USS Texas (BB-35)
USS Texas BB 35, the second ship of the United States Navy named in honor of the U.S. state of Texas, is a New York-class battleship. The ship was launched on 18 May 1912 and commissioned on 12 March 1914.
Soon after her commissioning, Texas saw action in Mexican waters following the “Tampico Incident” and made numerous sorties into the North Sea during World War I. When the United States formally entered World War II in 1941, Texas took on the role of escorting war convoys across the Atlantic, and she later shelled Axis-held beaches for the North African campaign and the Normandy Landings before being transferred to the Pacific Theater late in 1944 to provide naval gunfire support during the Battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
Texas was decommissioned in 1948, having earned a total of five battle stars for service in World War II, and is presently a museum ship near Houston, Texas. Among the world’s remaining battleships, Texas is notable for being the oldest remaining dreadnought battleship. She is also noteworthy for being one of only six remaining ships to have served in both World Wars. Among US-built battleships, Texas is notable for her sizable number of firsts: the first US battleship to mount anti-aircraft guns, the first US ship to control gunfire with directors and range-keepers, the first US battleship to launch an aircraft, one of the first to receive the CXAM-1 version of CXAM commercial radar in the US Navy, the first US battleship to become a permanent museum ship, and the first battleship declared to be a US National Historic Landmark.
Texas was the first of two New York-class battleships authorized on 24 June 1910. Bids for Texas were accepted from 27 September-1 December with the winning bid of $5,830,000 — excluding the price of armor and armament — submitted by Newport News Shipbuilding Company. The contract was signed on 17 December and the plans were delivered to the building yard seven days later. Texas’s keel was laid down on 17 April 1911 at Newport News, Virginia. She was launched on 18 May 1912, sponsored by Miss Claudia Lyon, daughter of Colonel Cecil Lyon, Republican national committeeman from Texas, and commissioned on 12 March 1914 with Captain Albert W. Grant in command.
Texas’s main battery consisted of ten 14 in /45 cal Mark 1 guns, which fired 1,400 lb armor piercing shells with a range of 13 mi . Her secondary battery consisted of twenty-one 5 in /51 cal guns. She originally also mounted four 21 in torpedo tubes, two on each side of the 2nd Platform at frames 32 and 34.5 with the Torpedo Rooms also storing 12 torpedoes. Texas and her sister New York were the only battleships to store and hoist their 14 in ammunition in a nose-down position, in cast-iron cups.
On 24 March 1914, Texas departed Norfolk Navy Yard and set a course for New York City, making an overnight stop at Tompkinsville, New York on the night of 26 March. Entering New York Navy Yard on the next day, she spent the next three weeks there undergoing the installation of fire-control equipment.
During her stay in New York, President Woodrow Wilson ordered a number of ships of the Atlantic Fleet to Mexican waters in response to tension created when a detail of Mexican federal troops detained an American gunboat crew at Tampico. The problem was quickly resolved locally, but Rear Admiral Henry T. Mayo sought further redress by demanding an official disavowal of the act by the Huerta regime and a 21-gun salute to the American flag.
President Wilson saw in the incident an opportunity to put pressure on a government he felt was undemocratic. On 20 April, Wilson placed the matter before the United States Congress and sent orders to Rear Admiral Frank Friday Fletcher, commanding the naval force off the Mexican coast, instructing him to land a force at Veracruz and to seize the customs house there in retaliation for what is now known as the “Tampico Incident”. That action was carried out on 21–22 April.
Due to the intensity of the situation, Texas put to sea on 13 May and headed directly to operational duty without benefit of the usual shakedown cruise and post-shakedown repair period. After a five-day stop at Hampton Roads from 14–19 May, she joined Rear Admiral Fletcher’s force off Veracruz on 26 May. She remained in Mexican waters for just over two months, supporting the American forces ashore. On 8 August, she left Veracruz and set a course for Nipe Bay, Cuba, and from there steamed to New York where she entered the Navy Yard on 21 August.
The battleship remained there until 6 September, when she returned to sea, joined the Atlantic Fleet, and settled into a schedule of normal fleet operations. In October, she returned to the Mexican coast. Later that month, Texas became the station ship at Tuxpan, a duty that lasted until 4 November, when the ship steamed for Galveston, Texas. While at Galveston on 7 November, Texas Governor Oscar Colquitt presented the ship’s silver service to Captain Grant. The Young Men’s Business League of Waco, Texas, raised the $10,000 to purchase the silver.
Texas sailed for Tampico on 14 November and thereafter to Veracruz, where she remained for a month. The ship finally bade Mexico farewell on 20 December and set a course for New York. The battleship entered New York Navy Yard on 28 December and remained there undergoing repairs until 16 February 1915. On 25 May, Texas , along with battleships South Carolina, Louisiana, and Michigan rescued 230 passengers from the damaged Holland America Line passenger ship Ryndam, which had been rammed by Norwegian-flagged fruit steamer Joseph J. Cuneo. In 1916, Texas became the first US battleship to mount anti-aircraft weapons with the addition of 3 in /50 cal guns, and the first to control gunfire with directors and rangefinders, analog forerunners of today’s computers.
World War I
Upon her return to active duty with the fleet, Texas resumed a schedule of training operations along the New England coast and off the Virginia Capes, alternated with winter fleet tactical and gunnery drills in the West Indies. That routine lasted just over two years until the February-to-March crisis over unrestricted submarine warfare catapulted the US into World War I in April 1917. The 6 April declaration of war found Texas riding at anchor in the mouth of the York River with the other Atlantic Fleet battleships. She remained in the Virginia Capes–Hampton Roads vicinity until mid-August, conducting exercises and training Naval Armed Guard gun crews for service on board merchant ships. One of the gun crews trained aboard Texas was assigned to the merchant vessel Mongolia at the beginning of the war. On 19 April, the crew of Mongolia sighted a surfaced German U-boat and the gun crew trained aboard Texas opened fire on the U-boat averting an attack on Mongolia and firing the first American shots of World War I.
In August, she steamed to New York for repairs, arriving at Base 10 on 19 August and entering the New York Navy Yard soon thereafter. She completed repairs on 26 September and got underway for Port Jefferson that same day. During the mid-watch on 27 September, she ran hard aground on Block Island. Captain Victor Blue and his navigator, confused about shore lights and more concerned about the minefield at the opening of Long Island Sound made the turn at the wrong time and ran the ship aground on the island from the bow all the way aft beyond midships. For three days, her crew lightened ship to no avail. On 30 September, tugs came to her assistance, and she finally backed clear. Hull damage dictated a return to the yard, and the extensive repairs required precluded her departure with Battleship Division 9 for the British Isles in November. The secondary battery was reduced to eighteen 5 in guns in October 1917. Captain Blue, a protege of Navy Secretary Josephus Daniels, was never court-martialed and remained in command of Texas. The Navy Department held his navigator entirely responsible for the accident.
Mid-January 1918 found the battleship back at New York preparing for the voyage across the Atlantic, including the removal of two more 5 in guns reducing the total number aboard to sixteen. She departed New York on 30 January 1918, arrived at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands off the coast of Scotland on 11 February, and rejoined BatDiv 9, by then known as the 6th Battle Squadron of Britain’s Grand Fleet.
Texas’s service with the Grand Fleet consisted entirely of convoy missions and occasional forays to reinforce the British squadron on blockade duty in the North Sea whenever German heavy units threatened. The fleet alternated between bases at Scapa Flow and at the Firth of Forth in Scotland. Texas began her mission only five days after her arrival at Scapa Flow, where she sortied with the entire fleet to reinforce the 4th Battle Squadron, then on duty in the North Sea. She returned to Scapa Flow the next day and remained until 8 March, when she put to sea on a convoy escort mission from which she returned on 13 March. Texas and her division mates entered the Firth of Forth on 12 April but got underway again on the 17th to escort a convoy. The American battleships returned to base on 20 April. Four days later, Texas again stood out to sea to support the Second Battle Squadron the day after the German High Seas Fleet had sortied from Jade Bay toward the Norwegian coast to threaten an Allied convoy. Forward units caught sight of the retiring Germans on 25 April, but at such an extreme range there was no possibility of bringing the German fleet into engagement with the Grand Fleet. The Germans returned to their base that day, and the Grand Fleet, including Texas, did likewise on the next.
Texas and her division mates passed a relatively inactive May in the Firth of Forth. On 9 June, she got underway with the other warships of the 6th Battle Squadron and headed back to the anchorage at Scapa Flow, arriving there the following day. From 30 June-2 July, Texas and her colleagues acted as escort for American minelayers adding to the North Sea mine barrage. After a two-day return to Scapa Flow, Texas put to sea with the Grand Fleet to conduct two days of tactical exercises and war games. At the conclusion of those drills on 8 July, the fleet entered the Firth of Forth. For the remainder of World War I, Texas and the other battleships of Division 9 continued to operate with the Grand Fleet as the 6th Battle Squadron. With the German Fleet increasingly tied to its bases in the estuaries of the Jade and the Ems rivers, the American and British ships settled into a routine schedule of operations with little-to-no hint of combat operations. That state of affairs lasted until the Armistice ended hostilities on 11 November 1918. At 03:35 on 21 November, she got underway to accompany the Grand Fleet to meet the surrendering German Fleet. The two fleets rendezvoused about 46 mi east of the Isle of May and proceeded to the Firth of Forth. Afterward, the American contingent moved to Portland Harbour, England, arriving there on 4 December.
