U.S.S. Texas (BB-35), 1914

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The dreadnought Texas, built at Newport News 1911-1914, shown in 1948 at the beginning of her odyssey to Texas and a new career as a museum ship and war memorial. This photo shows tugs warping the 31,000-ton battleship out of her "Mothball Fleet" berth in Baltimore. Arriving after the 1,800nm tow, the ship was ceremonially decommissioned by the USN and then mustered into the "Texas Navy" to become a permanent attraction at San Jacinto Park, on the Houston Ship Channel. There she lies to this day, the sole surviving dreadnought battleship in the world. As such she provides an example of one of the world's most imposing weapons systems, and a monument to one of the greatest arms races in history: the naval arms race that preceded the First World War.

USS New York on trials, 1914Texas was a New York class battleship. This was the fourth class of ships to follow the first U.S. Navy dreadnoughts, the South Carolinas of 1910. Originally configured as coal-burning two-stackers with wire basket masts, Texas and New York arguably could be called super-dreadnoughts: they mounted ten 14" guns apiece and, initially, (21) 5" guns (later reduced to six). However, like most of the early U.S. dreadnoughts, they retained the triple-expansion engine/twin screw configuration from the pre-dreadnought era. America had limited facilities for machining steam turbines and they were rationed; the earlier Wyoming class were the first U.S. battleships to be turbine powered, but the New Yorks reverted to triple-expansion. Since direct-drive turbines were less efficient at lower rpm's, and the U.S. had a vast patch of ocean to patrol, piston engines were chosen as a compromise solution. It was not until the succeeding Nevada class that American battleships finally adopted turbine engines as standard. Texas was to live her entire service life -- including action in the North Atlantic in two World Wars, in Operation Torch and Normandy, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa -- with her original piston-and-crankshaft engines and 21-kt speed.


Plans and Specifications

USS Texas schematic, 1914 fit

Texas' specifications, as built:
Dimensions: 573' x 95'3" x 28.5'   Extreme draft: 29'3¼"   Displacement: 27,000 tons std; 28,400 deep laden. Armament: (10) 14"/45 cal. Mk. 8 (5x2); (21) 5"/50 cal. in casemates and open mountings; (8) 3" 50 cal. AA (as built); (4) 21" torpedo tubes. Armor: Midvale type. 12"/10"/6" belt, turrets: 9"/4", face 14"; 12"/4" conning tower; 4"/1.5" deck, 12"/5" barbettes, 11"/9" bulkheads. Fuel capacity: 3,000 tons coal, 400 tons oil. Propulsion: 14 coal-fired Babcock & Wilcox boilers; two vertical inverted 4-cyl. triple expansion engines mfd. by Newport News (builder), developing 28,000 shp; twin screw. Speed: 21 kts. Endurance: 9,600 nm @ 10 kts; 3,700 nm @ 20 kts. Crew: 58 officers, 944 enlisted men. Cost: $5,830,000 ($137 million in 2010 currency), excluding armor and guns.

Metric Specifications:
Dimensions: 175m x 29m x 8.5m   Extreme draft: 8.92m   Displacement: 27,000 tons std; 28,400 deep laden. Armament: (10) 36 cm/45 cal. Mk. 8 (5x2); (21) 130 mm/50 cal. in casemates and open mountings; (8) 76 mm/50 cal. AA (as built); (4) 53 cm torpedo tubes. Armor: Midvale type. 305/254/150 mm belt, turrets: 230/100 mm, face 360 mm; 305/100 mm conning tower; 100/38 mm deck, 305/130 mm barbettes, 280/230 mm bulkheads. Fuel capacity: 3,000 tons coal, 400 tons oil. Propulsion: 14 coal-fired Babcock & Wilcox boilers; two vertical inverted 4-cyl. triple expansion engines mfd. by Newport News (builder), developing 20,879.6 kW; twin screw. Speed: 39 km/hr. Endurance: 17,779.2 km @ 18.5 km/hr; 6,852.4 km @ 37 km/hr. Crew: 58 officers, 944 enlisted men. Cost: $5,830,000 ($137 million in 2010 currency), excluding armor and guns.


