USS Texas (BB 35)

The USS Texas is a New York class battleship that served with the British Grand Fleet during the First World War, and took part in the D-Day landings, and the invasions of the South of France, Iwo Jima and Okinawa during the Second World War. She is now a museum ship, at Houston, Texas, and the oldest surviving dreadnought battleship in the world.

The USS Texas was laid down on 17 April 1911, and was the first 14in gun battleship to be built for the US Navy. She was launched on 18 May 1912 and commissioned on 12 March 1914, one month before her sister ship, the New York.

The Texas was laid down on 17 April 1911, launched on 18 May 1912 and commissioned on 12 March 1914, early in the American occupation of Veracruz. After a brief period of initial training, the Texaswas sent to Mexico on 13 May, without conducting a shakedown cruise. She arrived at Veracruz on 26 May and remained there for two months, leaving on 8 August.

In 1916 the Texas became the first American battleship to carry anti-aircraft guns, when 3in guns were mounted above her turrets.

The Texas would have been one of the four American battleships sent to work with the Grand Fleet after the American entry into the First World War, but on 27 September she ran aground close to New York. She had to be towed free, and needed repairs that prevented her from joining the 6th Battle Squadron at Scapa Flow until 11 February 1918. The American squadron arrived after the last direct clash with the German High Seas Fleet, but on a number of occasions both fleets were at sea at the same time, and another major battle was always a possibility. This clash never came, and instead the British and American battleships took part in convoy escort duties. The German ships finally came into sight on 21 November 1918 as they sailed into internment. 

During the inter-war years the Texas split her time between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. On 9 March 1919 she became the first American battleship to launch an aircraft, when a Sopwith Camel was launched from a ramp on No.2 Turret.

On 31 July 1925 the Texas entered dock to begin a major refit. Her coal fired boilers were replaced with oil fired boilers. The cage masts were replaced with a single tripod foremast and the latest fire control equipment was installed. Six of the 5in guns were moved up from their protected casemates to unprotected positions on the deck, to make space for anti-submarine blisters on her sides. During the Second World War her anti-aircraft armament was increased, and she ended the war with ten quad mountings for 40mm guns and thirty six 20mm guns.

In May 1941 the Texas became part of the 'neutrality patrol', protecting the western half of the Atlantic against U-boats. She was at Casco Bay, Maine, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, along with the New Mexico and Arkansas. For most of 1942 the Texas was used to escort troop convoys in the Atlantic, but on 23 October she set sail with the North Attack Group (Task Group 34.8), part of the fleet allocated to Operation Torch. The Texas was part of the force that attacked at Mehedia, close to Port Lyautey. There was no pre-invasion bombardment, and the Texas didn't open fire until the afternoon of 8 November. In the next week the Texas fired 273 rounds of 14in shells, a far lower total than during most shore bombardments of the war.

In 1943 and early 1944 the Texas returned to convoy escort duty, but in April she stopped in Scotland where she began to prepare for D-Day. Texas and Arkansas formed Force 'C', under Rear Admiral Bryant, and were used to support the landings on Omaha Beach. She opened fire at 5.50am on 6 June, from a range of 12,000 yards, before later in the day moving in to 3,000 yards to fire on a particular German position. The Texas kept up a heavy fire on 7 and 8 June, before returning to the UK to re-arm. She returned from 11-15 June, firing 690 fourteen inch shells during her two periods off the beaches.

On 25 June Texas returned to the French coast, and along with the Arkansas she bombarded the German defences of Cherbourg. This time she fired 208 14in shells in three hours, but the Germans weren't idle. The Texas was hit by on 280mm shell in the fire control bridge and 240mm shell that lodged below a wardroom but failed to explode. This shell was disarmed by a bomb disposal team in Plymouth after the bombardment was over.

Once the unexploded shell had been removed, the Texas sailed to the Mediterranean, where she formed part of the fleet supporting Operation Dragoon, the invasion of the South of France. Texas and Nevada were part of Task Force 85 (Delta Force) under Admiral Bryant. She took part in the initial bombardment of German defences around St. Tropez, and the bombardment of Toulon, but the Allied armies advanced inland very quickly, and were out of battleship range after the first day.

The Texaswas no longer needed in European waters, but the US Navy was short of bombardment ships in the Pacific, where all of the available 'old' battleships were involved in the invasion of the Philippines. The Texas was moved to the Pacific, where she joined Task Force 54 (Rear Admiral Rodgers), along with Tennessee, Idaho, Nevada, New York and Arkansas. This fleet was used during the invasion of Iwo Jima, performing a pre-invasion bombardment that began on 16 February 1944 and then supporting the troops after the landings on 19 February. The Texas remained off Iwo Jima for two weeks, firing 923 14in shells during this period.

All ten active 'old' battleships were grouped together in Task Force 54 for the invasion of Okinawa, now under the command of Rear Admiral Deyo. The Texas was part of Group 1, with the Maryland. Group 2 contained Arkansas and Colorado; Group 3 Tennessee and Nevada; Group 4 Idaho and West Virginia and Group 5 New Mexico and New York.

The Texas took part in the initial pre-invasion bombardment of Okinawa from 26 March, spending six days attacking Japanese positions. During this period she was attacked by a number of kamikaze aircraft, but was undamaged. After the land invasion of 1 April the Texas remained off Okinawa for two months, providing fire support.

She eventually moved to Leyte on 14 May, where she remained for the rest of the war. She was allocated to Task Force 95 (Vice Admiral Oldendorf) on 16 July, for operations in the East China Sea, but didn’t take part in that force's only offensive cruise.

The Texas was used to transport US troops back home, making one trip in September-October, two in November and one in December. She remained in service for three years after the war, before being decommissioned on 21 April 1948. Unlike the other 'old' battleships, the Texas still exists. She was handed to the State of Texas in 1948, and became a museum ship at Houston. She is now the oldest dreadnought warship in the world, and one of only six surviving ships to have served in both world wars. 

Displacement (standard)

27,000t

Displacement (loaded)

28,367t

Top Speed

21kts

Range

7,060nm at 10kts

Armour – belt

12-10in

 - lower casemate

11in-9in

 - upper casemate

6.5in

 - armour deck

2in

 - turret faces

14in

 - turret tops

4in

 - turret sides

2in

 - turret rears

8in

 - barbettes

10in and 12in

 - coning tower

12in

 - coning tower top

4in

Length

573ft

Width

95ft 6in

Armaments

Ten 14in guns in twin turrets
Twenty one 5in guns
Four submerged beam 21in torpedo tubes

Crew complement

1042

Laid down

17 April 1911

Launched

18 May 1912

Completed

12 March 1914

Fate

Museum Ship, Texas

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (19 September 2011), USS Texas (BB 35) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_USS_Texas.html

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