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Battleship Texas: Tour Her While You Still Can!

Battleship Texas: Tour Her While You Still Can!


By avatar  Stacy
Posted On 07/04/2019 16:43:49
Trip Date 06/26/2019  

Destinations | Texas | LaPorte | Houston Ship Channel | USS Texas | Museums in Houston | US Battleship Museums | San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site



We spent a few days at Stephen F. Austin State Park in San Felipe with our RV. Since we were just outside of Houston, Texas, we ventured into the city for a day. Battleship Texas in the Houston suburb of LaPorte had been in the news just before our visit, so we took the opportunity to return to the ship that I had visited as a child. We were so glad that we spent part of our day there as the news reports we had heard didn't tell the full story of all of the upcoming changes.

If you'll be in the Houston area and can squeeze in some time to visit the historic USS Texas, you'll be glad that you did. While there are plenty of museums in Houston to choose from, this one is definitely unique. Today it's just a short drive from downtown Houston in the Houston Ship Channel, but who knows where it will be in the coming years. Other than viewing the optional short 17 minute movie telling some of the ship's history, you're on your own to explore the open areas. You can make a full day out of your visit to the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site if you have the time, or just explore this US Battleship Museum in a few hours.



What is the Battleship Texas?

Originally launched in 1912, the USS Texas (aka Battleship Texas), the second ship with the same name, is a floating museum today. She is the last surviving ship to have participated in both World War I (1914 - 1918) and World War II (1939 - 1945).


Battleship Texas

Battleship Texas

First commissioned by the United States Navy in 1914, the battleship was a state of the art weapon that kept up with the times during her service. Anti-aircraft guns were mounted on the ship in 1916 making her the first of the United States battleships able to defend herself against air attacks. Just a few years later, she became the first US battleship to launch an airplane.


Anti-Aircraft Guns aboard USS Texas

Anti-Aircraft Guns aboard USS Texas

Up Close Look at More Anti-Aircraft Guns

Up Close Look at More Anti-Aircraft Guns

Between 1925 and 1927 the ship underwent a major reconstruction including a change to how the ship was powered. Rather than running on coal, the ship was refit to run on fuel. Although not the newest in the United States fleet, at two different points in time between 1927 and 1937, the USS Texas was designated as the flagship of the entire naval fleet. In 1939, radar technology was installed on the ship, again making it one of the first of its kind to have a new feature.



During World War II, in addition to playing an important role in D-Day operations, the USS Texas participated in operations at Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Following the end of the war, soldiers were transported back to the United States on her career ending mission. The Battleship Texas was officially decommissioned on April 21, 1948.

Although her campaign ribbons were never on display as was customary in later years, the USS Texas did receive accolades for her service. In addition to ribbons for victories in both world wars, she received a total of five WWII battle stars (one for each major operation in which she participated).


Reproductions of USS Texas Campaign Ribbons

Reproductions of USS Texas Campaign Ribbons

Millions of dollars have been poured into keeping the ship available for visitors. Most recently the ship's third deck reopened in early 2019 after being closed for over two years. This gave visitors access to tour the engine room, machine shop and more which were not accessible while undergoing repairs. Unfortunately, there's still more to do to prolong the ship's life and keep it safe for all to enjoy.



Why the Rush? What's Changing at Battleship Texas?

You may have heard that Battleship Texas will likely be moving out of its current home in the Houston Ship Channel. If you are like us, however, that may be all that you know about the upcoming changes.

After visiting with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Park Rangers currently at the site, we realized that we had no idea of the timing nor full extent of the upcoming changes? Here's what we learned:

  • Effective July 8, 2019, Battleship Texas is no longer open to visitors on Monday through Thursday. Friday, Saturday and Sunday hours (10:00 AM - 5:00 PM) will continue. (Reservations were halted as of June 26, 2019.)
  • Beginning in July and continuing through August 2019, the Battleship Texas staff will be preparing the ship for transportation to a dry dock facility in Alabama. Preparation will include the cataloging and storing of artifacts to keep them safe during the major repair project which is expected to take about a year. The tour experience will change as the number of artifacts available for visitors to see will be reduced with each passing week.


