out three Japanese Imperial Navy Subs.

The Batfish was placed between four cargo barges, and made its slow journey from Louisiana to Oklahoma, with the Army Corps of Engineers lowering and raising the water levels to let the Batfish pass under bridges.

Upon arrival the Senate voted in Senate Bill 67 to turn the Batfish over the the War Memorial in Muskogee Oklahoma where they had the huge task of moving the boat into its final position off of the Arkansas river and into the park. 

More of the detailed Batfish story here

Special thanks to the Hargrave family for documents and photographs