The world’s last dreadnought: Distinguished Lecture pays homage to Battleship Texas

Ships named “Texas” have a grand history — just like the state. The first ship to bear the name came about when the United States realized it had less naval power than countries like Belize or Chile. The U.S. set out on a naval modernization program under the direction of then Undersecretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt, and built two modern battleships: the USS Texas (commissioned in 1895) and the USS Maine

While the Maine became infamous for starting the Spanish American War in 1898, the “Old Hoodoo” — as the Texas was called — under the command of Captain John “Jack” Phillips, served well at the Battle of Santiago de Cuba. There, she was part of Commodore Schley’s “Flying Squadron,” a force of ships gathered to defend the Atlantic coast against any Spanish fleets making their way to our shore. The Spanish fleet bottled up in the bay made a daring run to escape the blockading American fleet. In a matter of hours, the Spanish ships were sunk or run aground, and the U.S. fleet suffered only two casualties.

This first Texas was decommissioned in 1911 so her name could be added to a new dreadnought battleship, Hull No. 35. 

uss-texasLaunched on May 18, 1912, a few days after another infamous ship sank, the new Texas (BB -35) had a distinguished career with many firsts. Before she even had a shakedown cruise, she was off to support U.S. troops during the “Tampico Incident” in Mexico before World War I. Under the command of Victor Blue, she ferried convoys across the Atlantic and protected main layers around the northern German coast during World War I.  She escorted President Wilson to the peace conference after the war.  

During the intra-war years, she switched from burning coal to burning oil — a change that increased her range significantly and reduced the weight of the fuel she carried from 3,000 tons of coal to 400 tons of oil. She was the first battleship to have anti-air guns, launch a plane from her decks, and test radar. She participated in the landings in North Africa, the D-Day invasion, and the Battle of Okinawa, amongst others.

Since WWII, she’s been quite busy. In 1948, Texas became the first battleship memorial museum in the country. She currently serves as the flagship of the Third Texas Navy.

She also has an active acting career, playing the battleship West Virginia in Pearl Harbor. But I prefer when she plays herself in Letters from Iwo Jima and Flags of our Fathers. In the Ayes of Texas trilogy, she repeatedly saves the nation of Texas from the Soviet fleet. Way to go girl!

The next “Texas” was a Nuclear Guided Missile Cruiser (CGN). This Texas (CGN-39) was part of the new nuclear navy that launched in the 1960s and 1970s. She was second in the Virginia-class of cruisers. She participated in Operation Eagle Claw, an operation to rescue Iranian hostages. Under Captain William K. Gautier, she served as anti-air commander during the First Persian Gulf War. Due to the cost of maintenance and the fall of the Soviet Union, she was decommissioned about halfway through her expected life in 1993.

The current USS Texas has kept the nuclear tradition. She is second in the Virginia-class of nuclear attack submarines. Commissioned in 2004, the story of the USS Texas (SSN-775) is one shrouded by the depths of the sea. Under Commander Andrew Hertel, she patrols the ocean’s depths, looking for other silent and submerged killers, as well as surface fleets.

Join us on Tuesday, June 3 for our Distinguished Lecture Series to learn about the captains of the Battleship Texas and her place in history. The lecture is in conjunction with the showing of the incredible D-Day film and the Battleship Texas Centennial exhibit.

Celebrate Memorial Day all weekend long at HMNS

It’s almost Memorial Day weekend! Once again, it’s time for family, barbeques and — if you’re the traditional sort — white pants and shoes. And that’s not to mention the action-packed weekend we have in store at HMNS!

With a movie premiere in the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre, two brand new special exhibitions (highlighted by a historic reenactment), several limited engagement exhibits, and our stunning permanent exhibit halls open to you, this is sure to be a weekend to remember!

Here’s the breakdown:

On Friday, May 23, the epic 3D film D-Day: Normandy 1944 opens in the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre. Telling the story of the largest Allied operation of World War II through a stunning visual spectacle, the film’s seamless transitions between live action, animation, and CGI bring this historic battle to life.

We’re also opening two new special exhibits on the same day: Battleship Texas and Nature Unleashed: Inside Natural Disasters.

Battleship Texas, organized by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, highlights the history of the Battleship Texas in service to the United States Navy through World War II. On the other hand, Nature Unleashed: Inside Natural Disastersimmerses you in the most powerful natural phenomena on Earth: earthquakes, volcanoes, tornadoes and hurricanes.

From Saturday, May 24 through Monday, May 26, you’ll find members of the Sixth Cavalry, a WWII reenactment and technological preservation group, camped outside the museum. A non-political, non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of the memory of our nation’s veterans, the Sixth Cavalry will display military vehicles, including a half-ton truck, Jeeps, and a half-track outside the museum.

On Memorial Day, May 26, they will perform a two-bell ceremony at noon to honor those who have fallen.

In addition to our permanent exhibit halls, special exhibits Magna Carta and Bulgari: 130 Years of Masterpieces are here for a limited time.

So there you have it — something for everyone, all weekend long at HMNS. Come see us!

 

Museum Educators Open House — January 24th is just around the corner!

Well, it’s 2009 and it’s almost time for the Museum District’s Museum Educators Open House on Saturday, January 24th! MEOH is always a fun day for us at the Houston Museum of Natural Science where we get to collaborate with other Houston Museums to put on a big event for area Educators!

The HMNS will be hosting the following amazing Houston organizations; Battleship Texas/San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site, Bayou Preservation Association, Downtown Aquarium, FotoFest, Houston Arboretum and Nature Center, Houston Computer Museum, Houston Gem and Mineral Society, Houston Zoo, The John C. Freeman Weather Museum, Moody Gardens,  and the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art! The Children’s Museum of Houston, The Health Museum, Holocaust Museum Houston, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston will also be participating as MEOH hosts for the other 16 participating organizations!!


Houston area educators, school administrators, home school educators and student teachers are invited to discover the fascinating exhibitions, programs and educational resources available for their students. This event is completely FREE for all educators and for educators who attend at least 3 or more presentations are eligible for 3 hours of Continuing Education Credit; all you have to do is register online.

Go to the Museum District homepage to register for MEOH 2009 today!