    Office Equipment, Bell & Silver Service from original ship, USS Texas Bell

    Office Equipment, Bell & Silver Service from original ship, USS Texas Bell

  • It is expected that, effective September 1, 2019, tours of Battleship Texas will no longer be offered until all repairs are complete. Once the Battleship Texas is fully repaired, the plan is to return the ship to a new, not yet announced, location in Texas. The goal is for the ship to be docked where an increased number of visitors will be able to tour this piece of history.
  • The ownership and day to day operations of Battleship Texas will be transferred from Texas Parks and Wildlife to the Battleship Texas Foundation. At that time, Battleship Texas will no longer be a Texas State Park.
  • Holders of the Texas State Park Pass receive unlimited free entry to state parks which currently includes Battleship Texas. Entrance to the ship will no longer be free for pass holders once ownership transfers. The current entrance fee is $12.00 for adults, $6.00 for seniors age 65 and over and $3.00 for children aged 5 - 11. Admission is currently free for younger children as well as active and retired military.



So, what does all of this mean for you? If you want to tour Battleship Texas, you can do so on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. If you'd like to use your Texas State Parks Pass for free admission, visit the ship during July or August 2019 - the earlier the better to have the best opportunity to see the majority of the artifacts onboard. Finally, if you want to tour the ship where it has been docked for over 70 years, your last opportunity is on August 31, 2019.


Exploring the Main Deck of Battleship Texas

Exploring the Main Deck of Battleship Texas

If you don't want to tour the inside of the ship but would like to see it docked in the Houston Ship Channel, you should be able to do so through most of 2019. During our visit, the huge propeller was also on site and could be seen as we approached the Visitor Center. During transport and repairs (expected to begin in December 2019), there will be a one year plus period when Battleship Texas cannot be toured.


USS Texas docked at Houston Ship Channel

USS Texas docked at Houston Ship Channel

Propeller of Battleship Texas

Propeller of Battleship Texas

What to Expect during a Self-Guided Tour of Battleship Texas?

Exploring the Battleship Texas can be fun for both the young and old alike. Tours are self-guided, so you can spend as much or as little time as you want. Although only the main deck is wheelchair accessible, those who want to get some additional exercise can climb all of the way up the Foremast to the Flag Bridge or down below water to the Engine Room.


Foremast of USS Texas

Foremast of USS Texas

Peering Up at the Battleship Texas Foremast

Peering Up at the Battleship Texas Foremast

Engine Room on USS Texas

Engine Room on USS Texas

Weave through the inside passageways to the Air Castle to see the video titled Hero Ships: USS Texas shown inside a small theater. In a short 17 minutes, it tells the story of America's World War Warrior. It's a great introduction to the ship and all that she, along with those who served, accomplished during her tenure in the US Navy. From there, you're on your own to weave through the passageways to explore and learn about the life of the men on board the ship during World Wars I and II.



There are opportunities to get a feel for what it would have been like to live aboard the ship during wartime. You can try your hand at aiming or rotating the guns to get a feel for what your responsibilities might have been like during battle.


Try Operating a World War II Gun on Battleship Texas

Try Operating a World War II Gun on Battleship Texas

After feeling the weight of the guns and seeing the size of some of the shells used for ammunition, it's easy to understand how important teamwork must have been. Some of the gun mounts required 15 crew members working in unison to operate.


Ammunition Displays aboard USS Texas

Ammunition Displays aboard USS Texas

We know and appreciate all that those in the military (and their families) do in order to protect our freedom. They miss out on day to day life with family and friends and often miss milestones or other important events. We don't often think about the necessities and conveniences that they give up in order to be away from home.



Imagine all that you would need in order to live away from home on a ship for many months at a time. In an attempt to make living away more like living in a small community for the more than 1,800 aboard, Main Street was located one deck below the main deck on Battleship Texas. It is here that you would see things such as the Canteen which was like a "dime store". It offered items such as razor blades, candy, snacks, playing cards, stationary, tobacco, toothbrushes and toothpaste, watches and so much more for sale. There was also a Dispensary (similar to a drug store with both over-the-counter and prescription medications), Library, Post Office and even a Soda Fountain with yummy treats, but only open limited hours.


