USS Texas today, at San Jacinto State Park near Houston. This shot evokes the great hull, powerful guns, and imposing superstructure of one of the world's greatest battleships, now the flagship of the "Texas Navy" and a permanent attraction open to the public. With its huge 4-cylinder reciprocating engines, five 14" gun turrets, command and gunnery control facilities, and 5" gun emplacement areas, Texas provides a unique insight into the naval technologies, tactics, and life of bygone times.
Photo by Tom Scott. Our thanks for his permission to republish his work in our site. It may be viewed, along with many more photos of the ship, at www.ctomscott.com.
Texas making speed on her trials, 1914 -- frame from a motion picture.
Sister ship New York viewed from a balloon directly overhead, 1920.
The American Squadron of 9 dreadnoughts, led by Texas and New York, arrives at Scapa Flow Dec. 2, 1917, to the cheers of their British allies. For a smashing enlarged view, click here.
Texas at New York, 1919, after WWI. Note Sopwith Camel poised for takeoff on #2 turret.
USS Texas visiting New York Navy Yard, 1930. The Williamsburg Bridge looms behind the hooting tugs. In her 1926 modernization, Texas was converted to oil fuel. One stack was now capable of carrying off all the gases from the furnaces below decks, and part of the deck space opened up was used to construct a fire control station for the 5" secondary battery just abaft the single remaining funnel. The lattice masts were replaced with more rigid tripods; note range clock on the foretop. The #3 turret became the aircraft launching station, and just beyond that the tripod mainmast became the new after 14" fire control station (and radar mast during WWII).
In her 1926 refit, Texas was given an extensive torpedo bulge on both sides which widened her hull by 9 feet. The substantial and sculptural qualities of this protection are brought out well in the lighting for this photo, and the one of her leaving the Baltimore Mothball Fleet docks for Houston in 1948.
USS Texas as Atlantic Fleet Flagship, dressed for Independence Day: July 4, 1939.
OS2U Kingfisher float plane ready for launch from #3 turret, c. 1944. This shot is notable for the detailed view of the "mainmast" -- the aft fire control tower -- in its wartime rig. This area is one of the elements especially well preserved in the present-day museum ship, together with its massive square SK air-search radar array, fitted in late '44 before the ship was ordered to the Pacific. The SK unit, standard in the U.S. fleet in the last 2 years of the War, could detect a medium bomber from 100nm distance.
Wounded U.S. Rangers being treated aboard Texas during D-Day Operations, June 1944, after the successful Pointe du Hoc operation. In this most daring of all U.S. Army feats, crack assault troops landed on the limestone pinnacles of the Pointe, which had been heavily fortified by the Nazis. The Rangers rapelled up the perpendicular cliffs with ropes and finger- and toe-holds in the sheer rock, then engaged in brutal hand-to-hand combat with the defending Germans. The Rangers prevailed in two days of fierce fighting, taking this strategic position and thus securing the flank of the armies landing on Omaha Beach. Allied veterans later recalled with emotion the terrific work done by naval warships, particularly the nimble destroyers that ran close inshore to engage German batteries pinning down recently landed troops, and the massive battleships, castles of the sea, which methodically demolished enemy fortifications on the coast and miles back from it.
A near miss spouts astern of Texas in this out-of-focus shot taken from the USS Arkansas during the deadly combat with Battery Hamburg east of the Channel port of Cherbourg, France. A few salvos later, the battery landed two hits on the Texas's bridge area, causing her only wartime fatality and 13 injuries. A third shell penetrated the bridgeworks but failed to explode. Battery Hamburg was composed of old Krupp C/94 9.4"/40 cal guns salvaged from the Austro-Hungarian coast-defense monitor Wien, sunk by the Italians in 1917 and awarded to France as war reparations in 1920.
Texas' sister-ship New York showing the formidable AA armament fitted to these ships for the Pacific War. As the Japanese High Command turned to desperate kamikaze tactics in 1944, American task forces depended a protective wall of flak laid down by hundreds of these guns for protection against suicide pilots. Even so, quite a few kamikazes found their targets. Naval planners of the 1920s had thought a dozen or so AA guns per ship would suffice; hard experience dictated otherwise.
Texas getting ready for battle at Iwo Jima, February 1945. Although this shot lacks the aesthetics of posed ship photos, it captures the battleship in a real moment preparing for combat: Supply ships range alongside, main turrets are mostly trained to starboard, while a numerous fleet of landing craft bob in the mid-distance. Here is Texas as the warrior putting on his war-paint, hairy chest exposed through sweaty fatigues unbuttoned for a breather, with several days' growth of beard and cigarette drooping from the lower lip. Soon the Texas, the Arkansas and the Nevada (from which this shot was taken) will shape course for their stations and loose a hellish bombardment on the Japanese positions and deep-dug caves.
Click here for a tremendous enlarged view: "Click and -- you are there!"
"THE PACIFIC LONE STAR," painting by Tom Freeman. In a masterful display of chiaroscuro technique, the artist has depicted the USS Texas lighting up the cliffs of Mt. Suribachi with the glow from her 14" salvos on February 19, 1945. Despite this massive "softening up," Iwo Jima proved one of the most difficult and heartbreaking of the Pacific campaigns. Dug-in defenders fought to the last bullet and then committed hara-kiri to avoid capture.
Texas viewed from the air after major refit including new radar, new Mark 12 14-inch guns, and many new AA gun mounts, October 1944. Shot over Casco Bay, Maine as she began her workup for combat in the Pacific.
In perhaps the best overall shot of the ship ever, the Texas is warped out of her berth at the Mothball Fleet docks in Baltimore on her way to become a war memorial and museum ship in Texas -- and the only surviving dreadnought battleship in the world.
A profile view of Texas' ram-style bow today, at her permanent berth. This view shows the cutaway embrasures in the hull just below the weather deck, which were made for the 5" secondary armament when she was built. Hard experience proved that guns on this deck and lower were frequently "washed out" by the seas and inoperable, so the emplacements were plated over during the 1926 rebuild. At the end of her career, her 5" armament had been reduced from 21 to 6, while her AA armament had ballooned to 84 barrels. Six 20mm Oerlikons in single mounts sat in the gun tub atop #2 turret; there was an identical AA installation on #4 turret near the stern. Texas crewmen may not have been the only ones thankful for the curtain of flak these guns put up when the fleet came under kamikaze attack off Okinawa in April-May 1945.
The USS Texas is preserved today at San Jacinto State Park near Houston. All true battleship aficionados should make the pilgrimage to appreciate the enormous size and power of this century-old weapons system. Though designed for massed fleet action with many 4-ship divisions of dreadnoughts blasting away at each other, Texas and her surviving contemporary battleships -- quite a few of them -- ended up fighting a new style of integrated-modality warfare in which air power played the "glamor" role. Nevertheless, when provided with air cover, battleships proved exceptionally powerful as mobile bombardment and anti-aircraft gun platforms in WWII. The Texas was second to none in this duty, winning 5 battle stars and numerous service medals. Now she is the only survivor among the ships built for the First World War which survived to fight bravely almost 30 years later in the Second. Six other WWII vintage battleships (three of them "fast battleships" of 27 kts which could run with the fast carriers) are preserved in the United States, as is one vintage WWII aircraft carrier. All are open to the public.