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.
June 9, 2022 at 2:06 pm
She has sat for years virtually in the shadow of San Jacinto monument, so us Texans felt that was appropriate. I thought I read years ago she had been moved into permanent dry dock, so future upkeep would be strictly cosmetic. Wikipedia has a very thorough write up on her storied history, very much recommended.
June 9, 2022 at 7:47 pm
The biggest problem all along was where the Texas was. The San Jacinto battlefield is off the beaten path and consequently, the Texas was too. Decades of neglect and pilfering of “scrap” by the staff, who were actually using the funds to keep the ship going, took their toll. The last time she went into dry dock they painted her measure 44 blue (her last battle paint scheme) and replaced the poured concrete decks (which had replaced rotted teak) with yellow pine that was painted and rotted quickly. Worse than than, the hull zincs were apparently omitted causing further deterioration below the water line. Texas’ new home needs to be a place that is visible and easily accessible… Seawolf park… is NOT. and those ships should also be moved to a place more visible and accessible near the rail museum and cruise ship terminal.
Bruce Mergele, QMC, USNR-Retired
June 9, 2022 at 7:54 pm
I should also say that Texas was not the first battleship monument. USS Oregon pre-dated her by a score of years but the state donated her to the scrap metal drives of WWII. Oregon, a veteran of the Spanish American war and the Great White Fleet round the world cruise was stripped of her guns and superstructure and spent the war as an ammunition hulk and was finally scrapped. In Japan, the (pre-dreadnaught) battleship Mikasa also pre-dates the Texas and was a veteran of the Tsushima battle in which Admiral Togo decimated the Russian Fleet in 1905. If you wanted to really get technical, Nelson’s flagship at Trafalgar was the HMS Victory… a line-of-battle-ship and is preserved at Portsmouth, England.
June 13, 2022 at 12:38 pm
She might be the oldest battleship preserved, but the Constitution which is still active and a museum is older. To me I don’t think she would survive in Galveston especially when it comes to hurricanes.
July 21, 2022 at 12:54 am
I too think that USS Texas would be well served in a venue that’s more accessible and visible. Oh how I wish that I were a billionaire. Texas would receive a complete overhaul and be made seaworthy as well as functional. Anyway, we must not forget the history that Texas represents and the part that she played for freedoms cause.
July 21, 2022 at 9:46 pm
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