Four Questions for Stephanie Croatt and Andy Smith
Battleship Texas: "A memorial to the bravery and sacrifice of servicemen in both world wars."
By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, United States World War One Centennial Commission
Things are not going well for our friends who care for the WWI-era Navy Battleship. They need our help.
The museum ship, located at La Porte, TX, discovered a significant hull leak earlier this year, which create a list to the ship. They tried to patch the leak, but found that the hull structure was seriously compromised, and would require extensive repair work. The team recently started a Petition to the Texas state government to provide funds to save the ship. The petition can be found here:
We connected with the team from the Battleship Texas State Historic Site, and talked to Stephanie Croatt, Assistant Superintendent, and to Andy Smith, the Ship Manager, about their efforts.
Tell us about this new petition to help the USS Texas. What is it about? What are the goals, who is behind it, etc?
The initiator of the petition is The Battleship Texas Foundation. As in all cases, petitions are used to garner a metric of how important an issue is to the public. The goal is to be able to provide Governor Abbot the results, to encourage action on funding. We have operated with limited funding and are somewhat hindered by the number of people we can actually touch through our efforts. However based on the results we have determined that well over two million citizens of Texas strongly support action being taken to save The Texas.
What is the current state of affairs with the USS Texas? Is it vulnerable? What is current funding level, etc?
TEXAS is currently extremely vulnerable, as her hull continues to sit in water and rust away. The ship is continually leaking, and Texas Parks and Wildlife has made efforts to manage the water in flow with pumps. That said, however, the ship is vulnerable to getting large holes in her hull that allow more water in than the pumps can keep up with. This creates catastrophic leak events like the leak we had in June and last year’s leak that forced us to close to the public on Veterans Day.
Unfortunately, there is no way to permanently fix these leaks without getting the ship out of the water into a dry berth or dry dock. The dry berth solution is currently unfunded, and the Battleship TEXAS Foundation is working in conjunction with Texas Parks and Wildlife to try to raise those funds (see below for details on the fundraising).
USS Texas is an iconic, historic US Navy Warship. Tell us a little about the ship’s history, its role in WWI.
Battleship TEXAS is the last remaining U.S. battleship to have served in both World War I and II. In World War I, USS Texas joined the 6th Battle Squadron of the British Grand Fleet early in 1918. Her duties included laying a North Sea mine barrage, responding to German High Seas Fleet maneuvers, and helping prevent enemy naval forces from cutting off Allied supply lines.
Late in 1918, she escorted the German Fleet to its surrender anchorage. USS Texas became flagship of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet before World War II. She had a close call in 1941 while on "Neutrality Patrol.” German Submarine U-203 had the ship in its sights and asked permission to fire. Adolf Hitler eventually denied permission to engage the ship, or any other U.S. ship.
Fate spared the battleship again when Japanese forces bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941: She was safe in Maine. The United States entered World War II soon after.
During the war, USS Texas fired on Nazi defenses in Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
Shortly afterward, German coastal defense artillery near Cherbourg hit the ship twice. The first shell exploded, injuring 12 and killing one. This was the only combat fatality ever aboard USS Texas. The second shell hit the ship, but did not explode. The Navy deactivated this “lucky shell” and returned it to the ship as a good luck charm.
After repairs, the battleship shelled Nazi positions in Southern France before transferring to the Pacific. There she lent gunfire support and anti-aircraft fire to the landings on Iwo Jima and Okinawa. After Japan’s surrender, USS Texas carried soldiers stationed across the Pacific home from war.
When she completed her final mission, the state of Texas acquired the ship. On April 21, 1948, Battleship Texas was decommissioned, and became a memorial ship.
Today, Battleship Texas is a floating museum and the last remaining U.S. battleship of her kind. She stands as a memorial to the bravery and sacrifice of the servicemen who fought in both world wars.
The battleship is both a National Historic Landmark and a National Mechanical Engineering Landmark. Ensuring her future will require a concerted effort from Texas citizens and businesses. Luck has gotten her this far, but now it’s up to Texans to save the Battleship TEXAS.
What are the next steps for you, and for the supporters of this effort? After you get signatures, how will you translate this into tangible funding and improvement for USS Texas’ material condition?
As advocates of The Texas we are limited in our how much direct control we can have over funding. At the same time we have no limit on our ability to advocate. The data has and will continue to be a call to key decision makes at the state and federal level to take action especially where funding is concerned.
In the final analysis, The Texas is owned by the State of Texas and the state must take the first step. Should the state decide to invest in taking The Texas to a final solution The Battleship Texas Foundation is prepared to pledge up to $10 million to help in funding. The current cost estimate to dry berth The Texas is $51 million. The estimate to scrap The Texas is around $30 million.
What the real issue comes down to is the difference between dry berthing and scrapping cost. This number currently is about $21 million. Again, The Foundation would be willing to commit $10 million of that $21 million difference. Bottom line in our view is what is the state willing to do. If they will commit to a funding level of $40 million dollars The Foundation will commit to the remaining funds needed.