MUSKOGEE, Okla. – With a faint scent of rusted steel throughout the echoing halls, Oklahoma National Guard (OKNG) children and volunteers had a unique opportunity Friday to spend the night in the historic USS Batfish (SS 310) submarine in celebration of the Month of the Military Child.
The event, put on by the OKNG’s Child and Youth Program, a sub-division of the OKNG's Family Program Office, gave the youngsters a chance to walk through history, listen to stories of past sailors and sleep where the sailors slept in the submarine during World War II.
“The night in the USS Batfish is an educational program where youth not only learn about World War II history, they also get the chance to spend the night on a genuine World War II submarine that was actively engaged in battle,” said James Smith, lead coordinator for the Oklahoma National Guard’s Child and Youth Program.
The Balao-class submarine, named after a West Indian fish known for its ferocity, was a formidable weapon for the U.S. Navy during World War II. The USS Batfish sank 14 Japanese vessels, including three submarines within 76 hours, making the USS Batfish the most successful killing submarine in history.
Now at its permanent home at the Muskogee War Memorial Park in Muskogee, Oklahoma, the USS Batfish is an important piece of history that provides opportunities for both children and adults to learn about a critical time in our world’s history.
“The kids were introduced to a very significant piece of American history that helped win the war,” Smith said. “They were able to have a hands-on experience within the submarine without having to travel to the coast. And, getting to spend the night on one is pretty cool.”
This event is one among many the OKNG’s Child and Youth Program puts on each year, primarily for the children of deployed Guardsmen. According to Smith, the purpose of the program is to create lifelong connections and relationships between Guard families and ultimately provide them support when a member of their family is away on deployment or at training.
“The mission of our Child and Youth Program is to provide opportunities for military children to enhance social skills, build character, resiliency, and self-esteem and integrate into their community,” Smith said. “It helps kids and teens develop essential skills, make lasting connections and have loads of fun through programed events.”
While the kids gathered together and learned about the everyday life of USS Batfish Sailors, also mentioned were the more than 418,000 American deaths that occurred during World War II, creating a lasting impression and eternal respect for those service members.