Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum has a new artifact that it hopes will help visitors connect directly with Pearl Harbor: A ship's clock from the USS Oklahoma.
The battleship capsized after it was torpedoed and bombed on Dec. 7, 1941, taking 429 of her crew with her.
"Anything from Pearl Harbor is really rare," said Michael Kraus, curator. "We have a real artifact from a focal point of American history. People really relate to something real, something tangible. It makes your imagination run."
The heavy brass clock, made by the Seth Thomas Co., is inscribed with "CS Okla." and "galley." It is believed to have been mounted in the kitchen of the battleship and was probably one of 30 or so clocks on board. Seth Thomas had a contract with the Navy.
The clock was donated by Don Heller of Marionville, Pa., a retired U.S. Forest Service employee and a veteran of World War II and the Korean War.
Mr. Heller, 87, was an infantryman who fought in the Battle of the Bulge and was wounded by a Chinese hand grenade in Korea. He had nothing to do with the Navy.
But he said he'd always had an affinity for the water and ships because he grew up near the shore on Long Island before moving to Altoona between the wars.
His first wife worked in an Army-Navy surplus store in Altoona, but when it closed in the 1960s the owner told her she could take what she wanted.
"She came home and said, 'I don't know what to get,'" he recalled. "I said I'd really like that clock."
He wrote to the Navy and the Seth Thomas Co. Neither could provide proof that the clock came from the Oklahoma, but it almost certainly did.
For one thing, as the Navy pointed out, it has dates etched on the back that correspond to the dates when the Oklahoma was overhauled before the war.
After the Pearl Harbor attack, the ship lay on her side for two years until the Navy righted her in 1943. But the Oklahoma was beyond repair. Her guns and superstructure were sold for scrap.
The hull sank while under tow to San Francisco in 1947.
Mr. Heller kept the old clock in his house for years, but he was searching for a place to donate it as a piece of history. He chose Soldiers & Sailors.
The hall intends to use it as the centerpiece of an exhibit on the war in the Pacific.
"I'm glad it will have a home," said Mr. Heller.
First Published December 7, 2012 5:00 AM