Friday, March 14, 2014

Anchors Aweigh, Y'All

This week marks a special occasion for sailors, their families, and navy supporters. The Battleship Texas (BB-35), the oldest surviving battleship afloat in the U.S. and the only surviving dreadnought in the world, celebrates its centennial anniversary.

Pomp, emotion greet old sailors as Battleship Texas turns 100
With a new coat of paint on its decks and a brisk north wind snapping its pennants Wednesday, the Battleship Texas welcomed back a gang of old warriors - men, who, though perhaps worn by years, still evinced the vigor of "the greatest generation."

For the aged sailors, Wednesday marked a sentimental, and possibly final, call to duty.

"This will more than likely be the last time they'll see the ship. That's huge,'' said Johnita Smith, the USS Texas Veterans Association chair whose father sailed on the Texas during World War II. "They served aboard for a year or four or five … and today was the last day they were going to see her.''

It was a double celebration for the venerable vessel and its former crew members - marking what was billed as the "final reunion" for the ship's WWII sailors as well as the 100th anniversary of its commissioning... The celebration continues Saturday with a concert, headlined by Robert Earl Keen, military flyovers and fireworks.

"Young people today talk about 'multitasking,' " Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said in a keynote address to the veterans and their family members. "But multitasking is what you did as the fire was coming in. You stuck with your guns. You are what made the greatest generation the greatest generation."
Orlan Scott, 87, was only 17 when he found himself assigned to the battleship's Turret 3. The retired Waco diesel mechanic recalled that his duties included hefting 100-pound sacks of powder into a hoist for the big guns.

"There were about 80 of us. It was like ants down there," he recalled. Scott said five to seven bags were required for each shot, and remembers that the crew once was at battle stations for more than 50 days.

"Sometimes we would bombard through the night," he said. "You'd roll out of bed and everyone would go to their stations … These shells would shoot every minute and a half … The heat was intense."

As befits a vessel named after The Great State of Texas, the ship is the proud holder of a number of naval 'firsts.'
Among US-built battleships, Texas is notable for her sizable number of firsts: the first US Navy vessel to house a permanently assigned contingent of US Marines, the first US battleship to mount anti-aircraft guns, the first US ship to control gunfire with directors and range-keepers (analog forerunners of today's computers), the first US battleship to launch an aircraft from a catapult, one of the first to receive the CXAM-1 version of CXAM production radar in the US Navy, the first US battleship to become a permanent museum ship, and the first battleship declared to be a US National Historic Landmark.

Her battle record is no less impressive.
After being commissioned, the Texas proceeded almost immediately to Mexican waters where she joined the Special Service Squadron following the "Vera Cruz Incident." She returned to the Atlantic Fleet operations in the fall of 1914, after the Mexican crisis was resolved.

After the United States entered World War I, she spent the year 1917 training gun crews for merchant ships that were often attacked by gunfire from surfaced submarines. Texas joined the 6th Battle Squadron of the British Grand Fleet early in 1918. Operating out of Scapa Flow and the Firth of Forth, Texas protected forces laying a North Sea mine barrage, responded to German High Seas Fleet sorties, fired at submarine periscopes observed by multiple ships, and helped prevent enemy naval forces from interrupting the supply of Allied forces in Europe. Late in 1918, she escorted the German Fleet en route to its surrender anchorage and escorted President Wilson to peace talks in France.

In 1941 while on "Neutrality Patrol" in the Atlantic, Texas was stalked unsuccessfully by the German submarine U-203. TEXAS escorted Atlantic convoys against potential attack by German warships after America entered into World War II in December 1941. In 1942, Texas transmitted General Eisenhower's first "Voice of Freedom" broadcast, asking the French not to oppose Allied landings on North Africa. The appeal went unheeded and the Texas provided gunfire support for the amphibious assault on Morocco, putting Walter Cronkite ashore to begin his career as a war correspondent. After further convoy duty, the Texas fired on Nazi defenses at Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Shortly afterwards, she was hit twice in a duel with German coastal defense artillery near Cherbourg, suffering one fatality and 13 wounded. Quickly repaired, she shelled Nazi positions in Southern France before transferring to the Pacific where she lent gunfire support and anti-aircraft fire to the landings on Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

Distinguished service in two World Wars. Action in both the Atlantic and Pacific during WWII. Currently holds the distinguished designation of a National Historic Landmark and a National Mechanical Engineering Landmark, as well as being the flagship of the Texas Navy.

To the Texas and all those who crewed aboard her during her 100 years of service, "Bravo Zulu!"

(P.S. - Please come back at 5:00 p.m. CDT for a special Happy Hour video. If I understand Navy time correctly, that would be two bells into the first dog watch.)


Old NFO said...

Yep a special celebration for a special ship! Bravo Zulu to all!

CenTexTim said...

Roger that!