A Veteran of Two World Wars: 7 Fascinating Facts about the USS Texas

SECNAV C. F. Adams tours the USS Texas, 1931. U.S. Naval Historical Foundation

A Veteran of Two World Wars

Capital ships are vessels that outsize and outclass most other boats in a typical navy and require an incredible investment of time, money, and manpower. Producing vessels of such size places a tremendous burden on national economies, with their continued upkeep under constant fiscal, political, and public scrutiny. Thus, some capital ships are incredibly powerful platforms, but of limited relative service to their respective nations. First rate ships of the line, during the Age of Sail, nonetheless started an escalation in naval power that culminated in the battleships and battlecruisers of the mid twentieth-century. Very few of these vessels survive today.

In addition to being one of the oldest surviving battleships in existence, the USS Texas is the only capital ship to have served in both world wars. During the spring of 1917, the Texas fired some of the first American shots of WWI. With the threat of unrestricted submarine warfare looming on the horizon, the USS Texas was assigned to a variety of training, patrol, and escort missions along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. The crew of the merchant ship SS Magnolia spotted a German U-boat on April 19 and the Texas intercepted the vessel, preventing the destruction of the Magnolia.

The “Big Four” of the Paris Peace Conference, 1919. Pinterest

The Texas spent the remainder of her WWI service with the Grand Fleet, traveling across the Atlantic Ocean and patrolling the North Sea, while reinforcing convoys between Scapa Flow and Firth of Forth, Scotland. Although she fired few shots for the remainder of the conflict, the Texas served as a clear projection of American naval power, which dissuaded the German Navy from attacking Allied shipping lanes. In December 1918, the Texas escorted President Woodrow Wilson, aboard the SS George Washington, to the Paris Peace Conference, where the Central Powers were officially forced to admit defeat.

During the interwar period, the USS Texas served in both the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets, while chalking up a laundry list of tactical, technological, and political accomplishments. Following America’s formal declaration of war, the Texas served in two major offensives: Operation Torch (1942), a joint invasion of North Africa, and Operation Overlord (1944), one of the boldest amphibious assaults in history. During the opening hours of D-Day, the USS Texas bombarded German positions with 255 14-inch shells in approximately thirty minutes. The “Mighty T” supported subsequent amphibious assaults during Operation Dragoon, the assault on Iwo Jima, and the Battle of Okinawa.