For well over six decades, one of the state’s most impressive and unusual historic sites has been the Battleship Texas State Historic Site located near Houston. In 1948, ownership of the USS Texas was ceremoniously transferred from the U.S. Navy to the State of Texas and for many years the battleship has been managed by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD). Innumerable families and visitors have included a trip to the Battleship Texas in their pilgrimage to the nearby San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site.
However, in August of 2019, the Texas Battleship Texas State Historic Site was closed for a lengthy repair project; then in August of 2020, operational control of the Battleship Texas was transferred to the Battleship Texas Foundation. During this closure, staff have been cataloging and securing thousands of artifacts on board the ship, as well as removing large exhibit collections before it is transported for repair. While it’s not currently possible to tour this magnificent vessel, regular updates are available through signing up for a newsletter and on the Battleship Texas Foundation website and Facebook page.
According to a historical overview by TPWD, “When she was commissioned in 1914, Texas was the most powerful weapon in the world and the most complex product of an industrial nation that was becoming a force in global events. She is now the only surviving U.S. naval ship that served in both world wars.” To the right, the Battleship USS Texas (BB-35) off New York City, circa 1919.
The Texas is also notable as being the only remaining World War I-era dreadnought battleship, being the first U.S. battleship to become a permanent museum ship; and the first battleship declared to be a U.S. National Historic Landmark.
Shortly after her commissioning, Texas made numerous sorties into the North Sea during World War I. When American formally entered World War II, Texas escorted war convoys across the Atlantic and saw action in the invasions of North Africa, Normandy and Southern France. Upon transfer to the Pacific Theater in 1944, she provided support for the Battles of Iowa Jima and Okinawa. At the end of the war, Texas carried many prisoners of war from the Philippines to Pearl Harbor and brought nearly 5,000 troops home to California.
Not only did Texas distinguish herself in combat service, she also accumulated many technological “firsts.” The USS Texas was the first U.S. battleship to mount anti-aircraft guns, the U.S. ship to control gunfire with directors and range-keepers, the first U.S. battleship to launch an aircraft and had some of the earliest versions of radar technology.
Following her WWII service, Texas was retired to Baltimore and was scheduled to be used as a bombing target but a statewide fund drive by the citizens of Texas saved her. Resting in the waters of the Port of Houston, just across from the San Jacinto Battleground, the USS Texas was decommissioned and presented to the State of Texas on San Jacinto Day, April 21, 1948.
Over the years, weather, aging, and a lack of adequate funds for repairs made it necessary for serious maintenance and preservation efforts. In 2007, Texas voters approved bond legislation of $25 million for the restoration of Texas with the addition of private funds.
The Battleship Texas Foundation website states that the Foundation was formed in 1998 and “exists today as an advocate for Battleship Texas, and to help develop the historic ship into a premier hands-on museum and visitor attraction.” It continues, “The Foundation is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization; as of August 1st, 2020, Battleship Texas Foundation has taken the lead in the operations of Battleship Texas, with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department retaining an advisory and oversight role. Donations and sponsorships make a direct impact on the success of Battleship Texas programs, including restoration, preservation, tours and education.”
While repairs, restoration and other processes take time, the citizens of Texas and naval aficionados can keep up with the progress by signing up for a newsletter from the Battleship Texas Foundation in addition to monitoring the Foundation’s website and Facebook page. We can all look forward to the day when the Battleship Texas welcomes visitors again!
Battleship Texas Foundation
One Riverway, Suite 2200
Houston, Texas 77056
Battleship Texas State Historic Site
The Battleship Texas is closed for a lengthy repair project;
a reopening date has not been set.
3523 Independence Parkway South
LaPorte, TX 77571