Saving Texas History

It is the last of its kind. The Battleship Texas is a veteran of both world wars. It's docked in its entire splendor at the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site. Last week, a rag and a back-up pump kept the iconic vessel from sinking in its mooring. Officials say the incident underscores the importance of repairing the Texas soon. Pat Hernandez paid a visit and has this report.


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boy playing with turret“No…put it down!”

A couple of kids man a gun turret on the Battleship Texas and pretend to repond to an air attack. It’s not hard to go back in history with the ship’s hardware. America was becoming a world power when Texas was authorized almost a hundred years ago. She was the only U.S. battleship to see combat in Europe, Africa and the Pacific.

“This is one of the first ships that tested out radar, this is one of the first ships that had fire control,  this is one of the first ships that launched an airplane off of it.”

Andy Smith is manager of the Battleship Texas state historic site with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. He says much of TEXAS is still the same since arriving at the San Jacinto battlegrounds in 1948. She underwent a 14 million dollar restoration when she was towed to Todd Shipyards in Galveston in the late 80s. But last week, he noticed the ship appeared to be sitting lower in the water than normal.

“What we found out had happened. We discovered that one of our permanent pumps that’s on an automatic float switch had burned out. It got higher than it normally would, and when you take on water, we start bringing other holes that we know about, but are above the water line, we bring them below the water. And now we’re taking on more water, and we’d get in that vicious cycle of the further you sink, the more water you take on, the further you sink. So, it got to the point where we had sunk somewhere in the neighborhood of two to three feet and taking on  quite a bit of water.”

broken pumpThe broken pump was replaced with a backup and other pumps were brought in. Some 105-thousand gallons of water pumped out brought the ship back up to its normal level. A rag was stuffed in the starboard leak which is now above the water line. Smith says the incident made them realize that the TEXAS will soon need to be repaired, preferably without moving her.

“What we’re proposing has never been done to a ship this size. We are very dense, 573-feet long, 28-thousand-plus tons in displacement, its huge. So, we need the best and the brightest to come in and figure out a good solution, and then that’s gonna be reviewed by the public, to where the public has a chance to weigh in, give their opinions, and we need to make sure we’re doing what’s right for this artifact.”

In 2007 voters approved a referendum that included 25-million to dry berth the vessel. This past Spring, Texas lawmakers approved the sale of bonds contingent on the ship being dry berthed in its current location and completed
in 2014. The centennial of the ship’s commissioning, says Smith:

“It survived the Japanese, and the Germans twice. We can make sure it survives Buffalo Bayou.”

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