America has never been known to back away from a fight and the American Battleship has served as a symbol of the American motto “Peace Through Strength”.
Between 1895 and 1945, the United States Navy commissioned 64 battleships (sometimes referred to as dreadnoughts). As a class of ship they were the largest gun ships ever built. A number of these have managed to survive and are now museums open to visitors in the United States. Recently on a road trip we visited the USS Alabama which is moored permanently at the Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile, Alabama.
The USS Alabama (BB-60), or Lucky A, was the first American battleship to be launched after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Commissioned later in 1942, the Alabama’s first assignment in the war was to work with the British navy in escorting convoys across the Atlantic. Later its service was in the Pacific, where it was an escort ship providing protection to aircraft carriers. It took part in many engagements near the end of the war including the Battle of the Philippine Sea. The Alabama received the Lucky moniker due to the fact that it incurred virtually no damage and almost no casualties during the war.
The USS Alabama was decommissioned in 1947, and like the North Carolina, the Alabama is in nearly perfect World War II commissioned condition, thanks to its luck and quick removal from service. Because of this it has appeared often in motion pictures and television productions. The Alabama is now a museum and open to the public along with the submarine USS Drum.
Following are the additional battleship museums in America.
USS Texas (BB-35) (Houston, TX) A New York class battleship launched in 1912. The USS Texas is the oldest surviving battleship of the dreadnaught era. Commissioned in 1914, it is also the only remaining American battleship that saw action in World War I. Between the wars it served as the American flagship, and was used for presidential escort duties in the Atlantic. One of the few American battleships that was not at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked in 1941, the Texas was one of the first in action, and was present at several of the largest amphibious engagements of World War II, including naval support of the Normandy invasion as well as the battles of Okinawa and Iwo Jima.
The USS Texas was decommissioned in 1948, but went on to an impressive retirement. It was acquired by the State of Texas, where it was refurbished as America’s first battleship museum. It was also the first World War II battleship to be declared a national monument. Over the course of her service the Texas earned five battle stars, and is one of the most decorated ships still afloat. It is currently moored in the Houston Ship Channel where it is part of the San Jacinto Battlefield State Historic Site.
USS North Carolina (BB-55) Wilmington, NC. A North Carolina class battleship launched in 1940. The USS North Carolina, or Showboat, was one of the last battleships commissioned prior to America’s entry into World War II in 1941. Originally scheduled to be sent to Pearl Harbor with the rest of the Pacific fleet, it narrowly avoided the attack by being assigned to patrol duty on the east coast. It was than quickly transferred to the Pacific to augment the devastated fleet at Pearl Harbor in 1942. The North Carolina was the first American battleship to go on the offensive against the Japanese, and participated at the battle of Guadalcanal in 1942. The North Carolina’s service ended almost immediately after the war, and she was permanently decommissioned in 1947. She remained inactive but was towed to North Carolina in the 1960s. The only surviving ship of the North Carolina-class, it is also the best surviving example of early World War II battleships. It is now located at the USS North Carolina Battleship Memorial site in Wilmington.
USS New Jersey, (BB-62) Camden, NJ, is an Iowa class launched in 1942. The USS New Jersey, or Big J, was one of the longest-serving American battleships of the 20th century, and one of the last to be used in a combat capacity. She sat off the coast of Vietnam and her guns provided cover for ground operations inland. Launched on December 7, 1942, on the one-year anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the New Jersey was one of the chief battleships active in the Pacific during WWII. She was decommissioned in 1991.
USS Missouri & the USS Arizona Memorial
USS Arizona (BB-39) is located in Honolulu, HI. It is a Pennsylvania class battleship launched in 1915. Today the USS Arizona is the final resting place for some 900 of the ship’s 1,177 crewmen who died on December 7, 1941 from the attack on the naval base. Today there is a 184-foot-long memorial over the sunken Arizona that spans the mid-portion of the submerged battleship.
The USS Missouri (BB-63), or Mighty Mo is located at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, HI and is an Iowa class battleship. Launched in 1943 it was probably the most famous American battleship, and the last to be in active service. One of the last battleships ever constructed in the United States, it was officially commissioned in 1944, just in time to participate in the final campaigns in the Pacific and played host to the Japanese surrender.
USS Massachusetts (BB-59) Fall River, Massachusetts is a South Dakota-class ship located at Battleship Cove. The park also has the submarine USS Lionfish.
USS Iowa (BB-61) San Francisco, California is an Iowa-class battleship in the ghost-fleet at Suisun Bay and not currently open to the public.
USS Wisconsin (BB-64) Norfolk, Virginia is an Iowa-class battleship located at the Nauticus National Maritime Center.