Battleships were not just some boats amidst the vast ocean. During conflicts, they were the stronghold of the soldiers who were fighting alongside and onboard these ships.

In the United States, particularly in the US Navy, the construction of its first-ever battleship happened in 1892 with the making of USS Texas, although the first battleship under that designation was the USS Indiana. By the 20th century, the US Navy made the United States the world’s fifth strongest power at sea which rose from its 12th rank in 1870. Also, no American battleship has been lost at sea, although there were four that sank during the Pearl Harbor attack. The last decommissioned battleship for the US Navy was in 1992. With that, let’s have a look at some of the legendary ships that the US built:

The USS Texas

USS Texas
USS Texas, photochrom print c. 1898 (Wikipedia)

As mentioned above, the USS Texas was the first battleship of the United States, just before the USS Maine. In the Spring of 1898, the USS Maine (ACR-1) was destroyed by an explosion after losing a war in Havana Harbor. The United States, at that moment, declared war on Spain. USS Texas was one of the ships sent against the Spanish in the Atlantic Ocean. Together with one other ship, Texas destroyed the Spanish fort located at Cayo del Tore in a span of 75 minutes. The Spanish ships tried to run the American blockade, but Texas worked and attacked four of their ships simultaneously, inflicting heavy damages on each of them and giving them no choice but to run on the ground. After that, USS Texas also assisted against the rest of the Spanish fleet. This helped towards the end of the war.

USS Iowa (BB-61) in WWII, Korean War, and the Persian Gulf War

The USS Iowa entered the scene of World War II in 1943 when she carried President Franklin Roosevelt across the Atlantic to North Algeria to attend a conference with Prime Minister Winston Churchill of the United Kingdom and Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union. This battleship class comprising Iowa, Wisconsin, New Jersey, and Missouri were “Post Treaty” ships made after the restrictions of the Washington Naval Conference treaty were discarded when Japan attacked the U.S. in December 1942.  These were the fastest battleships ever built and arguably the most lethal in terms of their armaments and targeting systems.  The record for the biggest battleships ever built belongs to the Japanese, who built the Yamato and Musashi in secret and in violation of the treaty terms. Size is not everything and if you want to read how the Iowa class ships probably would have trounced the Yamato class battleships in a fight, you can read that here.

USS Iowa 1952. (Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

During the Korean War, Iowa was decommissioned into the US Navy reserve fleets known as the “mothball fleet” after becoming involved in raids conducted on the North Korean coast. She was reactivated in 1984 and operated in both the Atlantic and Pacific fleets as part of the 600-ship Navy plan.

In the Gulf war, USS Iowa was part of Operation Earnest Will. She set sail across the Suez Canal and towards the Persian Gulf, which was one of the battlefields of the Gulf War. She carried a number of Tomahawk and Harpoon missiles and escorted oil tankers of Kuwaiti towards the international waters.

She was decommissioned in 1990 and is now a museum ship that can be visited in Los Angeles, California.  It is a testament to the utility and quality of this battleship class that they enjoyed a service lifespan of almost half a century.

USS Jersey (BB-16) The Original

The USS New Jersey (BB-16) in camouflage coat. (DoD/Navy Dept. (War Dept.), Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

USS Jersey (B-16) was part of the Second Occupation of Cuba, as well as the Jamestown Exposition in 1907. At the end of 1907, she joined the Great White Fleet and sailed more than 50,000 miles around the world in 1909. She then spent the next five years training officers in gunnery. In 1914, USS Jersey took part in the occupation of Veracruz within the gates of the Mexican Revolution. In World War I, she was considered obsolete and unsuited to take on more modern battleships and was utilized as a training ship and then transported American soldiers back when the war ceased. USS Jersey was decommissioned in 1920.

She was then slated to be used as a target in aerial bombing practice, which was a very new thing.  Aircraft dropped a variety of bombs on her ranging from 600 lbs up to 2,000 lbs.  The battleship considered too old for combat surprised everyone when she absorbed four 600 lb bombs, a hit from a 1,000 lb bomb, and numerous near misses to crack her hull before she finally sank.