The USS Texas (BB-35) saw more combat action in her lifetime than most other US battleships. Serving in both World War I and II, she combined military prowess with ingenuity to aid in the Allied success on D-Day. One outside-the-box idea by those aboard the vessel that day put the entire crew’s lives in jeopardy – thankfully, it paid off.
Service history of the USS Texas
The USS Texas was a New York-class battleship commissioned in March 1914, just months before the outbreak of World War I. She was first called to serve in the waters off of Mexico that April, in response to growing tensions between American sailors and Mexican soldiers at Tampico.
In 1916, Texas became the first US battleship to mount anti-aircraft guns – 76 mm .50-caliber guns – and the first to control gunfire using directors and rangefinders. These tools are still used today, just in a much more high-tech capacity.
Texas alternated training operations between the coasts of New England and Virginia, with winter tactical and gunnery drills in the West Indies. She was eventually thrust into WWI in April 1917, when the US entered the conflict. The battleship crossed the ocean to join the Grand Fleet, and also reinforced the British Squadron charged with blockade duty in the North Sea.
Interwar period and service during World War II
The USS Texas returned to the US in late 1918 and resumed her duties with the Atlantic Fleet following a brief overhaul. In 1919, she became the first US battleship to launch an aircraft, a Curtiss NC-4 seaplane.
The following year, Texas continued to serve as a convoy escort, transporting troops to Casablanca, Gibraltar and along the British Isles. When World War II began, she operated as part of the Neutrality Patrol, before patrolling the waters near Iceland and conducting convoy-escort missions. This was followed by her involvement in Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of North Africa, during which she was part of Task Group 34.8.
In April 1944, she began training for her greatest operation yet: D-Day.
A risky move by the USS Texas helps the D-Day landings
After arriving in Normandy in early June 1944, the USS Texas and the British cruiser HMS Glasgow (C21) entered the Omaha Beach western fire support lane near Pointe du Hoc. She was one of 702 ships in the US-British flotilla, and one of just seven battleships.
Texas began firing 14-inch shells in support of the 29th Infantry Division and the 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions. Within a span of just 34 minutes, she’d fired 255 shells – a shocking comparison to the 300 the vessel had fired during the entirety of Operation Torch. Texas then shifted her focus to more inland targets as the Allies moved from the landing beaches. Just 2,700 meters from shore, the battleship continued to bombard German positions throughout June 7-8.
After briefly returning to England, Texas arrived back in Normandy on June 15. By then, the Allied forces had already pushed farther inland and out of her range; the ship’s large guns couldn’t aim high enough to launch shells where they were needed. As fire missions continued to be requested, the crew needed to think outside the box. If the port side guns couldn’t be raised any further, then the starboard side needed to be lowered.
To lower the starboard side, the crew intentionally flooded the torpedo blister, lowering Texas an extra two degrees into the water. This was just the right angle for the battleship’s guns to fire accurately and complete the mission. Most vessels would never voluntarily flood part of their hull, but this daring move embodied the spirit the Allied forces showed at Normandy, which allowed for the operation to be victorious.
What happened to the USS Texas?
Following the Normandy invasion, the USS Texas assisted in the Battle of Cherbourg and Operation Dragoon. She was then transferred to the Pacific Theater to provide naval gun support during the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. After earning five battle stars during WWII, the battleship was decommissioned in 1948.
Texas was the first ever US battleship to become a permanent museum ship and the first to be declared a National Historic Landmark. She is also the only remaining WWI-era dreadnought and the last capital ship to have served in both world wars.
On August 30, 2022, Texas set sail from her home at the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site, with her destination being the Gulf Copper & Manufacturing Corp in Galveston, where her hull will undergo a $35 million repair and upgrade. Due to her age and the amount of time she’s spent in the water, the underpart of the battleship has begun to rust and wear away, and efforts are needed to keep her afloat.
The work is expected to take between nine and 12 months to complete.