Ship's History

American Squadron welcomed to Scapa Flow during WWI
Texas led a long and useful life. Almost as soon as she was commissioned, she was assigned to assist in actions against Pancho Villa in pre-revolutionary Mexico. Soon after that was settled, in April 1917, the U.S. declared war on the side of the Allies in WWI. Texas and New York were among a detachment of America's 9 most recent coal-burning dreadnoughts sent to reinforce the British Grand Fleet. They were homeported with the immense British fleet at Scapa Flow (left), its great wartime base in the remote Orkneys, north of Scotland. There they witnessed the surrender of the German High Seas Fleet on November 21, 1918. Texas was already in the States, taking part in frequent naval reviews in New York and elsewhere, when news came that the German crews had scuttled their own ships interned at Scapa on June 20, 1919, depriving the British of some of the fruits of victory. But even then Prime Minister David Lloyd George and French Premier Clemenceau were conspiring to make a peace that "squeezed the German orange 'til the pips squeaked" -- fueling resentments which led to the rise of Nazism and the horrors of WWII.

Launching ship's aircraft during WWIIAt the dawn of the aviation era, the Texas was an early adopter, becoming the first American battleship to fly off an aircraft in 1919. From then through the mid-20s she sported a short inclined track over her #2 turret, which was all the traction a pilot needed to launch his biplane aloft. The takeoff track could be angled by elevating the turret's great guns. Later in her mid-20s refit, a catapult was attached over the top and port side of #3 turret -- the ship's center 14" emplacement, between the funnel and the aft fire director tower ("mainmast"), visible in the photo. This remained Air Central for the ship's remaining decades of service. To launch, the turret would be trained abeam facing into the wind and the plane shot offside by the powerful catapult -- a Mark IV unit, installed in 1926, that did faithful duty for 20 years. Battleship and cruiser-based aircraft were used to scout ahead and also to spot the fall of shot and radio back instructions to their ship's fire control, enabling instant and accurate correction "on the fly." The advent of radar for target acquisition in WWII, combined with spotting aircraft reporting over the target zone, improved the accuracy of battleship gunnery by quantum leaps over the rangefinder-and-plotter systems in use during WWI and earlier. Click here for a detailed diagram of the Texas's main battery director firing sytem.

USS Texas as flagship of Atlantic Fleet, c. 1938Texas was updated several times between the wars. She was converted to oil fuel in 1926, and became a one-stacker. At the same time her basket masts were replaced with sturdy tripods, with the enormous fire director stations atop them which were standard issue in 1930s American battleships. These were the eyes of the ship's complex gunnery system; when gunners in the turrets ceased laying their guns based on their own visual observation and impulses -- when they responded to orders, readings, and calculations made elsewhere in the ship, it was called director firing. The directors who issued the firing orders were technicians in the ship's Combat Info Center. They derived their directions from one of the world's first analog computers, called the firing table. This instrument weighed a number of complex factors before arriving at a solution; WWII issue 16" targeting computers were still in use aboard the Iowa class battleships in the Gulf in 1991. In Texas' 1926 refit, a fat torpedo blister was installed along both sides, adding 9 feet to the ship's beam. It had been finally acknowledged that guns mounted below the main deck were usually "washed out" and inoperable in any kind of windy or rough conditions. Accordingly, many of the 5" gun mounts were removed, and the 5" armament concentrated in an armored citadel on the command level (visible as the overhanging bulge just under the funnel) and the open deck before the bridge. The photo at left finds Texas on parade with the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, circa 1938, while serving as its flagship. Click here for a detailed cutaway diagram of the Texas's innards.


World War II

Texas was still deployed in the Atlantic when the devastating attack at Pearl Harbor precipitated America's entry into WWII. For the men of the Texas, this was to be the start of a vigorously prosecuted two-ocean war. Convoy escort duty headlined their beat in the first two years of the War, broken by service as Adm. Kelly's flagship for the Operation Torch invasion of Morocco. CBS correspondent Walter Cronkite was transported on the Texas to report on the operation -- the first Allied attempt to crack the Axis Powers' hegemony: a successful effort which boosted Allied morale after 2 years of defeat and disaster. The ship entered Boston Navy Yard for a refit in late '43 and emerged with new radars and more AA guns than ever: By war's end she sported forty 40mm Bofors guns in twin and quad mounts, and (44) 20 mm Oerlikons in single mounts. Shortly after leaving the yard, she became the flagship of the bombardment fleet covering the D-Day invasion of Normandy. Her assignment: Soften up Omaha Beach for the waves of GIs about to land. For several days after D-Day, she supplied the heroic rangers at Pointe du Hoc. After the success of the D-Day operation, she was assigned to shell Cherbourg's defenses. During this duty she was hit twice by German Battery Hamburg, killing her helmsman -- her only wartime casualty. 13 others were wounded in this incident. After repairing battle damage to her bridge, Texas headed south for a starring role in the invasion of southern France, bombarding the fortifications at St-Tropez; the subsequent landings were largely unopposed.

