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Oklahoma Journeys

USS Tulsa


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When you think of ships named for our state, the battleship USS Oklahoma immediately comes to mind. And, of course, the cruiser USS Oklahoma City, but Tulsa had a ship named for that city. The USS Tulsa served with distinction from 1923 to 1946, and her story is our story this week on Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

When we think of ships in the Navy named for our state, two immediately come to mind, the battleship USS Oklahoma sunk at Pearl Harbor and the USS Oklahoma City, the cruiser that served from 1944 to 1979. Unfortunately few remember another one, the USS Tulsa. She was launched in 1922 and following sea trails joined the fleet two years later. The Tulsa served with the Caribbean fleet for the next five years showing the flag in such ports as Vera Cruz, Mexico; our naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; Puerto Rico; and, of course, the Panama Canal zone. Hers was a quiet peaceful life until the late 1920s. That was when civil strife broke out in Nicaragua. The Tulsa was ordered there to land Marines and bluejackets on the coast to protect lives and preserve property. In late 1928, the Tulsa was ordered to the Pacific. She transited the Panama Canal, called at Honolulu and Guam then proceeded to Manila. From there she was sent to China and was designated Flagship of the south China patrol. Tulsaoperated out of Hong Kong, the British Crown Colony, and Canton, China, for cruises up the Pearl River and along the south China coast. At Canton in May 1929, she witnessed the bombing of Chinese naval vessels by airplanes of the opposing faction in the Chinese civil war flaring at the time. It was during these patrols along the south China coast that she was given the nickname the "Galloping Ghost of the South China Coast."

Through the 1930s she continued her work in and along China, but with the war approaching she was moved to the Philippines and stationed at the large US Navy port near Manila. On December 10, 1941, the Japanese bombed Manila and the US Naval base nearby; Tulsa landed her crew to pick up as many wounded sailors as could be rescued. From Manila, she steamed for Borneo then Australia.

On the night of January 20, 1943, six Japanese bombers attacked the USS Tulsa. In the short, sharp action which followed, Tulsa put up a spirited defense with her 3-inch and 20-millimeter antiaircraft battery, driving off the attackers with no damage to herself while dodging 12 bombs. The remainder of 1943 and into 1944, she continued patrol duty off the coast of Australia then in November, she returned to her last pre-war home in the Philippine Islands. Old and worn out, she was stricken from the navy list then sent to the breakers for scrap.

She never achieved the fame of other ships, but that was the case of most ships in World War Two; she served her country and her crew well, was loved by her crew, and properly took her place among the thousands of ships who saw service in the defense of freedom. She was the Galloping Ghost of the South China Coast, the USS Tulsa.

The story of the USS Tulsa is one of the many told in the military archives in the Oklahoma History Center, located on NE 23rd Street just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.