During her career Texas saw action in Mexican waters following the "Tampico Incident", and escorted Allied convoys across the Atlantic Ocean during World War I. When the United States formally entered World War II, Texas resumed her role of escorting war convoys across the Atlantic, and later shelled Axis-held beaches for the North African campaign and the Normandy Landings before being transferred to the Pacific Theater late in 1944 to provide naval gunfire support during the Battle of Iwo Jima and Battle of Okinawa.
Texas was decommissioned in 1946, having earned a total of five battle stars for service in World War II, and is presently a museum ship near Houston, Texas. Among the world's remaining battleships, Texas is notable for being the oldest remaining dreadnought battleship. She is also noteworthy for being one of only two remaining ships to have served in both World War I and World War II, and she is the only surviving American-built warship to have been powered by reciprocating steam engines. Among US-built battleships, Texas is notable for her sizable number of firsts: the first US battleship to mount anti-aircraft guns, the first US ship to control gunfire with directors and range-keepers (analog forerunners of today's computers), the first battleship to launch an aircraft, the first to receive a commercial radar in the US Navy, the first battleship to become a museum ship, and the first battleship declared to be a U.S. National Historic Landmark.
Texas’s main battery consisted of ten 14"/45 caliber (356 mm) Mark 8 guns, which could hurl armor piercing shells some . Her secondary battery consisted of 21 5"/51 caliber (130 mm) guns. She originally also mounted four torpedo tubes, two on each side forward at frame 31, with a magazine of 12 torpedoes. Texas and her sister were the only battleships to store and hoist their ammunition in an inverted, nose-down position, in cast iron cups.
During her stay in New York, President Woodrow Wilson ordered a number of ships of the Atlantic Fleet to Mexican waters in response to tension created when a detail of Mexican federal troops detained an American gunboat crew at Tampico. The problem was quickly resolved locally, but Rear Admiral Henry T. Mayo sought further redress by demanding an official disavowal of the act by the Huerta regime and a 21-gun salute to the American flag.
President Wilson saw in the incident an opportunity to put pressure on a government he felt was undemocratic. On 20 April, Wilson placed the matter before the United States Congress and sent orders to Rear Admiral Frank Friday Fletcher, commanding the naval force off the Mexican coast, instructing him to land a force at Veracruz and to seize the customs house there in retaliation for what is now known as the "Tampico Incident." That action was carried out on 21 April and 22 April.
Due to the intensity of the situation, Texas put to sea on 13 May and headed directly to operational duty without benefit of the usual shakedown cruise and post-shakedown repair period. After a five-day stop at Hampton Roads between 14 May and 19 May, she joined Rear Admiral Fletcher's force off Veracruz on 26 May. She remained in Mexican waters for just over two months, supporting the American forces ashore. On 8 August, she left Veracruz and set a course for Nipe Bay, Cuba, and from there steamed to New York where she entered the Navy Yard on 21 August.
The battleship remained there until 6 September when she returned to sea, joined the Atlantic Fleet, and settled into a schedule of normal fleet operations. In October, she returned to the Mexican coast. Later that month, Texas became station ship at Tuxpan, a duty that lasted until 4 November when the ship steamed for Galveston, Texas. While at Galveston, on 7 November, Texas Governor Oscar Colquitt presented the ship's silver service to Captain Grant. The Young Men's Business League of Waco, Texas raised the $10,000 to purchase the silver.
Texas sailed for Tampico on 14 November and thereafter to Veracruz, where she remained for a month. The ship finally bade Mexico farewell at on 20 December and set a course for New York. The battleship entered the New York Navy Yard on 28 December and remained there undergoing repairs until 16 February 1915. On 25 May, Texas along with battleships , , and , rescued 230 passengers from the damaged Holland America Line passenger ship , which had been rammed by Norwegian-flagged fruit steamer Joseph J. Cuneo. In 1916, Texas became the first US battleship to mount anti-aircraft guns and the first to control gunfire with directors and rangefinders, analog forerunners of today's computers.
