MUSKOGEE – After battling under the water during World War II, it would be too much water that led to the new battle to save a submarine.
Severe storms in the spring of 2019 caused massive flooding in Oklahoma. Muskogee was no exception where the waters of the Arkansas River ran well out of their banks. One of the casualties was the town’s War Memorial Park, home to the submarine the U.S.S. Batfish.
“It did its job too well,” explained executive director Brent Trout of how the Batfish was taken out by the flood. Designed to operate both above and below the waves, the Batfish floated as the flood waters rose around it.
Trout said the constant rush of the river came in along the side of the sub and strained the cables holding it in place to the breaking point. Once the cables broke, the Batfish floated free and was nearly swept down the Arkansas River.
Flood waters also leaked into the submarine through the seals on the torpedo tubes.
The museum was able to rescue the Batfish. It is currently being held in place by giant cables. Trout said it would be easy to put the submarine back exactly how it was before the storms, but flooding has become an increased concern. The plan now is to create a system to hold it in place using a specially constructed cradle that would be able to withstand future flooding.
The ship is closed to the public, but the museum is still open. The park and city are working to raise money to pay for the engineering study and construction needed to keep the submarine on display.
“If this goes away who will tell their story,” Trout told EPIC News Network about the importance of keeping the Batfish open and on display. Trout said submarines from this era are especially endangered. By next year the Batfish will be one of just about six that the public can tour and learn about the service and sacrifice of the men who fought on them to help end the war.
Trout expects the Batfish to reopen by late spring or summer of 2020.