Canteen (Top), Soda Fountain (Bottom Left) and Postal Box

Canteen (Top), Soda Fountain (Bottom Left) and Postal Box

Day to day services were available on the ship that you usually don't think about until you need them. Crew members had access to a Barber Shop so that they could always meet the standards set by the military. There was a Tailor available for alterations as well as a Laundry so that the linens aboard could be kept clean. (Clothing for officers and senior enlisted men only was also laundered courtesy of the military.) Day to day medical care was available at no cost and included the services of both a Doctor and Dentist. The ship also had an Operating Room, a Sick Bay and even an Isolation Ward.


Barber Shop, Sick Bay, Operating Room and Laundry (Clockwise from Top Left)

Barber Shop, Sick Bay, Operating Room and Laundry (Clockwise from Top Left)

It goes without saying that everyone aboard needed to eat, sleep and use the bathroom! Officers enjoyed an upscale dining experience with stewards providing table service in the more private Wardroom. The officer's quarters were located in the front of the ship in an area known as Officer's Country.



Life as enlisted men was definitely less glamorous. Believe it or not, the Crew Head had only 26 toilets which were shared by over 1,600 men. Bunks were stacked four high and hung throughout large open areas with lockers available for each man to store their personal possessions. Food was served cafeteria style and after eating in the Mess, enlisted men brought their dirty dishes to the Scullery so they could be cleaned and ready for the next meal.


Locker, Officer Wardroom, Bunks & Mess, Pantry, More Bunks (Clockwise)

Locker, Officer Wardroom, Bunks & Mess, Pantry, More Bunks (Clockwise)

The ship's Engineering Operations were on the third deck, one deck lower than the living quarters. It is there that the Machine Shop, Brig (the jail) and Ammunition Passageway were located. The stairway leading one deck down to the Engine Room was also on this deck.


Ammunition Passageway

Ammunition Passageway

In order to help prepare for emergencies, Damage Control Lockers were located on the ship. Each locker was filled with tools and supplies needed to fight fires and control flooding among other things.


Damage Control Locker

Damage Control Locker

Whatever you decide to see while aboard the Battleship Texas, just make sure to respect this piece of history. You should leave it as clean or cleaner than when you arrived!


Swabbing the Deck of Battleship Texas

Swabbing the Deck of Battleship Texas

What Else can you do While at Battleship Texas?

Battleship Texas is docked at the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site just across Independence Parkway from the San Jacinto Monument. You can wander through the exhibits in the base of the San Jacinto Monument and even ride up to the Observation Deck ($6.00 for adults, $5.50 for seniors and $4.50 for those 11 and under) for great views of the Reflecting Pool, battleground and city of Houston.


San Jacinto Monument

San Jacinto Monument

Both sites have stores where you can shop for a souvenir to remember your visit. In addition to exploring the ship and monument, if you are lucky enough to have nice weather during your visit, take advantage of the tables and grills to enjoy a picnic.



Visiting Texas

If you are in search of more fun things to see and do in Texas, search TEXAS on The Wordy Explorers Travel Blog for more ideas. In addition to reviews of numerous campgrounds where we have camped in our RV, you'll find a number of fun things that we've done in our home state. Some of our favorites are unique and off the beaten path with no crowds at all!

Visiting Houston

Although the Houston area is under three hours from our current home, we haven't really spent a lot of time there. If you were to recommend your favorite two or three places to visit near Houston, what would make your list and why?


Battleship Texas: Tour Her While You Still Can!






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Created On 07/04/2019 14:02:13  
Updated On 07/04/2019 15:43:49
Scheduled On 07/04/2019 15:43:49
Posted On 07/04/2019 16:43:49
Last Editor Stacy
Location  Battleship Texas State Historic Site, Houston, TX, United States
LinkId  BattleshipTexas
StoryId  1562263333761





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