U.S.S. Connecticut (BB-18), 1906

A dramatic painting of the Connecticut by the U.S. Navy's tireless chronicler, Enrique Muller.

Intro - Read on.    |    Specifications    |    The Great White Fleet

Later History    |    Pictures    |    Links

USS Connecticut, our poster child for pre-dreadnought power, was the final and most successful full-size U.S. pre-dreadnought design: seaworthy, well-protected, heavily armed, and reasonably fast at 18 kts. She carried the now-standard four 12-inch guns in twin turrets fore and aft, plus the near-standard (in the USN) secondary armament of eight 8-inch guns in turrets at the four corners of her redoubt, plus a very extensive armament in smaller calibres. The secondary armament was up-gunned from 6" to 7". The theory was that these weapons -- ranged in casemate mounts along the main deck, 7 to a side -- were faster firing than the 8" battery but threw more metal than 6" guns. In practice the close size and comparable range of the 8" and 7" batteries complicated fire direction because the splashes of the two sizes of projectile could not be distinguished by spotters. At 16,000 tons the Connecticut was fully competitive in size, speed, and armament with her British and Continental contemporaries. The additional size was partly devoted to greater bunker capacity, giving her truly oceangoing endurance at 10-12 knots.

Plans and Specifications

Schematic of the Connecticut, the apotheosis of U.S. pre-dreadnought design.

Specifications for the 6-ship class:
Dimensions: 456'3" x 77'8" x 24'5" Displacement: 16,000 tons. Armament: (4) 12"/40 cal. Mk 5 (2x2), (8) 8"/45 (4x2), (12) 7"/45, and (20) 3"/50 guns; (4) 6-pdr saluting guns; (4) 22" torpedo tubes. Armor - Krupp cemented (KC) throughout: Belt: 11"/4"; turrets: 12"; barbettes: 10"/7½"; conning tower: 9"; upper belt and casemate: 7"; secondary turrets: 6"; 14-pdr casemates: 2"; deck: 3". Fuel capacity: 2,450 tons of coal. Propulsion: 12 B&W boilers. Operating pressure: 250 psi. (2) inverted vertical triple expansion engines developing 16,500 hp, shafted to twin screw. Maximum speed: 18 kts. Endurance: 6,620 nm at 10 kts. Crew: 54 officers, 826 men, and 1 wallaby (Connecticut only - Sydney to Norfolk).

Ships in class: Connecticut Vermont Minnesota Kansas Louisiana New Hampshire.

Metric specifications:
Dimensions: 139m x 23.5m x 7.5m. Displacement: 16,000 tons. Armament: (4) 305 mm/40 cal. Mk. 5 (2x2), (8) 203 mm/45 (4x2), (12) 176 mm/45, and (20) 76mm/50 guns; (4) 6-pdr saluting guns; (4) 59 cm torpedo tubes. Armor: Krupp cemented (KC) type throughout. Belt: 279/102 mm; turrets: 305/254 mm; barbettes: 254/191 mm; secondary turrets: 152 mm; conning tower: 229 mm; upper belt and casemate: 178 mm; 14-pdr casemates: 51 mm; deck: 76 mm. Fuel capacity: 2,450 tons of coal. Propulsion: 12 B&W boilers. Operating pressure: 250 psi. (2) inverted vertical triple expansion engines developing 15,280 kW, shafted to twin screw. Maximum speed: 33 km/hr. Endurance: 10,654 km @ 18 km/hr. Crew: 54 officers, 826 men, and 1 wallaby.

12-in turret cutaway on a Connecticut class battleship
One of the Connecticut's turrets, showing barbette, ammo lift, magazines and handling rooms.

Voyage of the Great White Fleet

Connecticut would need this operational range in her role as flagship of the Great White Fleet, the 16-battleship flotilla sent around the world to "show the flag" by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907-1909. The name refers to the Fleet's peacetime colors of "white and spar," or white hull with buff upperworks -- abandoned in favor of overall battleship grey soon after the fleet returned. The Connecticut and her four sisters were the best third of the White Fleet (the New Hampshire did not participate in the cruise). At right, after a presidential send-off at Hampton Roads, Connecticut leads the fleet to sea on the first leg of its epic journey. Ahead: South America - Cape Horn via the Magellan Straits - Valparaíso, Callao, and California - then to Japan via Honolulu, in an epic voyage of empire. An ancillary meet of new Pennsylvania and Tennessee class armored cruisers at Bremerton concluded with these eight powerful ships joining the battleships for the Pacific leg of the world cruise.

The voyage was meant as an earnest of international friendship, but also as a manifestation of American power.

The card at left was one of the numerous souvenirs produced for the Fleet's stay at Yokohama. The Japanese visit was considered a brilliant success for relations between the two countries; only three years before, anti-American riots had torn the country when the terms of the Treaty of Portsmouth, ending the Russo-Japanese War, became known (the treaty was seen in Japan as rebuffing Japan's ambitions to be reimbursed for the war by means of a huge indemnity; this had been a very costly war, both in blood and gold). Despite his good offices in brokering an end to the conflict, many in Japan considered President Roosevelt to be no friend.

The bad feeling in the recent past notwithstanding, the fleet's visit went off without incident. Seamen with records of drinking and fighting onshore were not allowed leave, which may have contributed to the show of harmony. U.S. bluejackets toured Yokohama and "Tokio" and boarded a special excursion train to Nikkõ, the spectacular mountain fastness where Tokugawa shoguns built gilded mausolea and ornately carved shrines amid groves of towering cryptomeria. Every step of the way the visitors were showered with small, but often exquisitely made, gifts. More recent visitors to Japan will appreciate how little has changed. Relations were outwardly cordial as the sailors exercised their native charm and the Japanese lived up to their well-deserved reputation for hospitality.

Great White Fleet, panoramic shot
The Connecticut, at left, leads the Great White Fleet into San Francisco Bay. Enlarge

Indeed, the voyage of the Great White Fleet was an astonishingly complex operation which was carried off almost without a hitch, despite a lethal typhoon off Manila and an earthquake in Sicily -- where the American crews pitched in to assist survivors. The circumnavigation is still considered one of the greatest feats in the U.S. Navy's history. It gave valuable training in seamanship to all the crews. It helped build confidence and esprit in the service. And it gave the officers a chance to practice their diplomatic skills. By sending so awe-inspiring a fleet, Roosevelt clearly signaled that a new player had arrived on the world stage, one with a long reach. This message was particularly meant for the Japanese, a fast-rising naval power with whom rivalry was unavoidable.

But in this respect, Roosevelt's tactics may not have had the intended effect. Word has it the Japanese military, familiar as they were with leading armaments plants in Britain and Germany, remained unimpressed by America's home-grown warships, which they took care to tour and assess. Of course, no whisper of this judgment reached the visiting officers of the White Fleet. Diaries reveal that Japanese Navy Minister Itoh was already scheming how to beat the U.S. when tensions broke into open conflict. When: there was no question of if.

On the Great White Fleet's return from its round-the-world odyssey, President Roosevelt -- now a lame duck Chief Executive in his last days in office -- visited the ships to speak before the men and imbue them with martial spirit. Here is Teddy addressing a crush of bluejackets from the after 12" turret on the Connecticut in February 1909.

The Connecticut and her sisters may have had their moment of glory in 1907-09, but they were still valuable units of the Navy when war came five years later. Newly attired in battleship grey paint, their Art Nouveau bridges and gilt bow ornaments ruthlessly wrenched away, they heeded the summons to duty. Only the newest coal-burning dreadnoughts were sent to fight with the British fleet, while older battleships (including the earliest U.S. dreanoughts) served mainly in coastal defense, convoy protection, or personnel training.

Later History

The picture at left shows Connecticut as modernized for war with rangefinder, wire-lattice masts, and no-nonsense bridgeworks, circa 1914; it also clearly shows the layout of the secondary armament, including the intricate series of gun embrasure cut-outs and catwalks along the hull. The chisel-fronted, elliptical-shaped eight-inch gunhouses echo the shape of the 12" turrets. The 8" mounts were recessed in the corners of the superstructure, like the single 9.2" mountings on the British King Edward VIIs. With their heavy secondary armament and ample protection, the Connecticuts might more closely invite comparison with the Lord Nelson class, a type sometimes called a semi-dreadnought. As originally built, the Connecticuts had an endearing face about them in the Art Nouveau curves of bridge and wheelhouse. But in their refit, the bridges and masts of the vessels were re-done, leaving them looking homely, industrial, and without a particle of style: tall, slender stacks and vents, huge cranes, and verticality--far more old-fashioned than the clean, modern profile of the Lord Nelsons and the first British dreadnoughts, though admittedly powerful in their own functional fashion. These were the last full-size American battleships built before the switch to full-blown dreadnought designs. Two diminutive versions of the class, the Idaho and Mississippi, were built, but proved to be poor sea-boats and were sold to the Greeks after only six years in the USN Register. The 1908 Mississippis were absolutely the last American pre-dreadnoughts.

Connecticut served loyally until 1923. At the end of that year she was sold for scrapping in compliance with the Washington Disarmament Treaty of 1922. Outmoded as she was after some 16 years of dreadnought development, her career spanned nearly 20 years, whereas under the Treaty, many a younger American dreadnought followed her to the breakers after rendering far briefer service.

A Connecticut Compendium

Dramatic bow view of the CONNECTICUT on trials by Enrique Muller
The Connecticut on trials in Casco Bay, Maine, 1906 - famous photo by Enrique Muller. Enlarge

Colourised postcard of the CONNECTICUT - stern view
Colourised postcard - quarter view in "white and spar" paint scheme. To enlarge image, click here.

Colourised postcard of the CONNECTICUT - bow view

Another colourised postcard shows the ship's impressive proportions. This is a cheapjack color job: crude colors are slopped over a black-and-white halftone of the ship.

Installing a 12-in gun on the CONNECTICUT
Installing one of the forward 12-inchers on the Connecticut.

USS Connecticut (BB-18) at Seattle, 1908
The Connecticut at Seattle in 1908, during the cruise of the Great White Fleet. Photo by Asahel Curtis.

USS CONNECTICUT at San Diego, 1908

Connecticut at San Diego in 1908, during the cruise of the Great White Fleet. Scuttles in hull and hatches in turret roofs have been opened for ventilation.   Navsource

The Connecticut's crew poses for a group photo on the foredeck.

The CONNECTICUT at Brooklyn Navy Yard - Bow view
Bow view of the Connecticut at New York Navy Yard, the Williamsburg Bridge in background.

Dramatic fireball shot by guns of the CONNECTICUT
The Connecticut's main guns frame the fireball of an 8" turret firing, in another shot by Enrique Muller.

Dramatic bow view of the CONNECTICUT
The Connecticut fires a salute during a review, Annapolis, 1911.

Dramatic bow view of the CONNECTICUT
The Connecticut leads a North Atlantic patrol during World War I.

Pertinent Weblinks

AnchorU.S. ShieldAnchor