What You Didn't Know About the Battleship Texas

Updated on February 4, 2018
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Recently married on Sept. 8, 2017, Jason Ponic works in the exciting world of Hollywood film and television by day and writes by night.

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The same age as the Titanic.

Just one month after the world's most famous vessel sank on her maiden voyage on April 15, 1912, the United States launched this new warship. 50 years had passed since Battle of the Ironclads and the evolution of the warship had now culminated in the form of the USS Texas, a New York-class super dreadnaught that, when commissioned in 1914, was the most powerful weapon on earth. Her five turrets boasted twin fourteen-inch cannons capable of lobbing 1,400 lb shells over 13 miles, the biggest yet afloat. Armed to the teeth with twenty-one five-inch secondary guns Texas alone could render an entire fleet to flames.

USS Texas in World War I
USS Texas in World War I

Fired the first American shots of WWI

In 1917, USS Texas was on merchant patrol duty. In April, the merchant ship Mongolia spotted a German U-Boat preparing to attach. USS Texas opened fire, averting the attack. These salvos were America's first formal shots of World War I.

One of USS Texas early gun directors.
One of USS Texas early gun directors.

First to use centralized remote fire control directors.

USS Texas became the first US warship to employ new remote fire control systems to aim and fire its main turrets. Before, warships had to rely entirely on manual calculations and movements to aim the guns. This method became increasingly difficult and slower as guns got bigger and ranges grew longer. With a centralized control, now one crew could control multiple turrets using machinery to automate some of the aiming calculations. These rudimentary computers made aiming these huge guns much easier, faster and more accurate by automating geometry calculations while factoring in temperature, humidity and wind.

They weren't perfect. Due to the infancy of computer technology in those days. Crews still had to execute these calculations manually. During battle, stress and fatigue easily created room for error.

One of Texas' 3-inch anti aircraft guns. This gun no longer stands on the ship, only its empty platform.
One of Texas' 3-inch anti aircraft guns. This gun no longer stands on the ship, only its empty platform.

First armed with anti-aircraft guns.

As air technology continued to evolve, anti-aircraft measures also became standard. Seeing the writing on the wall and eager protect their ships from these airborn threat, the US Navy began arming their ships with various caliber AA guns. USS Texas became the first ship to be outfit with these new purpose specific guns, originally 20+ in total; Ten 3-inch 50 caliber guns, six quad 40mm later increased to ten, forty-four 20 mm Oerliken multi purpose Cannons. Basically she was armed to the teeth to tear birds from the sky at any given time. Over the course of her service career, she would gradually loose guns as airplanes grew faster, rendering the guns less and less effective. Today, only a fraction of the guns she once had still stand on the ship. Evidence of where the guns one stood is everywhere with empty mounting basins all over the ship.

Texas' good luck charm; an unexploded German HE shell that struck the ship.
Texas' good luck charm; an unexploded German HE shell that struck the ship.

Still on the ship, a German shell that struck but didn't explode.

During the Battle of Cherbourg in June 1944, USS Texas alongside battleships Nevada, Arkansas, four cruisers and eleven destroyers, opened fire on the vital german port. Texas and Arkansas were ordered to the east to shell the coastal installation, Battery Hamburg.

During the battle, the coastal guns fire at Texas and Arkansas. Texas was hit several times, one shell hit the bridge and exploded, destroying the gun director periscope and damaged the pilot house. Another pierced the ship's weak forepeak armor directly above the wardroom. This shell, however, was a dud and did not explode. After the battle, the US Navy safely deactivated this shell and returned it to the ship as a good luck charm. It has remained onboard ever since.

The first US battleship to become a museum ship.

By 1946, after fighting in two world wars, USS Texas was outmoded and a relic, the third oldest in the fleet. US Navy found itself was a bloated fleet of aging and surplus ships, unneeded in peacetime. USS Texas went into the reserve fleet as the navy figured out their fate.

The newest ships like the mighty Iowa-class, were placed into long term mothballs or remained in active service. The two oldest battleships, Arkansas and New York, were among several chosen to serve as target ships for the hydrogen bomb testing at Bikini Island. Arkansas did not survive the detonation but New York did. She was later sunk by conventional fire.

Texas was spared the fate of a target ship. Realizing her record and historical significance, the Navy decided to donate the ship to the State of Texas as part of the state's centennial celebration. In 1947, fundraising began to tow Texas to her permanent home in Houston. In 1948, the tow began and the ship's name was struck from the naval register. She became the first permanently moored battleship in the US.

Texas has nearly sunk at her berth several times in recent years.

Designed to last forty years at best, USS Texas is pushing 103 years and its showing. The battleship hasn't been drydocked since the 1980s and her last overhaul. As a result the watertight integrity of the ship is severely compromised as corrosive seawater eats away at the ship from the inside out. The Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept. has been campaigning for donations to fund not only an overhaul of the ship, but a redesign of her permanent berth to ensure the Texas' future. It is essential to dry berth the ship once her hull integrity has been repaired.

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    • jasonponic profile image
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      Jason Ponic 2 weeks ago from Albuquerque

      Actually her sister and lead ship of her class, USS New York is credited by the US Navy as the first to be commissioned with 14" guns.

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      Tracy Lott 2 weeks ago

      One minor correction - her main guns are 14" in diameter and she has ten of them. Five turrets with two guns each. She was the first battleship commissioned with 14" guns.

    • whonunuwho profile image

      whonunuwho 2 months ago from United States

      Great work my friend. My father, and two uncles served in WWII in the Navy. One sadly perished when a shell struck the ship he was on. I almost joined during Vietnam War but was turned down due to a football injury I had suffered in my back. I guess it worked out for the best, as I went on to college and later became a teacher of kids with special needs. Many blessings for sharing this grand ship's important part of history. whonu

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