Battleship Texas

A while back, friend of the blog Aggiesprite went to visit the Battleship Texas Memorial, and kindly shared a few pics with us. I thought I’d posted them, but they got stuck in draft limbo somehow. I was reminded when our other friend of the blog Zekexas posted pics of his trip to BBTXM today.  Zekexas is a pretty good photog, so go take a look.

At any event, since Aggie went to all the trouble of taking pics of the old grey gal for me, I should post them.

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USS Texas, BB-35, was commissioned in 1914, and served in both World War I and World War II. She was decommissioned and stricken from the register in 1948.

She’s the only American example of a Dreadnought battleship remaining. At the time, the 27,000 ton New York class battleships were among the largest warships ever built. Mind you, today the  Gerald R. Ford is under construction, and will weigh in around 100,000 tons. And huge numbers of merchant ships displace far, far more.

Still, her ten 14”/45cal guns, in five twin turrets, were quite powerful, and were put to good use fighting during the invasion of North Africa in 1942,and the Normandy landings of June 6, 1944.  In 34 minutes of sustained fire, she placed 255 14” shells on the Pointe du Hoc emplacements thought to contain a battery of 155mm guns. The Rangers assault on Pointe du Hoc is one of the more famous events of that incredible day.

Texas would also engage in a duel with the shore batteries of Cherbourg*, the Dragoon invasion of Southern France, and the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

Texas was an innovative ship. She was among the second generation of US Dreadnought battleships, shifting from 12” to 14” guns. She also was the first to implement modern fire controls such as rangefinders, directors and rangekeepers** She was the first US battleship to operate and airplane, and was a pioneer in the use of aircraft as spotters for gunfire, greatly improving accuracy at long ranges. She was also an early adopter of radar, mounting the Navy’s first operational air search set, the CXAM-1.

Almost immediately after the war, the state of Texas sought to turn their namesake into a museum. By 1948, she’d been pulled out of reserve, towed to Texas, laid up.  But time has not been kind to the flagship of the Texas Navy. She languished in disrepair until by 1988, she was in great danger of sinking. Indeed, when she was under tow to a drydock, leaks were so bad she was almost unable to be docked. A two year refurbishment brought her back to a much better state, but her advanced age and riveted hull means she still suffers from significant leaks, making the battle to keep her open an ongoing and costly one. Currently Texas is trying to convert her to a permanent dry berth, which hopefully will be complete by 2017.

In the meantime, at 99-1/2 years old, she’s still proud to represent Texas.

For some interior shots, MurdocOnline went on the rare hard-hat tour of her back in 2007.

*She was hit twice by 240mm shells, with 11 wounded, one later succumbing to his wounds.

**A rangekeeper was an early analog fire control computer used not just to plot the present location of a target, but to predict its future range and bearing to account for the time of flight of the ships guns projectiles.

Raising the Flag

On this day, February 23, in 1945, at around 10:20 in the morning a group of Marines raised this flag…

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… at the top of Mount Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima.  Staff Sergeant Lewis Lowery, marine combat photographer, captured the marines moments later.

The team included Corporal Charles W. Lindberg, Platoon Sergeant Ernest I. Thomas Jr., Sergeant Henry O. “Hank” Hansen, Private Gene Marshall (sometimes disputed as Raymond Jacobs), and Private First Class James Michels.

That flag belonged to 2nd Battalion, 28th Marine Regiment.  As the flag went up, everyone around and even off shore realized the significance – attaining the highest point on the bitterly contested island.  Observing the flag, Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal indicated the desire to secure the flag as a trophy.  The commander of 2nd Battalion had other ideas in mind, and sent one of his men to secure a second flag, which could then be impressed as the Secretary’s trophy.

So later that day, another group of Marines unfurled this flag on the top of the mountain.

Capturing the moment, photographer Joe Rosenthal snapped this photo.

And Bill Genaust caught the event on film.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbnZax_gwr8]

Six marines – Sergeant Michael Strank, Corporal Harlon H. Block, Private First Class Franklin R. Sousley, Private First Class Ira H. Hayes, Private First Class Rene Gagon, and Pharmacist’s Mate John Bradley – appear in the photo and footage.  Only three of which, Bradley, Gagon, and Hayes, survived the battle.

Of course the photos and film went on to become iconic, symbolizing the American spirit in the drive against the force of Imperial Japan and foretelling of the victory to come. The images stirred the last great War Bond drive to push the war effort to a successful conclusion.  More so, the event became a fixture in American history, appearing in movies and print.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-2Ym1rmWr3s]

If you have not read “Flags of our Fathers” or watched the movie, I encourage you to do so.  The story of the men before and after Iwo Jima is just as important as the actual event.

Over the years the background details of the story were debated and disputed.  Some elements became more lore and legend.  Some even charged the photograph and original film footage were staged.  At times, the controversy behind the story became a convenient prop for those wishing to discount the significance of the event.  And like any symbol of value, sometimes the image has been warped to other purposes.

But none of the dispute or re-direction takes away the fact that on this day in 1945, a group of Americans placed a flag up on a hostile mountain in the name of freedom.