Though it is currently possible to walk the decks of seven United States Navy battleships dating back to the Second World War, which have been preserved as “museum ships;” for a few more weeks, a handful of lucky visitors will be able to see the World War I-era USS Texas (BB-35) in a very unique way.
While the ship is in drydock, and out of the water, the Battleship Texas Foundation – which maintains the vessel and is overseeing the repair efforts – has been providing limited tours. This allows visitors to see both the ravages of time on the hull, as well as the efforts to save the ship.
The special tours began last month and are conducted every Sunday.
Visitors must be at least 16-years-of-age, while a strict dress code of full length pants and closed shoes with good traction are required. Tickets need to be purchased in advance.
Significant Progress on USS Texas
The efforts to preserve the ship began in earnest after USS Texas was towed out of her berth to a floating dry dock at Gulf Cooper Dock & Rig Repair. The journey took four tugboats pulling the ship 40 miles through the Houston Ship Channel. It is the first major restoration since the ship was sent to drydock from 1988 to 1990.
Work is currently underway to remove the 5-inch guns and see them restored – and it is likely the first time since they were installed during the 1925-1927 refit that the guns have been moved.
A Most Notable Warship
This is the largest effort to ensure that USS Texas will be preserved for future generations, and for good reason. There is simply no other vessel like her.
In 1948, after seeing service in both World Wars – BB-35 became first of the eight battleships that have be transformed into a permanent floating museum – and she is also the oldest surviving modern naval warship, having turned 100 years old in March 2014. Even before seeing service during the Normandy landings and the Pacific in the Second World war, the battlewagon had a colorful career.
Soon after her commissioning, the New York-class warship was sent in service during the “Tampico Incident,” which involved the United States’ occupation of Vera Cruz, and she began fleet operations after America’s entry into the First World War.
Apart from the time spent in drydock during the last restoration effort, USS Texas has called the Houston Ship Channel near the San Jacinto Monument at San Jacinto State Park home – the location where Texian troops led by Gen. Sam Houston surprised and quickly defeated the Mexican Army in 1836.
However, when the repairs are completed, the Battleship Texas Foundation intends to berth the ship at a different location. Baytown, Galveston, and Beaumont have all expressed interest in hosting the vessel.
Many veterans have championed Galveston as it was the original home of the Texas Navy dating back to the era of the Texas Republic – and USS Texas is still its honorary “flagship”
In addition, Seawolf Park is located on Galveston’s Pelican Island, home to the World War II submarine USS Cavalla and one of only three destroyer escorts in the world, the USS Stewart.
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.