Former U.S. Navy Battleship Texas Is Making the Ultimate Comeback

USS Texas Battleship
April 13, 2024 Topic: Security Region: Americas Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: USS TexasU.S. NavyNavyMilitaryDefenseBattleshipsBattleship

Former U.S. Navy Battleship Texas Is Making the Ultimate Comeback

The USS Texas, the last remaining battleship of its kind, is set to return to public display after extensive restoration in Galveston, Texas

Summary: The USS Texas, the last remaining battleship of its kind, is set to return to public display after extensive restoration in Galveston, Texas. Built as part of the U.S. Navy's New York-class, this historical vessel served in both World Wars and has been a floating museum for decades. During its restoration since 2022, about 700 tons of steel were replaced, and ongoing work includes space restoration, deck replacement, and repainting. The project has cost around $21 million. The USS Texas is notable for many firsts, including launching the first American shots of WWI and being the first battleship to launch an airplane. Its storied service includes participation in significant battles such as D-Day. Expected to reopen next year, the USS Texas continues to serve as a vital link to American naval history.

Historic USS Texas Battleship Set for Public Return After $21M Restoration

A last-of-its-kind battleship recently returned to water after a long stint in dry dock. 

Since 2022, the USS Texas has been undergoing much-need repairs in Galveston, Texas, at the Gulf Copper dry dock. So far, roughly 700 tons of steel have been replaced on the historic vessel, which served with distinction in both world wars. The battleship has functioned as a floating museum for decades, and it will re-open to the public late next year following further restoration. According to The Battleship Texas Foundation, work still needs to be done to restore several spaces inside the ship, replace the wooden deck, and finish repainting. Repairs have cost some $21 million so far – well worth it to preserve this revered and historic ship.

Introducing USS Texas

The USS Texas (BB-35) was built as one of the U.S. Navy’s New York-class battleships. Designed as a more heavily armed successor to Wyoming-class ships, the New York series was the first super-dreadnought to sail for the Navy. The class was largely derived from the 1908 Newport Conference, which culminated in a new method for battleship design. The U.S. Navy opted to create a fleet fitted with heavier armaments, while other nations chose to construct warships larger in size.

The ship was the first to be fitted with the 14-inch 356mm/45-caliber gun and one of the last classes to feature a five-turret layout. In 1910, Congress authorized the construction of a second New York-class ship, and Newport News Shipbuilding won the bid with a nearly $6 million proposal. The vessel was laid down one year later at Newport News, Virginia, and officially launched in 1912. In addition to her enhanced main battery of 14-inch Mark 1 guns, the Texas was equipped with a secondary battery consisting of twenty-one 5-inch 127mm/51-caliber guns. Four torpedo tubes for the Bliss-Leavitt Mark 8 torpedo were also installed on the battleship. 

Operational History

Following her commissioning, the Texas departed to the New York Navy Yard to be fitted with fire-control equipment. While the ship was in New York, trouble was brewing in Mexican waters. An American gunboat crew was illegally detained at Tampico, prompting then-President Woodrow Wilson to direct a number of warships to the area. 

Even though the incident was handled quickly, Wilson viewed it as an opportunity to pressure the Mexican government. The president instructed naval vessels to seize the customs house in retaliation. These events forced Texas to miss the shakedown cruise and post-shakedown repair period that naval ships usually undergo before being deployed.

The Texas is one of the few surviving warships that served in both the First and Second World Wars. During WWI, one of the gun crews trained aboard the USS Texas detected a surfaced German U-boat while assigned to a merchant vessel called Mongolia. In response to this sighting, the crew member opened fire on the enemy vessel, firing the first American shots of the war.

USS Texas

During the interwar period, the Texas underwent a large overhaul. In 1919 she would become the first U.S battleship to launch an airplane, when a British-designed Sopwith Camel flew off the ship at Guantanamo Bay. She would also become the first warship of her kind to be fitted with two 3-inch, 50-caliber guns on platforms positioned above the boat canes. Considering the looming breakout of World War II, this add-on would prove to be quite essential. 

The Texas participated mightily in World War II’s D-Day invasion, shelling German defenses alongside her sister ships. As expressed by Ernest Hemingway, who was embedded with a group of GIs at Normandy, “There would be a flash like a blast furnace from the 14-inch guns of the Texas. Then the yellow-brown smoke would cloud out and, with the smoke still rolling, the concussion and the report would hit us, jarring the men’s helmets. It struck your near ear like a punch with a heavy, dry glove.”

Following WWII, the Texas was officially placed in reserve in Maryland. The Battleship Texas Commission was established in 1947 to preserve and care for the revered battleship. When she re-opens to the public later next year, the Texas can be appreciated and remembered for her exceptional service.

About the Author: Maya Carlin

Maya Carlin, National Security Writer with The National Interest, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin