The Battleship Texas is a site that I have always taken for granted. I see the sign from the highway anytime I am driving through Houston, and it has always been one of those visits that get pushed to the “someday” category. That all changed last year when the 100 year old warship cracked in half and began taking on water. There was talk of closing the ship to visitors entirely, or of parting out the ship into museums, so I began to plan a visit to the ship in earnest. I knew that I wanted a chance to step on the decks of this historical ship before it was too late.
What’s All the Fuss? Facts About the Battleship Texas
Here in Texas, we’re purty proud of our old Battleship (and just about everything else in our great state), but the USS Texas is a national treasure as well. This ship is a huge part of the annals of battleship history and has the distinction of the being the “first” in a sizable number of important war events.
· Among battleships, USS Texas is the oldest remaining Dreadnought Battleship.
· She is one of only six remaining vessels that fought in both World Wars.
· She was the first to mount anti-aircraft guns, and the first to control gun fire with range keepers (an analog version of today’s computer guided system)
· The first US aircraft launched from a ship commenced from her decks.
· She was the first ship in the US Navy to use RADAR.
· She was the first battleship to become a permanent museum and the first to be named a US National Historic Landmark.
· She saw action at Normandy, Omaha Beach, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa.
Why Every Kid Should Visit the Battleship Texas
My kids don’t care much about dusty facts, and rattling them off does nothing to help them to remember a visit to ancient battleship. What they will remember is that the thrill of manning the turreted gun and working together to rotate the gun across the deck to obliterate the invisible enemy. The Battleship Texas is a ship that is meant to be as hands on and experiential as possible. This is the first and only ship we have ever visited where the guns were not locked and the kids could take a turn at cranking the handles to pivot the horizon. Even more, the guides aboard the ship encouraged the kids to climb and play as much as possible, and most areas of the ship were available to explore. They even thanked us for bringing them to experience this part of history. I was thrilled that they seemed to understand that the best way for kids to appreciate history is to be able to explore it fully.
Not to Miss Sites Onboard the Battleship Texas
Gun Turret One: Climb up into the hatch and see the giant 1200 pound shells.
Anti-Aircraft Guns: Play with the elevation and the azimuth as you scan the horizon for enemy planes.
Engine Room: Climb 20 feet below deck to get a close look at the engine room. This is the closest we have ever gotten to an engine room and it was thrilling to get to be so immersed in the experience.
Main Street: See the creature comforts that were available onboard a battleship. A restored barber, dentist office, sundries store, and soda shop can all be seen here. Medical and sleeping facilities are also highlighted.
Flying Bridge: Climb 60 feet above the water to get a view of the ship and surrounding area from the highest point. Here you can stand where in the same spot that the admiral of the fleet would have stood when the USS Texas served as the flagship.
What is the Future of the Battleship Texas?
Thanks to the work of many advocates for the Battleship Texas, the ship will be able to remain open for future generations to explore this piece of history. She will be leaving behind the brackish waters of the Houston ship channel for a more environmental friendly dry berth. Bidding on this project will begin in 2014 and construction is expected to be completed by 2017, giving the mighty battleship a new home where she will be preserved for generations to come.