Monday, January 31, 2011

Texas Tidbits: The Battleship Texas

You know me and my interest in all things Texas. If it's about Texas, I wanna know about it. I want to spend some time today writing about San Jacinto. No, not the Battle of San Jacinto, the place San Jacinto. There is another history-making icon that is right at home on the Houston Ship Channel at San Jacinto. It stands as a monument to the emerging power of the United States Navy as we entered the 20th Century. I am, of course, talking about the Battleship Texas.
One Helluva Lady

Once the most powerful weapon in the world, the Texas served her country with unparalleled distinction. She was launched from Newport News, Virginia on May 18, 1912 and was commissioned on March 12, 1914. Texas Parks and Wildlife is the caretaker for the Texas and I found this on their website dedicated to the Battleship Texas. From the site: "In 1916, TEXAS became the first U.S. battleship to mount antiaircraft guns and the first to control gunfire with directors and range-keepers, analog forerunners of today's computers. In 1919, TEXAS became the first U.S. battleship to launch an aircraft. The TEXAS received the first commercial radar in the US Navy in 1939. New antiaircraft batteries, fire control and communication equipment allowed the ship to remain an aging but powerful unit in the US naval fleet. In 1940, Texas was designated flagship of US Atlantic Fleet. The First Marine Division was founded aboard the TEXAS early in 1941. April 21, 1948 the Texas was decommissioned. The TEXAS holds the distinguished designation of a National Historic Landmark and a National Mechanical Engineering Landmark." (NOTE: April 21 is the anniversary of Sam Houston's victory over Santa Ana in the Battle of San Jacinto, the battle which gave Texas her independence from Mexico.)

I was very young, maybe 10 years old the last time I saw and explored the Texas and I still remember the feeling the history as if she were speaking to me. I went down to the hold (I guess that's what they call it on a battleship) and came upon the brig. The cells were small, cold, damp and isolated and I wonder what a sailor would have to do to be sent to the brig. I also thought of the POWs that might have occupied the cells during the Texas' service in WWI and WWII. It was an eerie feeling. I could almost hear the crew of the ship as they went about their daily duties of fighting a war. Even at 10 years old (or so), I knew a little about the Texas and during my journey all over the ship, I was filled with pride that she was named after my state. Battleship Texas. It had a nice ring to it. Still does. In her prime, the Texas was a helluva lady. And if I do say so myself, she has aged beautifully.

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