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BATTLESHIP TEXAS

by Archie P. McDonald, PhD

Book Area Hotel > Houston Hotels
Archie McDonald, PhD
Late in the 1940s I visited our state's namesake battleship with my family because a visiting uncle, E.F. Chartrau, a landlubber from Missouri who had never before seen an ocean, wanted to view the vessel that had been "home" for part of WWII for his daughter Dorothy, an Army nurse. I have made several subsequent visits, including an inspection as part of an inquiry into the Texas parks system in 1998. The old lady has had many ups and downs within that fifty years.
Battleship Texas
Battleship Texas
Photo Courtesy Captain Robert L. Sadler, Jr.
The keel for the Texas was laid at Newport News Shipbuilding Company in 1911; she was christened on May 18, 1912 and commissioned on March 12, 1914. A previous vessel with that name was rechristened the San Marcos so Texas could be used by the newer, larger battleship.

The Texas served in the Atlantic fleet in WWI and was present at the surrender of the German Imperial Fleet in 1918. After the war she was refitted from steam to oil-fired burners and in 1927 became flagship for the fleet. During WWII, the Texas was engaged in escort duty in the North Atlantic; supported Allied landings in North Africa; served as flagship for the bombardment group for landings on Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944, when the Allies invaded France in Normandy; then shifted to the Pacific Theater to support landings on Iwo Jima and Okinawa; and was present when the US reoccupied the Philippines. Worn out from the war, the Texas became the first memorial battleship and historic landmark, which is a polite way to say that the Navy no longer needed her and shifted responsibility for the old girl to the State of Texas. Governor Coke Stevens accepted the Texas in 1946, though she remained a commissioned vessel until 1948.

The Battleship Texas Commission installed their ship in a berth at San Jacinto State Park in the Ship Channel near Houston. There she rested, and deteriorated, until custody was transferred to Texas Parks & Wildlife.

TP&W inherited a property damaged by years of neglect and mistakes. By then the Texas had settled on the bottom of its mooring, concrete had been poured across its deck, and rust was pervasive and winning. In 1988 the ship was refloated and towed to the Todd Shipyard in Galveston. Steel plating was replaced, anti-aircraft guns remounted, necessary structural repairs made, and she was repainted a camouflage blue before she was returned to her home in the ship channel. There work continues to restore compartments to their WWII status so visitors may see what it was like, back then.


All Things Historical August 5-11, 2001 column
(Archie P. McDonald is Director of the East Texas Historical Association and author or editor of over 20 books on Texas)

Forum:

The 100th anniversary of her commissioning will be on 03/12/2014. Information gleaned from Dr. Archie McDonald's column in August of 2001. - Frances Giles, February 25, 2014
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See Also: San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site
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