Posted tagged ‘North Africa’

USS Texas: Battleship of the Republic

May 8, 2010

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.

 Construction

 

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.

 

 Service history

 

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.

 

 Inter-War period

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

 Early operations

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.

 Convoy duty

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.

 Operation Torch

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.

 Operation Overlord

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.

 Rehearsal

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.

 D-Day

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.

 Operation Dragoon

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.

 Museum Ship

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.

 Media

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.

 

 

USS Texas

 Career (US) 

 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

 General characteristics

 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[7] 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

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Here Comes the General

May 6, 2010

The M3 Stuart, formally Light Tank M3, was an American light tank of World War II. It was used by British and Commonwealth forces prior to the entry of the USA into the war, and thereafter by US and Allied forces until the end of the war. The name General Stuart or Stuart given by the British comes from the American Civil War General J.E.B. Stuart and was used for both the M3 and the derivative M5 Light Tank; in British service it also had the unofficial nickname of Honey (named when a tank driver remarked “She’s a honey”). To the United States Army the tanks were officially known only as “Light Tank M3” and “Light Tank M5”.

Development

Observing events in Europe, American tank designers realized that the Light Tank M2 was becoming obsolete and set about improving it. The upgraded design, with thicker armor, modified suspension and new gun recoil system was called “Light Tank M3”. Production of the vehicle started in March 1941 and continued until October 1943. Like its direct predecessor, the M2A4, the M3 was armed with a 37 mm M5 gun and five .30-06 Browning M1919A4 machine guns: coaxial with the gun, on top of the turret in an M20 AA mount, in a ball mount in right bow, in the right and left hull sponsons.

To relieve the demand for the radial aero-engines used in the M3, a new version was developed using twin Cadillac V-8 automobile engines. The new model (initially called M4 but redesignated M5 to avoid confusion with the M4 Sherman) also featured a redesigned hull with sloped glacis plate and driver’s hatches moved to the top. Although the main criticism from the units using it was that the Stuarts lacked firepower, the improved M5 series kept the same 37 mm gun. The M5 gradually replaced the M3 in production from 1942 and was in turn succeeded by the Light Tank M24 in 1944.


Combat history

The British Army was the first to use the Light Tank M3 as the “General Stuart” in combat. In November 1941, some 170 Stuarts took part in Operation Crusader during the North Africa Campaign, with poor results. Although the high losses suffered by Stuart-equipped units during the operation had more to do with better tactics and training of the Afrika Korps than the apparent superiority of German armoured fighting vehicles used in the North African, the operation revealed that the M3 had several technical faults. Mentioned in the British complaints were the 37 mm M5 gun and poor internal layout. The two-man turret crew was a significant weakness, and some British units tried to fight with three-man turret crews. The Stuart also had a limited range, which was a severe problem in the highly mobile desert warfare as units often outpaced their supplies and were stranded when they ran out of fuel. On the positive side, crews liked its high speed and mechanical reliability. The high speed[citation needed] and high reliability distinguished the Stuart from cruiser tanks of the period, in particular the Crusader, which composed a large portion of the British tank force in Africa up until 1942.From the summer of 1942, when enough US medium tanks had been received, the British usually kept Stuarts out of tank-to-tank combat, using them primarily for reconnaissance. The turret was removed from some examples to save weight and improve speed and range. These became known as “Stuart Recce”. Some others were converted to armored personnel carriers and were known as “Stuart Kangaroo”, and some were converted command vehicles and known as “Stuart Command”. M3s, M3A3s, and M5s continued in British service until the end of the war, but British units had a smaller proportion of these light tanks than US units.The other major Lend-Lease recipient of the M3, the Soviet Union, was even less happy with the tank, considering it undergunned, underarmored, likely to catch fire, and too sensitive to fuel quality. The narrow tracks were highly unsuited to operation in winter conditions, as they resulted in high ground pressures under which the tank sank into the snow. Further, the M3’s radial aircraft engine required high-octane fuel, which complicated Soviet logistics as most of their tanks used diesel. However, the M3 was superior to early-war Soviet light tanks such as the T-60, which were often underpowered and possessed even lighter armament than the Stuart. In 1943, the Red Army tried out the M5 and decided that the upgraded design was not much better than the M3. Being less desperate than in 1941, the Soviets turned down an American offer to supply the M5. M3s continued in Red Army service at least until 1944.

In US Army service, the M3 first saw combat in the Philippines. Two battalions, comprising the Provisional Tank Group fought in the Bataan peninsula campaign. When the American army joined the North African Campaign in late 1942, Stuart units still formed a large part of its armor strength. After the disastrous Battle of the Kasserine Pass the US quickly followed the British in disbanding most of their light tank battalions and subordinating the Stuarts to medium tank battalions performing the traditional cavalry missions of scouting and screening. For the rest of the war, most US tank battalions had three companies of M4 Shermans and one company of M3s or M5/M5A1s.

In Europe, Allied light tanks had to be given cavalry and infantry fire support roles since their main cannon armament could not compete with heavier enemy AFVs. However, the Stuart was still effective in combat in the Pacific Theater, as Japanese tanks were both relatively rare and were generally much weaker than even Allied light tanks. Japanese infantrymen were poorly equipped with anti-tank weapons and tended to attack tanks using close-assault tactics. In this environment, the Stuart was only moderately more vulnerable than medium tanks. In addition, the poor terrain and roads common to the theatre were unsuitable for the much heavier M4 medium tanks, and so initially, only light armor could be deployed. Heavier M4s were eventually brought to overcome heavily entrenched positions, though the Stuart continued to serve in a combat capacity until the end of the war.

Though the Stuart was to be completely replaced by the newer M24 Chaffee, the number of M3s/M5s produced was so great (over 25,000 including the 75 mm HMC M8) that the tank remained in service until the end of the war and well after. In addition to the United States, United Kingdom and Soviet Union, who were the primary users, it was also used by France, China (M3A3s and, immediately post-war, M5A1s) and Tito’s partisans in Yugoslavia (M3A3s and few M3A1).

After the war, some countries chose to equip their armies with cheap and reliable Stuarts. The Republic of China Army, having suffered great attrition as a result of the ensuing civil war, rebuilt their armored forces by acquiring surplus vehicles left behind in the area by the US forces, including 22 M5A1s to equip two tank companies. They would have their finest hours during the Battle of Kuningtou, for which the tank came to be known as the “Bear of Kinmen”. The M5 played a significant role in the First Kashmir War (1947) between India and Pakistan, including the battle of Zoji-la pass fought at an altitude of nearly 12,000 ft. The vehicle remained in service in several South American countries at least until 1996.During the 60s and 70s, the Portuguese Army also used some in the war in Angola, where its all terrain capability (compared to wheeled vehicles) was greatly appreciated. An unspecified number of M5A1 Light Tanks served with the 1927th Cavalry Battalion stationed at Nambuangongo, being employed mostly for convoy escort duties and limited counterinsurgency operations. Period photographs show some modifications in the basic design, namely the omission of the bow machine gun, re-installed on a pintle mount in the roof of the turret and a small searchlight fitted in front of the commander’s copula .


In the media

A heavily modified M5A1 Stuart was featured in the movie Tank Girl as the eponymous heroine’s tank.

Modified Stuarts were used in the movie Attack! as German tanks.

“The Haunted Tank” was a DC Comics feature that appeared in GI Combat starring an M3 Stuart scout tank commanded by Lieutenant Jeb Stuart, a direct descendant and namesake of the Civil War cavalry general J.E.B. Stuart. The tank was haunted by the Confederate officer, who would appear to warn his kinsman of impending danger or offer usually cryptic advice on how to handle a combat action. The original series ran from 1961 to 1987.


Light Tank M3A3 (Stuart V)

Type     Light tank

Place of origin      United States

Produced     1941–1945
Specifications

Weight      32,400 lb
Length      14.8 ft
Width      8.1 ft
Height      7.5 ft
Crew      4 (Commander, gunner, driver, co-driver)
Armor      13–51 mm
Primary
armament 37 mm M6 in M44 mount 174 rounds

Secondary
armament 3 × .30-06 Browning M1919A4 MG 7,500 rounds

Engine     Continental W-670-9A, 7 Cylinder air-cooled radial 250 hp

Power/weight     17.82 hp/tonne

Suspension     Vertical volute spring

Operational
range     74 mi
Speed     36 mph (road) 18 mph (off-road)

Note:  All of the photographs were taken on my visit to the Tank Museum in Danville, Va. in April 2006