On 12 December 1918, Texas put to sea with BatDivs 9 and 6 to meet President Woodrow Wilson embarked in George Washington on his way to the Paris Peace Conference. The rendezvous took place around 07:30 the following morning and provided an escort for the President into Brest, France, where the ships arrived at 12:30 that afternoon. On the afternoon of 14 December, Texas and the other American battleships departed Brest to return to the United States. The warships arrived off Ambrose light station on Christmas Day, 1918, and entered New York on the next day.
Following overhaul, Texas resumed duty with the Atlantic Fleet early in 1919. On 10 March, she became the first American battleship to launch an airplane when Lieutenant Commander Edward O. McDonnell flew a British-built Sopwith Camel off the warship. Later in 1919 that accomplishment was expounded upon when Texas’s captain, Nathan C. Twining, successfully employed naval aircraft to spot for the fall of shells during a main battery exercise. The results were that gunfire spotted by aircraft was significantly more accurate than shipboard spotters. In testimony to the Navy General Board, Lieutenant Commander Kenneth Whiting attested that the increase in gunfire effectiveness with air spotting was likely to be as great as 200%. As a result of these first experiments, the Navy would add floatplanes to all
the fleet’s battleships and the newer cruisers. In May 1919, Texas served as a plane guard and navigational aid for the successful attempt by Navy Curtiss NC flying boat NC-4 to become the first airplane to cross the Atlantic. On 26 July 1919 Texas entered the Pacific Ocean as part of the newly formed Pacific Fleet and she would spend the next five and half years as a part of Pacific Fleet. On 17 July the following year, she was designated BB-35 under the Navy’s newly adopted alpha-numeric system of hull classification symbols.
Texas left the Pacific on 16 January 1924 and returned to the east coast for overhaul and to participate in a training cruise to European waters with Naval Academy Midshipmen embarked. While operating in the Atlantic, on 25 November 1924, she sank the incomplete battleship Washington for compliance with the Naval Arms Limitation Treaty of 1922, and later that fall, conducted maneuvers as a unit of the Scouting Fleet. On 31 July 1925 ,until 23 November 1926, she entered Norfolk Navy Yard for a major modernization overhaul during which both cage masts were replaced with tripod masts, her coal-fired boilers were converted to oil-fired, and her fire-control equipment was upgraded to the very latest.
Following completion of her overhaul, Texas was designated the flagship of the United States Fleet and resumed duty along the eastern seaboard. She kept at that task until late 1927, when she did a brief tour of duty in the Pacific from late September till early December. In 1927, Texas set another first with the showing of “talking” pictures for crew entertainment. Near the end of the year, Texas returned to the Atlantic and resumed normal duty with the Scouting Fleet. In January 1928, she transported President Calvin Coolidge to Havana, Cuba, for the Pan-American Conference and then continued on via the Panama Canal and the west coast to maneuvers with the fleet near Hawaii.
She returned to New York early in 1929 for her annual overhaul and had completed it by March when she began another brief tour of duty in the Pacific. She returned to the Atlantic in June and resumed normal duty with the Scouting Fleet. In April 1930, she took time from her operating schedule to escort Leviathan into New York when that ship carried the returning US delegation to the London Naval Conference. In January 1931, she left the yard at New York as flagship of the United States Fleet and headed via the Panama Canal to San Diego, California, and then on to Los Angeles which became her home port for the next six years and three months. There would be a temporary redeployment back to the Atlantic from April to October 1934. During this Pacific period, she served first as flagship for the entire Fleet and, later, as flagship for BatDiv 1.
In the summer of 1937, she once more was reassigned to the east coast, as the flagship of the Training Detachment, United States Fleet. Late in 1938 or early in 1939, the warship became flagship of the newly organized Atlantic Squadron, built around BatDiv 5. Through both organizational assignments, her labors were directed primarily to training missions, Midshipman cruises, Naval Reserve drills, and training members of the Fleet Marine Force. In December 1938, Texas received for testing the first shipborne radar designed and made by a commercial company RCA for the US Navy, the 385 megacycles CXZ. In 1941, Texas was one of fourteen ships to receive the RCA CXAM-1 radar.