In August, she steamed to New York for repairs, arriving at Base 10 on 19 August and entering the New York Navy Yard soon thereafter. She completed repairs on 26 September and got underway for Port Jefferson that same day. During the mid-watch on 27 September, she ran hard aground on Block Island. For three days, her crew lightened ship to no avail. On 30 September, tugs came to her assistance, and she finally backed clear. Hull damage dictated a return to the yard, and the extensive repairs required precluded her departure with Division 9 for the British Isles in November. The secondary battery was reduced to sixteen guns.
By December, she had completed repairs and moved south to conduct war games out of the York River. Mid-January 1918 found the battleship back at New York preparing for the voyage across the Atlantic. She departed New York on 30 January 1918, arrived at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands off the coast of Scotland on 11 February, and rejoined Division 9, by then known as the 6th Battle Squadron of Britain's Grand Fleet.
Texas's service with the Grand Fleet consisted entirely of convoy missions and occasional forays to reinforce the British squadron on blockade duty in the North Sea whenever German heavy units threatened. The fleet alternated between bases at Scapa Flow and at the Firth of Forth in Scotland. Texas began her mission only five days after her arrival at Scapa Flow, where she sortied with the entire fleet to reinforce the 4th Battle Squadron, then on duty in the North Sea. She returned to Scapa Flow the next day and remained until 8 March when she put to sea on a convoy escort mission from which she returned on 13 March. Texas and her division mates entered the Firth of Forth on 12 April but got underway again on the 17th to escort a convoy. The American battleships returned to base on 20 April. Four days later, Texas again stood out to sea to support the Second Battle Squadron the day after the German High Seas Fleet had sortied from Jade Bay toward the Norwegian coast to threaten an Allied convoy. Forward units caught sight of the retiring Germans on 25 April, but at such an extreme range there was no possibility of bringing the German fleet into engagement with the Grand Fleet. The Germans returned to their base that day, and the Grand Fleet, including Texas, did likewise on the next.
Texas and her division mates passed a relatively inactive May in the Firth of Forth. On 9 June, she got underway with the other warships of the 6th Battle Squadron and headed back to the anchorage at Scapa Flow, arriving there the following day. Between 30 June and 2 July, Texas and her colleagues acted as escort for American minelayers adding to the North Sea mine barrage. After a two-day return to Scapa Flow, Texas put to sea with the Grand Fleet to conduct two days of tactical exercises and war games. At the conclusion of those drills on 8 July, the fleet entered the Firth of Forth. For the remainder of World War I, Texas and the other battleships of Division 9 continued to operate with the Grand Fleet as the 6th Battle Squadron. With the German Fleet increasingly tied to its bases in the estuaries of the Jade and the Ems rivers, the American and British ships settled into a routine schedule of operations with little-to-no hint of combat operations. That state of affairs lasted until the Armistice ended hostilities on 11 November 1918. On the night of 20 November, she accompanied the Grand Fleet to meet the surrendering German Fleet. The two fleets rendezvoused about east of May Island near the mouth of the Firth of Forth and proceeded together into the anchorage at Scapa Flow. Afterward, the American contingent moved to Portland Harbour, England, arriving there on 4 December.
Following overhaul, Texas resumed duty with the Atlantic Fleet early in 1919. On 9 March, she became the first American battleship to launch an airplane when Lieutenant Commander Edward O. McDonnell flew a British-built Sopwith Camel off the warship. In May 1919, Texas served as a plane guard and navigational aid for the successful attempt by Navy Curtiss NC flying boat NC-4 to become the first airplane to cross the Atlantic. In mid-1919, Texas was reassigned to the Pacific Fleet, and, on 17 July the following year, she was designated BB-35 under the Navy's newly adopted alpha-numeric system of hull classification symbols.
