Where should Battleship Texas be berthed?

Where should Battleship Texas be berthed?


Most of us have grown up with the Battleship Texas dry-docked on the grounds of the San Jacinto Monument.

This move happened in 1948 when the ship was decommissioned after WWII.

At that time, the battleship was floated into a shallow cul-de-sac carved out of the bank of the Houston Ship Channel. 

Historians at the time would have pointed out that the docking site obliterated part of the grove of trees where the Texan forces were camped, awaiting the battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836. 

Others would have objected on the grounds that the battleship had nothing to do with the birth of the Republic of Texas.

The decision might have been made on the basis of pragmatism: place two Texas touristic destinations close to each other.

In the current Texas legislative session, the question has been raised as to where the Battleship Texas should be berthed. 

That is, after it has been repaired. The repair to the massive leaks in the ship’s hull will require  the ship be floated (somehow) to Alabama.

The Legislature has voted $35 million for this repair. When this is done, where will the ship go? Back near the San Jacinto Monument where visitors to the ship are declining. Or to some more touristic destination like Galveston or maybe Corpus Christi?

After all, the San Jacinto battle site is not exactly pristine. There was nothing there during the battle of San Jacinto; just prairie and woods.

The San Jacinto Monument was not authorized until 1936, one hundred years after the battle. So the monument was still fairly new when the Battleship was moved there in 1948. That was more than 70 years ago.

Times have changed. Maybe the Battleship Texas is just a rusty hunk of iron that should be junked and replaced with a granite monument.

The Battleship Texas is the second ship with this name. The first one was commissioned and launched in 1892.

This ship was renamed the San Marcos in 1911 to allow the name Texas to be assigned to a new battleship Texas launched in 1914.

This Texas served at the end of WWI and in 1939 became the flagship of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet. She had a close call in 1941 when the German U-boat U-203 had her in its sights.

Since the U.S. was still neutral at that point, Hitler denied permission to attack her.

On the date of Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941, the Texas was in Maine and escaped destruction.

Serving off the coast of France on D-day June 6, 1944, she was hit by two shells from a German shore battery. One shell failed to explode; the second one did explode killing one sailor.

Later in WWII the Texas was in the Pacific and participated in the invasion of Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

After the war, she returned to the U.S. and was decommissioned in 1948. The battleship Texas had a worthy career, but did not figure into any decisive or glorious events.

Now she is more than 100 years old and her hull is leaking badly. She is the symbol of an bygone era.

The same cannot be said of the 1836 battle of San Jacinto and the monument that commemorates it.

One could make the case for moving the Battleship Texas to another place and recreating the camping site of the Texan Army on the eve of the great battle, part of which was excavated to create the Texas docking berth. I do not know if this discussion took place in the recent Texas Legislature. But I understand that the decision on a final resting place of the Battleship Texas will wait until after she is repaired and refloated, some years in the future.

Herndon Williams is affiliated with the Bayside Historical Society and the Refugio County Historical Commission. He is the author of the book, “Texas Gulf Coast Stories,” published in December 2010 by The History Press. His second book, “Eight Centuries on the Texas Frontier,” was published in May 2013. Email at cherndon8695@sbcglobal.net.