World War II
Soon after war broke out in Europe in September 1939, Texas began operating on the “Neutrality Patrol”, an American attempt to keep the war out of the western hemisphere. Later, as the United States moved toward more active support of the Allied cause, the warship began convoying ships carrying Lend-Lease matériel to the United Kingdom. In February 1941, the US 1st Marine Division was founded aboard Texas. On 1 February, Admiral Ernest J. King hoisted his flag as Commander-in-Chief of the re-formed Atlantic Fleet aboard Texas. That same year, while on “Neutrality Patrol” in the Atlantic, Texas was stalked unsuccessfully by the German submarine U-203.
Sunday, 7 December 1941, found the battleship at Casco Bay, Maine, undergoing a rest and relaxation period following three months of watch duty at Naval Station Argentia, Newfoundland. After 10 days of Casco Bay, she returned to Argentia and remained there until late January 1942, when she got underway to escort a convoy to England. After delivering her charges, the battleship patrolled waters near Iceland until March when she returned home. Around this time, the secondary battery was reduced to six 5 in guns. For the next six months, she continued convoy-escort missions to various destinations. On one occasion, she escorted Guadalcanal bound Marines as far as Panama; on another, the warship screened service troops to Freetown, Sierra Leone, on the west coast of Africa. More frequently, she made voyages to and from the United Kingdom escorting both cargo and troop carrying ships.
On 23 October, Texas embarked upon her first major combat operation when she sortied with Task Group 34.8 , the Northern Attack Group for Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa. The objective assigned to this group was Mehedia near Port Lyautey and the port itself. The ships arrived off the assault beaches early in the morning of 8 November and began preparations for the invasion. Texas transmitted Lieutenant General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s first “Voice of Freedom” broadcast, asking the French not to oppose Allied landings on North Africa. When the troops went ashore, Texas did not come immediately into action to support them. At that point in the war, amphibious warfare doctrine was still young; and many did not recognize the value of a pre landing bombardment. Instead, the Army insisted upon attempting surprise. Texas finally entered the fray early in the afternoon when the Army requested her to destroy an ammunition dump near Port Lyautey. One more gunfire mission was provided on the 10th before the ceasefire on 11 November. Thus, unlike in later operations, she expended only 273 rounds of 14 in ammunition and six rounds of 5 in ammunition. During her short stay, some of her crew briefly went ashore to assist in salvaging some of the shipping sunk in the harbor. On 16 November, she departed North Africa and headed for home in company with Savannah, Sangamon, Kennebec, four transports, and seven destroyers.A young Walter Cronkite was aboard Texas from Norfolk through her tenure off the North African coast and back to the US. On the return trip to the US, Cronkite was catapulted off Texas in one of the ship’s OS2U Kingfishers once Norfolk was within flying distance. He was granted permission to be flown, from the ship, the remaining distance to Norfolk so he could beat a rival correspondent, aboard the Massachusetts, back to the US and have the first uncensored stories published on the Torch landings. Cronkite’s experiences aboard Texas launched his career as a war correspondent.
Throughout 1943, Texas carried out the familiar role of convoy escort. With New York as her home port, she made numerous transatlantic voyages to such places as Casablanca and Gibraltar, as well as frequent visits to ports in the British Isles. That routine continued into 1944 but ended on 22 April of that year when, at the European end of one such mission, she remained at the Clyde estuary in Scotland and began training for the invasion of Normandy.
During the next twelve days, Texas carried out many 14 in gun-firing exercises with British battleships HMS Ramillies and Rodney. The firing was done in conjunction with Royal Air Force airplanes as spotters. On 29 April, Texas, Nevada, and Arkansas relocated to Belfast Lough, Northern Ireland. There, final preparations were made, including the removal of the airplane catapult and the ship’s OS2U Kingfisher observation planes. The three pilots who flew Texas’ Kingfishers during this period were temporarily transferred to a newly formed squadron, VCS-7, that was composed of the pilots who flew observation and scouting planes from the cruisers Augusta, Quincy, and Tuscaloosa and the battleships Arkansas, Nevada, and Texas. VCS-7 received training in defensive fighter tactics, aerobatics, navigation, formation flying and spotting procedures in Royal Air Force Spitfires; they flew spotting missions in the Spitfires because of the threat from German fighters. The pilots of VCS-7 would fly spotting missions for the US warships off OMAHA and UTAH beaches during D-Day. Also, during this time additional radio equipment was added, including a device to detect and jam radio-guided missiles. Final exercises were carried out to the south in Dundrum Bay and Belfast Lough. During the final preparations, General Eisenhower came aboard on 19 May to speak to the crew. On 31 May, the ship was sealed and a briefing given to the crew about the upcoming invasion. For the invasion, Texas was designated Bombardment Force Flagship for Omaha Beach, in the Western Taskforce. Her firing area of Omaha was the western half, supporting the US 29th Infantry Division and the US 2nd Ranger Battalion at Pointe du Hoc, and the US 5th Ranger Battalion, which had been diverted to Western Omaha to support the troops at Pointe du Hoc.
The bombardment force consisted of two sections with Texas and the British light cruiser HMS Glasgow responsible for the western half of Omaha Beach. The east half of Omaha Beach included Arkansas and the French light cruisers Georges Leygues and Montcalm. Also assigned to Omaha Beach were the American destroyers Frankford, McCook, Carmick, Doyle, Emmons, Baldwin, Harding, Satterlee, Thompson, and the British destroyers HMS Tanataside, Talybont and Melbreak.
At 02:09 on 3 June, Texas and the rest of the Western Taskforce sailed from Belfast Lough for Normandy. In sight, on a parallel course was a group of British ships, including the battleships HMS Warspite and Ramillies. At 07:10 on 4 June, the taskforce had to reverse course due to unacceptable weather in the Normandy. Later that evening, off Lundy Island, the taskforce reversed course and headed for and joined the invasion fleet gathering at Area Z. The invasion fleet then headed south toward Normandy and navigated the German minefield, through which minesweepers had cleared channels; not a single Omaha Beach vessel was lost.
At 03:00 on 6 June 1944, Texas and the British cruiser Glasgow entered the Omaha Western fire support lane and into her initial firing position 12,000 yd offshore near Pointe du Hoc at 04:41, as part of a combined total US-British flotilla of 702 ships, including seven battleships and five heavy cruisers.
The initial bombardment commenced at 05:50, against the site of six 5.9 in guns, atop Pointe du Hoc. When Texas ceased firing at the Pointe at 0624, 255 14 in shells had been fired in 34 minutes , an average rate of fire of 7.5 shells per minute, which was the longest sustained period of firing for Texas in World War II. While shells from the main guns were hitting Pointe du Hoc, the 5 in guns were firing on the area leading up to Exit D-1, the route to get inland from western Omaha. At 06:26, Texas shifted her main battery gunfire to the western edge of Omaha Beach, around the town of Vierville. Meanwhile, her secondary battery went to work on another target on the western end of “Omaha” beach, a ravine laced with strong points to defend an exit road. Later, under control of airborne spotters, she moved her major-caliber fire inland to interdict enemy reinforcement activities and to destroy batteries and other strong points farther inland.
By noon, the assault on Omaha Beach was in danger of collapsing due to stronger than anticipated German resistance and the inability of the Allies to get needed armor and artillery units on the beach. In an effort to help the infantry fighting to take Omaha, some of the destroyers providing gunfire support closed near the shoreline, almost grounding themselves to fire on the Germans. Texas also closed to the shoreline; at 12:23, Texas closed to only 3,000 yd from the water’s edge, firing her main guns with very little elevation to clear the western exit D-1, in front of Vierville. Among other things, she fired upon snipers and machine gun nests hidden in a defile just off the beach. At the conclusion of that mission, the battleship attacked an enemy anti-aircraft battery located west of Vierville.
On 7 June, the battleship received word that the Ranger battalion at Pointe Du Hoc was still isolated from the rest of the invasion force with low ammunition and mounting casualties; in response, Texas obtained and filled two LCVPs with provisions for the Rangers. Upon their return, the LCVPs brought thirty-five wounded Rangers to Texas for treatment of which one died on the operating table. Along with the Rangers, a deceased Coast Guard sailor and twenty-seven prisoners (twenty Germans, four Italians, and three French) were brought to the ship. The prisoners were fed, segregated, and not formally interrogated aboard Texas, due to the ship bombarding targets or standing by to bombard, before being loaded aboard a LST for transfer to England. Later in the day, her main battery rained shells on the enemy-held towns of Formigny and Trévières to break up German troop concentrations. That evening, she bombarded a German mortar battery that had been shelling the beach. Not long after midnight, German planes attacked the ships offshore, and one of them swooped in low on Texas’s starboard quarter. Her anti-aircraft batteries opened up immediately but failed to hit the intruder. On the morning of 8 June, her guns fired on Isigny, then on a shore battery, and finally on Trévières once more.
After that, she retired to Plymouth to rearm, returning to the French coast on 11 June. From then until 15 June, she supported the army in its advance inland. By 15 June, the troops had advanced to the edge of Texas’s gun range; her last fire support mission was so far inland that to get the needed range, the starboard torpedo blister was flooded with water to provide a list of two degrees which gave the guns enough elevation to complete the fire mission. With combat operations beyond the range of her guns on 16 June, Texas left Normandy for England on 18 June.