Aerial view of Texas from asternAt left, Texas working up her new radar and installation of many more AA guns in Casco Bay, Maine, Oct. 1944. (For the bow view from this photo session, click here). Following all the bombardments in Europe, the ship's 14" gun barrel linings were determined to be badly worn, so she received a new set of Mark 12 14" guns. In company with the battleships Arkansas and Missouri, Texas traversed the Panama Canal to the Pacific. Destination: Iwo Jima. Texas flew the lone star flag when in battle. Now it streamed off the rugged cliffs of Mt. Suribachi as Texas pounded Japanese positions with her heavy artillery. Later, she also took part in the invasion of Okinawa, downing an attacking kamikaze on April 16, 1945.

Texas was being repaired in the Philippines when the Japanese surrender came. She had earned her reputation as a fortunate ship, surviving two world wars with only minimal casualties, and winning 5 battle stars for her WWII campaigns. For the next 5 months Texas took part in "Operation Magic Carpet," ferrying returning troops back to the States. After 3 round trips, she returned to Norfolk in 1946 and was placed in reserve at Baltimore. In 1948 she was towed to East Texas, decommissioned by the U.S. Navy, and promptly recommissioned as the flagship of the Texas Navy. She remains a permanent war memorial at San Jacinto State Park near Houston. More recently, the ship was drydocked at Todd Shipyards in Galveston 1989-90, emerging with over 175 tons of new steel in her. The Texas is now managed by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department with assistance from the Battleship Texas Assn., a private nonprofit foundation which coordinates volunteer labor and donations to keep this unique historic vessel open to the public.

The USS Texas was worth the $7M cost of her recent restoration; 105 years after the advent of HMS Dreadnought launched a naval revolution, Texas remains one of a kind.

USS TEXAS at sunset during convoy duty in the N. Atlantic, 1941
USS Texas at sunset during convoy duty in the North Atlantic, 1941.

Texas' specifications as of the end of WWII:
Dimensions: 573' x 95'3" x 28.5'   Extreme draft: 29'3¼"   Displacement: 30,350 tons std; 34,000 tons deep laden. Armament: (10) 14"/45 cal. Mk. 12 (5x2); (6) 5"/50; (10) 3"/50 AA; (40) 40mm Bofors AA; (44) 20mm Oerlikon AA. Radar: (2) SG surface search radar; (1) SK air search radar; (2) each Mk 3 and Mk 10 fire control radars. Aircraft: (2) Vought-Sikorsky OS2U Kingfishers. (No hangar facilities; aircraft were stowed on the catapult rail when not in use.) Armor: Midvale type. 12"/10"/6" belt, turrets: 10.4"/4", face 14"; 12"/4" conning tower; 4"/1.5" deck, 12"/5" barbettes, 11"/9" bulkheads. Fuel capacity: 5,200 tons oil. Propulsion: 6 oil-fired Bureau Express boilers; original dual acting vertical inverted 4-cyl. triple expansion engines developing 28,000 shp, shafted to twin screw. Speed: 20.5 kts. Endurance: 15,400nm @ 10 kts; 6,500nm @ 18 kts. Crew (1944): 98 officers, 1625 enlisted men.

Metric specs as of the end of WWII:
Dimensions: 175m x 29m x 8.5m   Extreme draft: 8.922m   Displacement: 30,350 tons std; 34,000 tons deep laden. Armament: (10) 36 cm/45 cal. Mk. 12 (5x2); (6) 130 mm/50 in armored gunhouse; (10) 76 mm/50 AA; (40) 40mm Bofors AA; (44) 20mm Oerlikon AA. Radar: (2) SG surface search radar sets; (1) SK air search radar set; (2) each Mk 3 and Mk 10 fire control radars. Aircraft: (2) Vought-Sikorsky OS2U Kingfishers. (No hangar facilities; aircraft were stowed on the catapult rail when not in use.) Armor: Midvale type. 305/254/150 mm belt, turrets: 275/100 mm, face 360 mm; 305/100 mm conning tower; 100/38 mm deck, 305/130 mm barbettes, 280/230 mm bulkheads. Fuel capacity: 5,200 tons oil. Propulsion: 6 oil-fired Bureau Express boilers; original dual acting vertical inverted 4-cyl. triple expansion engines developing 20,879.6 kW, shafted to twin screw. Speed: 37 km/hr. Endurance: 28,521 km @ 18.5 km/hr; 12,038 km @ 37 km/hr. Crew (1944): 98 officers, 1625 enlisted men.


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