Texas served in the Pacific until 1924 when she returned to the east coast for overhaul and to participate in a training cruise to European waters with Naval Academy midshipmen embarked. While operating in the Atlantic, on 25 November 1924, she sank the incomplete battleship for compliance with the Naval Arms Limitation Treaty of 1922, and later that fall, conducted maneuvers as a unit of the Scouting Fleet. In 1925, she entered the Norfolk Navy Yard for a major modernization overhaul during which her cage masts were replaced with a single tripod foremast, her coal-fired boilers were converted to oil-fired, and her fire-control equipment was upgraded to the very latest.
Following completion of her overhaul, Texas was designated the flagship of the United States Fleet and resumed duty along the eastern seaboard. She kept at that task until late in 1927 when she did a brief tour of duty in the Pacific between late September and early December. In 1927 Texas set another first with the showing of \"talking\" pictures for crew entertainment. Near the end of the year, Texas returned to the Atlantic and resumed normal duty with the Scouting Fleet. In January 1928, she transported President Calvin Coolidge to Havana, Cuba, for the Pan-American Conference and then continued on via the Panama Canal and the west coast to maneuvers with the fleet near Hawaii.
She returned to New York early in 1929 for her annual overhaul and had completed it by March when she began another brief tour of duty in the Pacific. She returned to the Atlantic in June and resumed normal duty with the Scouting Fleet. In April 1930, she took time from her operating schedule to escort into New York when that ship carried the returning US delegation to the London Naval Conference. In January 1931, she left the yard at New York as flagship of the United States Fleet and headed via the Panama Canal to San Diego, California, her home port for the next six years. During that period, she served first as flagship for the entire Fleet and, later, as flagship for Battleship Division (BatDiv) 1. She left the Pacific once during that time, in the summer of 1936, when she joined in a midshipman training cruise in the Atlantic. Upon completion of that assignment, the battleship immediately rejoined Battle Force in the Pacific.
In the summer of 1937, she once more was reassigned to the east coast, as the flagship of the Training Detachment, United States Fleet. Late in 1938 or early in 1939, the warship became flagship of the newly organized Atlantic Squadron, built around BatDiv 5. Through both organizational assignments, her labors were directed primarily to training missions, midshipman cruises, naval reserve drills, and training members of the Fleet Marine Force. In December 1938 Texas received the first commercial radar in the US Navy. The UHF-band (80-cm) CXZ radar set was built by RCA. Texas was one of fourteen ships to receive the early RCA CXAM-1 RADAR.
Sunday, 7 December 1941, found the battleship at Casco Bay, Maine, undergoing a rest and relaxation period following three months of watch duty at Naval Station Argentia, Newfoundland. After ten days of Casco Bay, she returned to Argentia and remained there until late January 1942 when she got underway to escort a convoy to England. After delivering her charges, the battleship patrolled waters near Iceland until March when she returned home. Around this time, the secondary battery was reduced to six guns. For the next six months, she continued convoy-escort missions to various destinations. On one occasion, she escorted Guadalcanal-bound marines as far as Panama; on another, the warship screened service troops to Freetown, Sierra Leone, on the west coast of Africa. More frequently, she made voyages to and from the United Kingdom escorting both cargo- and troop-carrying ships.
On 23 October, Texas embarked upon her first major combat operation when she sortied with Task Group (TG) 34.8, the Northern Attack Group for Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa. The objective assigned to this group was Mehedia near Port Lyautey and the port itself. The ships arrived off the assault beaches early in the morning of 8 November and began preparations for the invasion. Texas transmitted Lieutenant General Dwight D. Eisenhower's first \\"Voice of Freedom\\" broadcast, asking the French not to oppose Allied landings on North Africa. When the troops went ashore, Texas did not come immediately into action to support them. At that point in the war, amphibious warfare doctrine was still embryonic; and many did not recognize the value of a pre-landing bombardment. Instead, the Army insisted upon attempting surprise. Texas finally entered the fray early in the afternoon when the Army requested her to destroy an ammunition dump near Port Lyautey. For the next week, she contented herself with cruising up and down the Moroccan coast delivering similar, specific, call-fire missions. Thus, unlike in later operations, she expended only 273 rounds of ammunition and six rounds of ammunition. During her short stay, some of her crew briefly went ashore to assist in salvaging some of the shipping sunk in the harbor. During her time off Morocco Texas put Walter Cronkite ashore, which launched his career as a war correspondent. On 16 November, she departed North Africa and headed for home in company with , , , four transports, and seven destroyers.
During the next 12 days, Texas carried out many gun-firing exercises with British battleships and . The firing was done in conjunction with Royal Air Force airplanes as spotters, which would provide the spotting during the invasion. On 29 April Texas, , and relocated to Belfast Lough, Northern Ireland. In Belfast Lough final preparations were made, including the removal of the airplane catapult. Additional radio equipment was added, including a device to detect and jam radio-guided missiles. Final exercises were carried out to the south in Dundrum Bay. During the final preparations, General Dwight D. Eisenhower came aboard on 19 May to speak to the crew. On 31 May the ship was sealed and a briefing given to the crew about the upcoming invasion. For the invasion, Texas was designated Bombardment Force Flagship for Omaha Beach, in the Western Taskforce. Her firing area of Omaha was the western half, supporting the US 1st Infantry Division on the eastern half of Omaha, the US 29th Infantry Division on the western half of Omaha, the US 2nd Ranger Battalion at Pointe du Hoc, and the US 5th Ranger Battalion, which had been diverted to Western Omaha to support the troops at Pointe du Hoc.
The bombardment force consisted of the American battleships Texas, which would be responsible for the western half of Omaha Beach, Arkansas, which would be responsible for the eastern half of Omaha Beach, the destroyers , , , , , , , , , the British light cruiser , the British destroyers , , , and the French light cruisers Georges Leygues and Montcalm, which took up station on the eastern end of Omaha Beach.
On 3 June, at 02:09, Texas and the rest of the Western Taskforce sailed from Belfast Lough for Normandy. In sight, on a parallel course was a group of British ships, including the battleships and Ramillies. On 4 June, at 07:10, the taskforce had to reverse course due to unacceptable weather in the Normandy. Later that evening, off Lundry Island, the taskforce reversed course and headed for and joined the invasion fleet gathering at Area Z. The invasion fleet then headed south toward Normandy and navigated the German minefield, through which minesweepers had cleared channels; not a single Omaha Beach vessel was lost.
The initial bombardment commenced at 05:50, against the site of six guns, atop Pointe du Hoc. When Texas ceased firing at the Pointe at 06:24, 255 shells had been fired in 34 minutes—a rate of fire of 7.5 shells per minute—and was the longest sustained period of firing for Texas in World War II. While shells from the main guns were hitting Pointe du Hoc, the guns were firing on the area leading up to Exit D-1, the route to get inland from western Omaha. At 06:26 Texas shifted her main battery gunfire to the western edge of Omaha Beach, around the town of Vierville. Meanwhile, her secondary battery went to work on another target on the western end of "Omaha" beach, a ravine laced with strongpoints to defend an exit road. Later, under control of airborne spotters, she moved her major-caliber fire inland to interdict enemy reinforcement activities and to destroy batteries and other strongpoints farther inland.
By noon, the assault on Omaha Beach was in danger of collapsing due to stronger than anticipated German resistance and the inability of the Allies to get needed armor and artillery units on the beach. In an effort to help the infantry fighting to take Omaha, some of the destroyers providing gunfire support closed near the shoreline, almost grounding themselves to fire on the Germans. Texas also closed to the shoreline; at 12:23, Texas closed to only from the water's edge, firing her main guns at almost 0 degrees of elevation to clear the western exit D-1, in front of Vierville. Among other things, she fired upon snipers and machine gun nests hidden in a defile just off the beach. At the conclusion of that mission, the battleship attacked enemy anti-aircraft battery located west of Vierville.
