Oklahoma Casualties Database

U.S.S. Oklahoma

Stern, Charles

On December 6, 1941, the sailor who was slated to stand duty for Stern was transferred off the ship.

"He wasn't even supposed to be on that night," Haber said of her husband. In the weeks that followed, she wondered about fate.

That night, Joan Stern donned a dress and walked with other wives along Battleship row, across the USS West Virginia to the Oklahoma. They ate dinner with their husbands in the mess hall. See you tomorrow, he said.

Sometime after 7:55am on December 7, Joan Stern thought she heard target practice. A young woman ran across her courtyard. We're being bombed, she shouted. Joan didn't believe it. She turned on her radio.

In Pearl Harbor, the Oklahoma, moored outboard of the USS Maryland, was taking the first and worst torpedo hits. The attack ripped open 250 feet along the hull's port side with a force that shook the adjacent Maryland. Within 20 minutes, the Oklahoma listed, rolled over and sank. Inside, hundreds of trapped sailors began the banging on the bulkhead that would last for two days.

Those who'd escaped told of jumping into burning oil from topside. In the water, "They were strafed," Haber said. "It was not pretty."

In the next two days, 32 men were rescued from the USS Oklahoma's hull. Charles Stern was among the more than 400 on the ship who perished.

Oklahoma Historical Society

Oklahoma History Center | 800 Nazih Zuhdi Dr. | Oklahoma City, OK 73105