Old Gunboat Still in News

Old Gunboat Still in News: USS Tulsa’s Bell Accident is Heard ‘Round the World – by Bob Foresman

Tulsa Tribune, March 10, 1955

When the 300-pound bell from the old USS Tulsa slipped its mooring and fell to the pavement in front of the Naval and Marine Corps Training Center here two years ago, it sounded a gong heard around the world.

Capt. J. B. Berkley, USN commanding officer of the Chicago branch of the Office of Naval Research, told the story here Wednesday.

The Captain, one of the Navy’s top research executives, stopped at the training center, to see the bell and training center. It was a sentimental journey for him, for he was commanding officer of the USS Tulsa during the early days of World War II when the gallant old gunboat escaped from Manila to Java and then to Australia.

Tulsa’s namesake fought throughout the war and in 1946 was junked at San Francisco. The bell was acquired by the Tulsa Training Center.

Captain Berkley said that a report of the bell falling five feet to the pavement here, narrowly missing the foot of the naval reservist who was ringing it, caused a commotion in the bureau of ships.

(The incident was reported in routine fashion by Lt. Cmdr. John W. Alexander, then commanding officer of the center who is now publisher of the Northland Times, Bemidji, Minn.) “Naval officers theorized that if a part of the Tulsa’s bell crystallized that it was extremely likely that the same thing happened to other bells,” Capt. Berkley said.

“They sought out all the bells made by that manufacturer and others of the same time. They examined bell after bell and found many in which crystallization had taken place,” he added.

As a result of the Tulsa bell incident, the bureau of ships has conducted experiments and research into various bells and gong systems which would take less energy to ring, be lighter in weight and safer.

Capt. Berkley said it could be that the old Tulsa bell has rung a death knell for bells, as the navy has known them.

He recalled that the Tulsa, which had a normal speed of 7.4 knots and a top speed of 10.4 knots, was one of the last ships in the navy to be equipped with sails.

“We carried the sails in the hold but we had no booms. At one time when we considered returning from Australia to the west coast we thought of using the sails.”

Instead of returning, however, the Tulsa, the last of the Asiatic Fleet remained in the Pacific throughout the war, and for her size and armament had an outstanding career.

Lt. Cmdr. Herbert T. Wardell, USN, also from the Chicago research office, accompanied Capt. Berkley here. They met with members of Naval Reserve Division 8-8, Bartlesville, Wednesday night.

Also while in the sate they will confer with several scientists and mathematicians engaged in naval research problems.

Capt. Berkley has another tie to the state. Mrs. Berkley is the former Margeruite Yates of Sapulpa.