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Star-Bulletin Masthead


Phil
Photo by Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
Former USS Oklahoma City Crew member Phil Smith
of Kaneohe videotapes the ship leaving Pearl Harbor
this morning. The ship, launched in 1944,
will serve as a missile and torpedo target
during a training exercise near Guam next month.


USS Oklahoma City takes her last trip to sea


When the cruiser USS Oklahoma City pulls away from its berth at Pearl Harbor today it will be taking the "soul" of a North Carolina woman who has been following its history since she was 5.

Rebecca Triplett-Johnson of North Wilkesboro, N.C., said she has spent the past 30 years searching and researching for the 55-year-old cruiser, which saw service in World War II and the Vietnam War.

"At one point I was even told she was sunk and I was really crushed."

Triplett-Johnson's father, Joseph Charles, served on the 610-foot cruiser from 1960-63.

"But he was killed in a traffic accident five months before I was born," said Triplett-Johnson, 35.

Repeatedly attempts to save the ship have failed.

At one point she said the Navy was willing to donate it to any port as a memorial, but apparently there were no takers.

Now the USS Oklahoma City will end its naval career by serving as a missile and torpedo target during a multinational training exercise in the Marianas Training Area March 24-25. Warships from the United States, Singapore, Canada, South Korea and Australia will participate.

Launched on Feb. 20, 1944, the USS Oklahoma City joined Carrier Group 38.1 for the Okinawan campaign of World War II and served as part of the occupational forces in Tokyo Bay until Jan. 30, 1946.

Phil
Photo By Dean Sensui, Star-Bulletin
Retired Senior Chief Petty Officer Phil Smith, left,
and Master Chief Petty Officer Paul Ramirez
talk about their times aboard the USS Oklahoma City
as Smith looks t hrough one of his old cruise books.

In June 30, 1947, the ship was decommissioned for the first time and placed in the U.S. Pacific Reserve Fleet in San Francisco. After being converted to a guided-missile cruiser, the Oklahoma City was recommissioned on Sept. 7, 1957.

During the Vietnam War, it fired missiles against North Vietnamese radar sites and served as 7th Fleet flagship. It was decommissioned in 1979 and mothballed in California, but its name was carried by a nuclear attack submarine, home-ported in Norfolk, Va.

"She is one of very few ships that served both in World War II and the Vietnam War," Triplett-Johnson said. "She was in the waters near the signing aboard the USS Missouri that ended the war."

When she realized that the USS Oklahoma City will end its career at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, Triplett-Johnson said she called the governor of Oklahoma and several congressional members to try to save the vessel.

"She is worth everything I have done," Triplett-Johnson said. "The men who so proudly and bravely served in the Navy, gave their blood and honor for our rights to preserve history and honor those who have kept us safe and free from harm."

But the word from the Navy secretary's office is that the effort was in vain.

Now Triplett-Johnson hopes to have a memorial service on the day of the sinking.

John F. Baker, 54, president of the USS Oklahoma City Association, had hoped to be on Victory Pier this morning when the cruiser started on its final Pacific voyage, but the birth of a fourth grandson kept him in Kansas.

In a telephone interview from his home in Winfield, Kan., Baker said: "It's too bad something like this has happened. It's ending is sad."

# # #


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Submitted by Phil Gerini OKC Patch CG-5 Patch First Fleet Patch courtesy of Phil Gerini 723oldpatch SSN-723 7th Fleet logo contributed by Len Buonaiuto Yacht Club ComCruDesFlot-9 patch courtesy of Phil Gerini

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