Updated: Sep 21, 2022
--By Jarrett Claeys
History is being saved! After decades of neglect and poor management all seemed lost for one of the oldest museum ships in the world, the battleship USS Texas. With the hull decaying and structural parts rotting, the battleship is long overdue for repairs. Luckily, those repairs will come soon. In August of 2019, the battleship closed its museum to the public, and work began on getting the veteran ship ready for towing. The Battleship Texas Foundation selected Gulf Copper & Manufacturing Corporation’s Galveston shipyard for the repairs. With the help of Valkor Energy Services, they were able to acquire a floating drydock large enough to lift the Texas out of the water for repairs. They plan to get the ship in the drydock by mid to late May. From there they will repair the ship’s structure and hull. Once repairs are completed, the ship will be towed back and reopened to the public.
The importance of the battleship can not be understated. Laid down in April of 1911, and launched in May of 1912. Texas was commissioned in March of 1914, and began its service operating with the Atlantic Fleet. It participated in operations against Mexico in retaliation after the Tampico Incident, before its service in World War One. During World War One, Texas and its crew helped train gunners for merchant vessels, before being sent to Britain to join with their navy. When World War 1 ended, Texas along with the British fleet met the German Navy to accept their surrender. Later Texas would escort President Woodrow Wilson to the Paris Peace Conference, then return home to New York.
Texas later served in World War Two, where she escorted convoys during the early years of the conflict. Texas would later support major operations and landings such as Operation Torch in North Africa, and Operation Overlord, the D-Day landings in Normandy. During the D-Day landings, the fighting had moved so far inland that it was out of the range of the guns on Texas. The support of Texas was still needed, so the captain ordered the torpedo blister on the side of the ship flooded, to give the guns more elevation to reach their targets. After the operation, Texas would then move to the Pacific to support landings on Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Texas then participated in Operation Magic Carpet, bringing many troops back home.
After World War Two Texas was placed in reserve until 1947, when the state of Texas established the Battleship Texas Commission, which then had Texas towed to San Jacinto Park in Houston, Texas in 1948. Afterwards, the battleship was stricken from the US Navy Vessel Register, and the State of Texas commissioned the battleship as the flagship of the Texas Navy. In 1983, Texas was turned over to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, which had the ship surveyed. They discovered that the hull of the ship was in poor condition and letting in sea water at an increasing rate. The ship was then dry docked from 1988 to 1990. In the dry dock, crews worked on restoring the deck and making major structural repairs to the ship's internal structure, as well as its hull. While this fixed the ship for the time being, it wouldn’t save it forever, as Texas has fallen into disrepair again. In 2004, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department began planning the construction of a dry berth for Texas. As of now the ship is still being worked on, but is close to being ready for towing. The battleship is projected to leave for the dry dock soon for its much needed repairs.
USS Texas is not just part of our nation’s history, but part of the world’s history. Serving in both world wars, Texas saw action in both the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, and the Pacific oceans. This year the battleship turns 110 years old being one of the oldest warships still around. One of the few battleships left that you can visit, and the only dreadnought era battleship left, Texas is history we cannot afford to lose. When Texas is reopened to the public as a museum, I encourage you to go see it, and celebrate history and the men who served on it to protect our country in both world wars.