Battle of Cherbourg
On the morning of 25 June Texas, in company with Arkansas, Nevada, four cruisers and eleven destroyers, closed in on the vital port of Cherbourg to suppress the fortifications and batteries surrounding the town while the US Army’s VII Corps attacked the city from the rear. While enroute to Cherbourg, the bombardment plan was changed and Task Group 129.2 , built around Arkansas and Texas, was ordered to move six miles to the east of Cherbourg and engage the guns of Battery Hamburg, a large shore battery composed of four 9.4 in guns. At 12:08, Arkansas was the first to fire at the German positions, while the German gunners waited for Arkansas and Texas to be well in range to return fire. At 12:33, Texas was straddled by three German shells; five minutes later Texas returned fire with a continuous stream of two-gun salvos. The battleship continued her firing runs in spite of shell geysers blossoming about her and difficulty spotting the targets because of smoke; however, the enemy gunners were just as stubborn and skilled. At 13:16, a German 9.4 in shell skidded across the top of her Conning Tower, sheared the top of the fire control periscope off (the periscope remains fell back into the Conning Tower and wounded the gunnery officer and three others), hit the main support column of the Navigation Bridge and exploded. The explosion caused the deck of the Pilot House above to be blown upwards approximately 4 ft , wrecked the interior of the Pilot House, and wounded seven. Of the eleven total casualties from the German shell hit, only one man succumbed to his wounds — the helmsman on duty, Christen Christensen. Texas’s commanding officer, Captain Baker, miraculously escaped unhurt and quickly had the bridge cleared. The warship herself continued to deliver her 14 in shells in two-gun salvos and, in spite of damage and casualties, scored a direct hit that penetrated one of the heavily reinforced gun emplacements to destroy the gun inside at 13:35.
At 14:47, an unexploded 9.4 in shell was reported. The shell crashed through the port bow directly below the Wardroom and entered the stateroom of Warrant Officer M.A. Clark, but failed to explode. The unexploded shell was later disarmed by a Navy bomb disposal officer in Portsmouth and is currently displayed aboard the ship. Throughout the three-hour duel, the Germans straddled and near-missed Texas over sixty-five times, but she continued her mission firing 206 14 in shells at Battery Hamburg until 15:01 when, upon orders to that effect, she retired.
After Texas underwent repairs at Plymouth from damage sustained at Cherbourg, she then drilled in preparation for the invasion of southern France. On 16 July, she departed Belfast Lough and headed for the Mediterranean. After stops at Gibraltar and Oran, Algeria, the battleship arrived in Taranto, Italy on 27 July. Departing Taranto on 11 August, Texas rendezvoused with three French destroyers off Bizerte, Tunisia, and set a course for the French Riviera. She arrived off Saint-Tropez during the night of 14 August and was joined early the next morning by battleship Nevada and cruiser Philadelphia At 04:44 on 15 August, she moved into position for the pre-landing bombardment and, at 0651, opened up on her first target, a battery of five 5.9 in guns. The beaches had been fortified and heavy resistance was expected. Due to very poor visibility that morning, Texas relied on her SG radar equipment to determine her position and track for both navigation and gunnery purposes. No land marks whatsoever were visible during the firing and for the greater part of the forenoon.
The heavy opposition that was expected never materialized, so the landing forces moved inland rapidly. As such, fire support from Texas’s guns was no longer required, so she departed the southern coast of France on the early morning of 17 August. After a stop at Palermo, Sicily, she left the Mediterranean and headed for New York where she arrived on 14 September 1944.
Operations Detachment and Iceberg
At New York, Texas underwent a 36-day repair period during which the barrels on her main battery were replaced. After a brief refresher cruise, she departed Maine in November and set a course, via the Panama Canal, for the Pacific. She made a stop at Long Beach, California, and then continued on to Oahu. She spent Christmas at Pearl Harbor and then conducted maneuvers in the Hawaiian Islands for about a month at the end of which she steamed to Ulithi Atoll. She departed Ulithi on 10 February 1945, stopped in the Marianas for two days’ invasion rehearsals, and then set a course for Iwo Jima. She arrived off the target on 16 February, three days before the scheduled assault. She spent those three days pounding enemy defenses on Iwo Jima in preparation for the landings. After the troops stormed ashore on 19 February, Texas switched roles and began delivering naval gunfire support and on-call fire until 21 February.
Though Iwo Jima was not declared secured until 16 March, Texas cleared the area on 7 March and returned to Ulithi to prepare for the Okinawa operation. She departed Ulithi with TF 54, the gunfire support unit, on 21 March and arrived in the Ryukyus on the 26th. Texas did not participate in the occupation of the islands but moved in on the main objective instead, beginning the pre-landing bombardment that same day. For the next six days, she fired multiple salvos from her main guns to prepare the way for the US Army and the Marine Corps. Each evening, she retired from her bombardment position close to the Okinawan shore only to return the next day and resume her poundings. The enemy ashore, preparing for a defense-in-depth strategy as at Iwo Jima, made no answer. Only air units provided a response, as several kamikaze raids were sent to harass the bombardment group. Texas escaped damage during those small attacks. On 1 April, after six days of aerial and naval bombardment, the ground troops went ashore, and for almost two months, Texas remained in Okinawan waters providing gunfire support for the troops and fending off the enemy aerial assault. In performing the latter mission, she claimed one kamikaze kill on her own and claimed three assists. On 14 May the ship departed Okinawa for the Philippines.
End of the War
On 17 May, Texas arrived at Leyte in the Philippines and remained there until after the Japanese capitulation on 15 August. She returned to Okinawa toward the end of August and stayed in the Ryukyus until 23 September. On that day, she set a course for the United States with homeward bound troops embarked as part of the ongoing Operation Magic Carpet. The battleship delivered her passengers to San Pedro, California on 15 October, and celebrated Navy Day there on 27 October before resuming her mission to bring American troops home. She made two round-trip voyages between California and Oahu in November and a third in late December.
On 21 January 1946, the warship departed San Pedro and steamed via the Panama Canal to Norfolk where she arrived on 13 February, and soon began preparations for inactivation. On 18 June, she was placed officially in reserve at Baltimore, Maryland. The Battleship Texas Commission was established on 17 April 1947 to care for the ship by the Texas Legislature. The $225,000 necessary to pay for the towing of the ship from Baltimore to San Jacinto was the first task of the Commission. On 17 March 1948, the ship began her journey to her new anchorage along the busy Houston Ship Channel near the San Jacinto Monument, at San Jacinto State Park, arriving on 20 April, where she was turned over to the State of Texas the next day (21 April) to serve as a permanent memorial. Her name was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 30 April 1948. The date of 21 April is significant in that it was the date in 1836 of the decisive Battle of San Jacinto that ended the War for Texas Independence and led to the creation of the Republic of Texas, which joined the US as a state in 1845. Texas was the first battleship memorial museum in the US. When the battleship was presented to the State of Texas, she was commissioned as the flagship of the Texas Navy.
The funding produced by the Battleship Texas Commission was not up to the task of maintaining the ship. Consequently, years of neglect resulted in cracks and gaps in coated surfaces, water intrusion, and steel deterioration. Paint in interior spaces began to crack, then flake, exposing metal surfaces underneath, which began to rust. At the same time, pipes open to the sea ultimately failed, flooding various voids and bunkers. By 1968, the wooden main deck of the ship was so rotted that rainwater was leaking through the deck into the interior of the ship and pooling in various compartments. The Commission found that replacing the decayed deck timbers was prohibitively expensive. The solution at the time was to remove the wooden deck and replace it with concrete. The concrete eventually cracked, and again, rainwater began to leak through the main deck into spaces below. In 1971, three local charitable institutions, the Brown Foundation, the Moody Foundation, and the Houston Endowment, together contributed $50,000 to the ship to enable the Commission to sandblast and paint the hull. By this time, newspaper articles reported that Texas was “under attack” from neglect and insufficient funding. Nevertheless, Texas was designated a National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1975, and a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service in 1976.
By 1983, concerns with the leadership of the Battleship Texas Commission led to the decision by the State Legislature to turn over control of the ship to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department . The legislature abolished the commission effective 31 August 1983, and TPWD assumed operational control the next day. One of the first actions by TPWD was to hire a firm of naval architects to survey the ship in order to assess the deterioration and make recommendations as to what actions should be taken to preserve the ship. The survey revealed that the ship’s watertight integrity was badly compromised, the hull was open to the sea in many places, and many compartments were full of standing rain water. The architects determined that the ship needed to go to dry dock for major repairs to the hull and to keep rain water from coming through the porous concrete deck. As part of this plan, serious consideration was given to protecting sensitive fabrics and restoring the interior of the ship. After a five-year-long fund-raising campaign, $15 million was collected to dry dock the ship and complete necessary repairs.
Finally, on 13 December 1988, Texas was pulled from her berth with great difficulty over the course of six hours by six large tugboats to begin a 56 mi trek from her berth to Todd Shipyard in Galveston, Texas. Once under tow in the Houston Ship Channel she started taking on water, with a serious breach just forward of the engine rooms. The crew had three 4 in pumps and two 2 in pumps in continuous service to combat the flooding. During the nine plus hour transit, the ship’s draft increased 18 in to 20 in in the stern. Texas entered the yard’s floating drydock at approximately 10:30 pm on 13 December, at high tide with only 6 in to spare between her hull and the blocks she would sit on. She underwent a 14 month refit that sought to restore the ship to her 1945 condition. While under refit, yard workers sand-blasted paint from not only the hull but also the superstructure of the ship and replaced many tons of rusted metal from the hull. Inside the ship, welders and fabricators replaced weakened structural beams and numerous rusted-out deck plates. Topside, workers removed the concrete from the main deck and made repairs. (A new pinewood deck would be installed in Greens Bayou ). In total, more than 375,000 lb of steel (amounting to about 15% of the ship’s hull) was replaced and more than 40,000 rivets were seal-welded on the underwater hull. On 24 February 1990, tugboats moved the Texas from dry dock to a repair facility on Green’s Bayou for further repairs. It was here that the wood deck was installed and four of the ten mounts of quad 40 mm guns were installed. On 26 July, the ship was returned to her berth at San Jacinto where the final six mounts of 40 mm guns were installed. Repairs complete, the ship officially reopened to the public on 8 September 1990. Since returning to her slip at San Jacinto, members of the ship’s staff and volunteers have moved forward with restoring the interior spaces.
On 6 November 2007, Texas voters approved $25 million in funds to dry-berth the ship to prevent further deterioration from the corrosive waters of the ship channel. This solution will permanently cradle the ship in a dry berth at her current location. Accordingly, the depth of the current slip will be increased to 38 ft below sea level before driving over 1,000 concrete piles into the bottom soil to support a 5 ft thick 108,800 sq ft concrete foundation. A cradle of 1,500 ft of concrete pylon beams and cribbing will rest upon this foundation and support the ship. This entire structure will be enclosed by a 1,680 ft long cofferdam with a concrete sidewalk and viewing platform on the top, all of which is projected to be completed by the centennial of the construction of the ship in 2011. When complete, Texas will be the first ship of her size to be permanently dry-docked.
Texas was the first and will be the oldest of an eventual total of eight US battleships that have become floating museums; the other battleships honored in this way are Massachusetts, Alabama, North Carolina, New Jersey, Missouri, and Wisconsin.
Texas has appeared in several films since her retirement. Her cinema debut was in the 1966 Steve McQueen film The Sand Pebbles. In the 2001 film Pearl Harbor, Texas stood in for the battleship West Virginia in scenes depicting Cuba Gooding, Jr. as native-Texan Doris Miller. Some of the ship’s interiors were also used to portray the interior of the aircraft carrier Hornet later in the film. Texas also appears as herself in the 2006 films Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima; in both movies the ship is depicted shelling Iwo Jima in preparation for the Marines’ amphibious assault.
Name: USS Texas
Namesake: The State of Texas
Ordered: 24 June 1910
Awarded: 17 December 1910
Builder: Newport News Shipbuilding Company
Cost: $5,830,000 (excluding armor and armament)
Laid down: 17 April 1911
Launched: 18 May 1912
Sponsored by: Miss Claudia Lyon
Completed: 12 March 1914
Commissioned: 12 March 1914
Decommissioned: 21 April 1948
Struck: 30 April 1948
Honors and awards:
Combat Action Ribbon, Mexican Service Medal, World War I Victory Medal, American Defense Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (w/ 2 battle stars), European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal (w/3 battle stars), World War II Victory Medal, Navy Occupation Service Medal
Fate: Museum ship
Class and type: New York-class battleship
Displacement: 27,000 long tons (27,000 t)
Length: 573 ft
Beam: 95 ft 3 in
Draft: 27 ft 10.5 in (normal) 29 ft 3.25 in (full)
Propulsion: 14 Babcock and Wilcox boilers, 8 superheated, 295 PSI
Speed: 21 kn
Complement: 954 officers and men
Sensors and processing systems: RADAR CXZ from December 1938; 1941CXAM-1 SC-1 (foremast) SG (foremast and mainmast); SK (mainmast)
Armament: 10 × 14 in /45 cal guns (5×2)
21 × 5 in /51 cal guns
4 × 3-pounder guns
4 × 21 in submerged torpedo tubes
Armor: Belt: 10 to 12 in (amidships); 6 in (aft)
Bulkheads: 10 in and 11 in ; 9 in (lower belt aft)
Barbettes: 5 to 12 in
Turrets: 14 in (face); 4 in (top); 8 in – 9 in (sides); 8 in (rear);
Decks: 1.5 to 3 in