Video from the Battleship Texas Century Celebration
Battleship Texas is the last remaining battleship that participated in both World War I and World War II. Over her service life, the Navy repeatedly outfitted the ship with cutting edge technology. Fate spared Battleship Texas as she fought in two wars. Now she is fighting for survival against age and rust.
The U.S. Navy commissioned USS Texas on March 12, 1914. She was the most powerful weapon in the world, a complex product of an industrial nation emerging as a force in global events.
In 1916, USS Texas became the first U.S. battleship to mount anti-aircraft guns. She was also the first to control gunfire with directors and range-keepers. These early computers increased firing accuracy.
In World War I, USS Texas joined the 6th Battle Squadron of the British Grand Fleet early in 1918. Her duties included laying a North Sea mine barrage, responding to German High Seas Fleet maneuvers, and helping prevent enemy naval forces from cutting off Allied supply lines.
Late in 1918, she escorted the German Fleet to its surrender anchorage.
In 1925, the Navy opted to modernize USS Texas instead of scrapping her. This meant converting the ship to run on fuel oil instead of coal. Tripod masts and a single stack replaced the ship’s cage masts and two smoke stacks. Torpedo blisters added another layer of protection to the ship’s waterline.
USS Texas received one of the first radars in the U.S. Navy in 1939. With new anti-aircraft guns, fire control and communication equipment, the ship remained an aging but powerful asset in the U.S. naval fleet.
World War II
USS Texas became flagship of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet before World War II. She had a close call in 1941 while on "Neutrality Patrol.” German Submarine U-203 had the ship in its sights and asked permission to fire. Adolf Hitler eventually denied permission to engage the ship, or any other U.S. ship.
Fate spared the battleship again when Japanese forces bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941: She was safe in Maine. The United States entered World War II soon after.
During the war, USS Texas fired on Nazi defenses in Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
Shortly afterward, German coastal defense artillery near Cherbourg hit the ship twice. The first shell exploded, injuring 12 and killing one. This was the only combat fatality ever aboard USS Texas. The second shell hit the ship, but did not explode. The Navy deactivated this “lucky shell” and returned it to the ship as a good luck charm.
After repairs, the battleship shelled Nazi positions in Southern France before transferring to the Pacific. There she lent gunfire support and anti-aircraft fire to the landings on Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
After Japan’s surrender, USS Texas carried soldiers stationed across the Pacific home from war.
When she completed her final mission, the state of Texas acquired the ship. On April 21, 1948, Battleship Texas was decommissioned, and became a memorial ship.
Today, Battleship Texas is a floating museum and the last remaining U.S. battleship of her kind. She stands as a memorial to the bravery and sacrifice of the servicemen who fought in both world wars.
The battleship is both a National Historic Landmark and a National Mechanical Engineering Landmark. Ensuring her future will require a concerted effort from Texas citizens and businesses. Luck has gotten her this far, but now it’s up to Texans to save Battleship Texas.