They do things “big” in Texas, and this week a massive dry dock arrived in the Lone Star State that will be used in the restoration efforts of the 110-year-old “Battleship Texas.” The museum vessel and former United States Navy New York-class battleship USS Texas (BB-35) remains the oldest preserved capital warship in the world.
Launched in May 1912 and commissioned in March 1914, she is the only remaining battleship to have seen service in both World Wars. BB-35 served as a convoy escort across the Atlantic and later shelled Axis-held beaches in the North African campaign and the Normandy Landings, before being transferred to the Pacific Theater, where she provided naval gunfire support during the Battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
In addition to an impressive combat record, USS Texas is also noteworthy for the technological improvements and advancements that were made during the course of service with the U.S. Navy. She proved to be the perfect testbed for the Navy, and in March 1919 she became the first U.S. battleship to fly off an aircraft – a British Sopwith Camel – from a temporary platform that had been fitted atop her second turret. Other improvements were made to her combat systems, and Texas was the first U.S. battleship to mount anti-aircraft guns and the first U.S. vessel to control gunfire with directors and range-keepers.
The First Museum Ship
Since her decommissioning in 1948, USS Texas has been preserved as the first permanent battleship memorial museum in the United States – yet even today she officially remains the flagship of the “Texas Navy.”
The now-retired warship is fighting for her life, however, as time and the elements have ravaged her hull, which has been leaking so greatly that the vessel had begun to tilt by as much as eight degrees! As the first battleship to be declared a U.S. National Historic Landmark, and the only remaining World War I era dreadnought battleship, efforts continue to preserve the once majestic USS Texas.
To help with the restoration, a specially-built dry dock has traveled all the way from the Bahamas, and it arrived at Galveston last weekend. It will be used for the major renovation work on the warship, which is currently docked in La Porte, Texas. In addition to maintaining the historically significant warship for future generations, the restoration project is expected to create new jobs in Galveston. That has already included a dredging contract to accommodate the dry dock.
“In about mid-August, we hope to bring the battleship here from San Jacinto and put it on that dry dock to repair the hull. It’s something we’ve been working on for years, really since 2019,” Tony Gregory, president and CEO of the Battleship Texas Foundation told reporters this week. “So this is a really big, important step for us.”
The Battleship Texas Foundation expects to have the renovation of the historic military vessel completed by June 2023. However, it has still yet to be determined where the ship will head after the repairs are made. A new and permanent home for USS Texas has not been chosen, but the foundation has spoken to officials in Baytown, Beaumont, and Galveston.
Many veterans have championed Galveston as it was the original home of the Texas Navy, dating back to when Texas was a republic, while Seawolf Park is located on Galveston’s Pelican Island. The park houses the World War II submarine USS Cavalla and one of only three destroyer escorts in the world, the USS Stewart.
Now a Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes.