USS Batfish needs your help

Popular tourist destination in nearby Muskogee needs assistance following historic flooding


Published:

Courtesy Brent Trout/War Memorial Park

Your favorite 2-ton submarine needs you, Oklahoma!

The USS Batfish, a famous war submarine used during World War II and housed in Muskogee, is struggling after the historic flooding southeast Oklahoma faced this spring.

To the average Tulsan, Muskogee may seem like just another city or a neighboring town you drive through every so often, but to me, Muskogee is half my home.

My parents grew up in Muskogee and my entire family resides there. As an “Okie from Muskogee,” myself, I know those roads like the back of my hand. So, to me, the USS Batfish is not “just” a submarine. It is a part of the community; it is a tourist attraction that brings in revenue to the city and it is a historical sight that brings pride to the town. Tulsa, this is your chance to help your neighbor. Help restore the USS Batfish.

Due to the damage, the USS Batfish has closed to the public indefinitely until restoration and stability is brought back to the submarine.

“The submarine experienced currents at roughly 19 knots during the flood which caused the port side line to break loose and the submarine to begin drifting throughout the park,” said Brent Trout, Muskogee War Memorial Park executive director.

The submarine was able to be secured enough to keep it inside the park but was pulled out of the ground by the water and relocated about 25 feet. The submarine's torpedo room seals were also compromised due to age. The staff, along with help from the Oklahoma National Guard have found testing these tubes in simulations showed no major problems, but the submarine did take on water in two compartments. The interior of the submarine is currently being dried out over the long-term and being flushed with fresh water to remove sediment and any corrosive liquids found in the flood water.

Despite the growing list of problems staff at War Memorial Park are already facing restoring the USS Batfish, the gangway connecting the submarine to the museum grounds has broken off due to the force of the flood water. Now the ground beneath the submarine has begun eroding.

“The USS Batfish is closed to the public because the gangway that welcomed visitors onto the submarine snapped from the flood. Since the submarine is now completely out of the ground and much taller than its previous touring placement, a new gangway with additional stability measures must be constructed and placed,” Trout said.

The War Memorial Park staff was able to get the museum building cleaned and ready for display, but to repair the USS Batfish they need funding. They are currently waiting on a Category G declaration from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is funding used for permanent restoration to parks and recreational areas that have been damaged due to natural disasters.

Despite the funding they will hopefully receive from FEMA, War Memorial Park is working with several companies and organizations to reinforce stability for the Batfish and the gangway. The record-breaking floods that hit Southeast Oklahoma has caused the staff to begin initiating additional hazard mitigation in case another flood of this magnitude happens. 

Now, here is how you can help! Once the submarine is stable, the facility will host a volunteer day to welcome the community and ask for help in painting and cleaning the USS Batfish. They will also need assistance in cleaning and restoring the beauty of the park after the flood destroyed most of the vegetation.

According to Trout, the best thing the community can do to help War Memorial Park and the USS Batfish right now is to donate funds. Even with FEMA assistance, staff will need to save a percentage of the money raised for any future hazardous situations to ensure the submarine’s safety.

To donate, visit the GoFundMe site or purchase a t-shirt online to support the cause.

They are also seeking long-term sponsors throughout Oklahoma to help with repair aspects of the park in exchange for naming rights to the area, so make your mark and help protect the USS Batfish!

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