On 7 June the battleship received word that the Ranger battalion at Pointe Du Hoc was still isolated from the rest of the invasion force with low ammunition and mounting casualties; in response, Texas launched two small boats with provisions for the Rangers. Upon their return the boats brought 34 wounded Rangers to Texas for treatment, along with a handful of German prisoners who were interrogated aboard the battleship before being loaded aboard an LST for transfer to England. Later in the day, her main battery rained shells on the enemy-held towns of Surrain and Trevieres to break up German troop concentrations. That evening, she bombarded a German mortar battery that had been shelling the beach. Not long after midnight, German planes attacked the ships offshore, and one of them swooped in low on Texas’s starboard quarter. Her anti-aircraft batteries opened up immediately but failed to hit the intruder. On the morning of 8 June, her guns fired on Isigny, then on a shore battery, and finally on Trevieres once more.
After that, she retired to Plymouth to rearm, returning to the French coast on 11 June. From then until 15 June, she supported the army in its advance inland. By 15 June the troops had advanced to the edge of Texas’s gun range; her last fire support mission was so far inland that to get the needed range, the starboard torpedo blister was flooded with water to provide 2 degrees of list. With combat operations beyond the range of her guns on 16 June, Texas moved on to her next mission.
On the morning of 26 June, Texas closed in on the vital port of Cherbourg and, with Arkansas, opened fire upon various fortifications and batteries surrounding the town. The guns on shore returned fire immediately and, at about 12:30, succeeded in straddling Texas. The battleship continued her firing runs in spite of shell geysers blossoming about her; however, the enemy gunners were stubborn and skilled. At 13:16 a shell slammed into her fire control tower, killed the helmsman, and wounded nearly everyone on the navigation bridge. Texas’s commanding officer, Captain Baker, miraculously escaped unhurt and quickly had the bridge cleared. The warship herself continued to deliver her shells in spite of damage and casualties. Some time later, another shell struck the battleship. That one, a armor-piercing shell, crashed through the port bow and entered a compartment located below the wardroom, but failed to explode. Throughout the three-hour duel, the Germans straddled and near-missed Texas over 65 times, but she continued her mission until 16:00 when, upon orders to that effect, she retired.
Texas underwent repairs at Plymouth, England, and then drilled in preparation for the invasion of southern France. On 16 July, she departed Belfast Lough and headed for the Mediterranean Sea. After stops at Gibraltar and Oran, Algeria, the battleship rendezvoused with three French destroyers off Bizerte, Tunisia, and set a course for the French Riviera. She arrived off Saint-Tropez during the night of 14 July. At 04:44 on 15 July, she moved into position for the pre-landing bombardment and, at 06:51, opened up on her first target, a battery of five guns. Because the troops ashore moved inland rapidly against light resistance, she provided fire support for the assault for only two days. Texas departed the southern coast of France on the evening of 16 August. After a stop at Palermo, Sicily, she left the Mediterranean and headed for New York where she arrived on 14 September 1944.
Though Iwo Jima was not declared secured until 16 March, Texas cleared the area late in February and returned to Ulithi early in March to prepare for the Okinawa operation. She departed Ulithi with TF 54, the gunfire support unit, on 21 March and arrived in the Ryukyus on the 26th. Texas did not participate in the occupation of the islands but moved in on the main objective instead, beginning the pre-landing bombardment that same day. For the next six days, she fired multiple salvos from her main guns to prepare the way for the US Army and the US Marine Corps. Each evening, she retired from her bombardment position close to the Okinawan shore only to return the next day and resume her poundings. The enemy ashore, preparing for a defense-in-depth strategy as at Iwo Jima, made no answer. Only air units provided a response, as several kamikaze raids were sent to harass the bombardment group. Texas escaped damage during those small attacks. On 1 April, after six days of aerial and naval bombardment, the ground troops went ashore, and for almost two months, Texas remained in Okinawan waters providing gunfire support for the troops and fending off the enemy aerial assault. In performing the latter mission, she claimed one kamikaze kill on her own and claimed three assists.
Late in May, Texas retired to Leyte in the Philippines and remained there until after the Japanese capitulation on 15 August. She returned to Okinawa toward the end of August and stayed in the Ryukyus until 23 September. On that day, she set a course for the United States with homeward bound troops embarked as part of the ongoing Operation Magic Carpet. The battleship delivered her passengers to San Pedro, California, on 15 October, and celebrated Navy Day there on 27 October before resuming her mission to bring American troops home. She made two round-trip voyages between California and Oahu in November and a third in late December.
