The USS Batfish almost floated away in the near-record flooding of the Arkansas River in late May. Even after waters receded, the damage was extensive — not to mention the World War II-era submarine's perilous new position on the incline of its basin.
The resulting restoration work will be expensive, but the Batfish may have found its biggest partner yet in international video game company Wargaming. The Belarusian company has reached out through its online ship-battling title World of Warships to raise money for the submarine.
Players can donate $10 toward a "Save the Batfish" in-game bundle for cosmetic items for their account. The items include flags and a patch similar to what was worn by the Batfish crew, according to a release from Wargaming. The effort resembles a similar push in the past to save another famous warship — the USS Texas.
"Working to preserve these ships and their history is part of our mission to ensure future generations can fully understand and remember those who served,” said Ray Hazlip, Regional Publishing producer at Wargaming. “Our community has shown us how passionate they are about preserving naval history as two years ago they raised approximately $300,000 to restore the USS Texas.”
In addition to the in-game bundle, Wargaming will also host a livestream of the game hosted by community manager Nicholas Moran, who will be discussing the Batfish's history with a historian during the stream. The stream will begin at 4 p.m. Friday, at http://twitch.com/worldofwarships.
The goal is to help the Muskogee War Memorial Park reach $150,000 for repairs to the Batfish, including sandblasting, painting, relocation, a new stabilization platform, and interior floor tiles and gauges which were all damaged by the water.
“To those who do not see it, the Batfish represents a weird roadside attraction dedicated to crazy sailors who wanted to honor their lost friends. To the inquisitive mind with an eye for history, a visitor can learn about the value of service, the impact that the United States Submarine Force had on the war in the Pacific,” said Brent Trout, executive director of the Muskogee War Memorial Park. “...Protecting the USS Batfish means saving history and protecting the sacrifice of every sailor who called a submarine home.”
So far, the program has raised roughly $30,000 of its goal, Trout said.
"To work with Wargaming is quite an honor," Trout said. "I have worked with them on another project and to see a company who is dedicated to history, but also making history fun and reaching people in a format where they can embrace history, but also want to learn about it is wonderful."
The partnership began as Wargaming worked toward introducing submarines into World of Warships, Hazlip said — including Balao class submarines similar to the Batfish.
"We reached out to the director and we wanted to know how we could help," Hazlip said. "We're looking to have a Balao class submarine in the game, and so this seemed like a good cause to support."
Having their fundraising efforts recognized and assisted by such a huge company was a morale boost, Trout said.
"To be plugging away at fundraising and have a large organization raise awareness and contribute efforts to fundraise is just amazing," Trout said. "It can be lonely, and sometimes you feel like the only one who cares and that you will never get this fixed or the Batfish open to the public. To be invited into this partnership is a wonderful experience."