Unfortunately, the experience of how to properly maintain a museum ship did not exist at the time. Consequently, years of neglect resulted in cracks and gaps in coated surfaces, water intrusion, and steel deterioration. Paint in interior spaces began to crack, then flake, exposing metal surfaces underneath, which began to rust. At the same time, pipes open to the sea ultimately failed, flooding various voids and bunkers.
The funding produced by the Battleship Texas Commission was not up to the task of maintaining the ship. By 1968 the wooden main deck of the ship was so rotted that rainwater was leaking through the deck into the interior of the ship and pooling in various compartments. The Commission found that replacing the decayed deck timbers was prohibitively expensive. The solution at the time was to remove the wooden deck and replace it with concrete. The concrete eventually cracked, and again, rainwater began to leak through the main deck into spaces below. In 1971 three local charitable institutions, the Brown Foundation, the Moody Foundation, and the Houston Endowment, together contributed $50,000 to the ship to enable the Commission to sandblast and paint the hull. By this time, newspaper articles reported that the Texas was "under attack" from neglect and insufficient funding. Nevertheless, Texas was designated a National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1975, and a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service in 1976.
By 1983, concerns with the leadership of the Battleship Texas Commission led to the decision by the State Legislature to turn over control of the ship to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). The legislature abolished the commission effective 31 August 1983, and TPWD assumed operational control the next day. One of the first actions by TPWD was to hire a firm of naval architects to survey the ship in order to assess the deterioration and make recommendations as to what actions should be taken to preserve the ship. The survey revealed that the ship's watertight integrity was badly compromised, the hull was open to the sea in many places, and many compartments were full of standing rain water. The architects determined that the ship needed to go to dry dock for major repairs to the hull and to keep rain water from coming through the porous concrete deck. As part of this plan, serious consideration was given to protecting sensitive fabrics and restoring the interior of the ship. After a five-year-long fund-raising campaign, $15 million was collected to dry dock the ship and complete necessary repairs.
Finally, on 13 December 1988, Texas was set afloat after some difficulty and towed by barge from her berth to Todd Shipyard in Galveston, Texas. She underwent a 14-month refit that sought to restore the ship to her 1945 condition. While under refit, yard workers sand-blasted paint from not only the hull but also the superstructure of the ship and replaced many tons of rusted metal from the hull. Inside the ship, welders and fabricators replaced weakened structural beams and numerous rusted-out deck plates. Topside, workers removed the cement from the main deck and replaced it with wooden beams and a new pine deck. A new complement of anti-aircraft guns was also installed. In total, more than of steel (amounting to approximately 40 percent of the ship's hull) was replaced. On 24 February 1990, tugboats moved the Texas from dry dock to a repair facility on Green's Bayou for further repairs, which were completed on 26 July, when the ship was returned to her berth at San Jacinto. Repairs complete, the ship officially reopened to the public on 8 September 1990. Since returning to her slip at San Jacinto, members of the ship's staff and volunteers have moved forward with restoring the interior spaces.
On 6 November 2007, Texas voters approved $25 million in funds to dry-berth the ship in order to prevent further deterioration from the corrosive waters of the ship channel. This solution will permanently cradle the ship in a dry berth at her current location. Accordingly, the depth of the current slip will be increased to below sea level before driving over 1,000 concrete piles into the bottom soil to support a thick concrete foundation. A cradle of of concrete pylon beams and cribbing will rest upon this foundation and support the ship. This entire structure will be enclosed by a long cofferdam with a concrete sidewalk and viewing platform on the top, all of which is projected to be completed by the centennial of the construction of the ship in 2011. When complete, Texas will be the first ship of her size to be permanently dry-docked.
Texas was the first and will be the oldest of an eventual total of eight US battleships that have become floating museums; the other battleships honored in this way are , , , , , and .