History of the U.S. Navy battleship USS Texas (BB-35) including information about asbestos exposure for workers.
The USS Texas (BB-35) was ordered for the U.S. Navy on June 24, 1910. Her keel was laid down at Newport News Shipbuilding Company on April 17, 1911. She was launched on May 18, 1912 and commissioned on March 12, 1914 under the command of Captain Albert W. Grant.
USS Texas was ordered to Mexican waters during tensions with the United States in 1914. She later joined the Atlantic Fleet. While performing training exercises and some ceremonial duties, the battleship underwent repairs and upgrades. She helped rescue passengers from the Holland American passenger ship Ryndam after it was rammed by Norwegian fruit steam Joseph J. Cuneo on February 16, 1915.
When World War I began, USS Texas trained gunnery crews in the Hampton Roads area. After some repairs at Brooklyn Navy Yard in September 1917, she headed for Port Jefferson. Along the way, she ran aground on Block Island on September 27. She wasn’t freed until September 30, and she returned to the shipyard for hull repairs.
The USS Texas rejoined Division 9 off the coast of Scotland on February 11, 1918, where she operated as part of the 6th Battle Squadron of the British Grand Fleet. She performed convoy missions and reinforced British forces on blockade duty in the North Sea.
Between the two World Wars, the USS Texas operated in a variety of different capacities. She was part of President Woodrow Wilson’s honor escort on his way to the Paris Peace Conference in December 1918. She rejoined Atlantic Fleet duties in 1919 until her transfer to the Pacific Fleet later that year. She was involved in a number of training exercises, ceremonial duties, and overhauls before becoming the flagship of the Atlantic Squadron in late 1938.
In September 1938, USS Texas joined Neutrality Patrol as an attempt to keep the war out of the Western Hemisphere. She was at Casco Bay when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941. The battleship took on convoy duty the following month and patrolled the waters near Iceland until March. She continued convoy duties until October 23, 1942 when she sortied with the Northern Attack Group for Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa.
USS Texas supported the troop landings at Mehedia, where she provided fire support and assisted in salvaging efforts along the shore. The battleship carried Walter Cronkite ashore, where he began his career as a war correspondent. She headed home on November 16 before returning to convoy duties to Casablanca, Gibraltar, and Great Britain.
The USS Texas began training for Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy, in April 1944. She was boarded by General Dwight D. Eisenhower on May 19 as he briefed the crew about the operation. The battleship was designation the Bombardment Force Flagship for Omaha Beach.
On D-Day, June 6, 1944, USS Texas began bombardment at Pointe du Hoc, where she fired at a rate of 7.5 shells per minute. She moved to hit other targets along Omaha Beach as the morning wore on. The next day, the battleship sent provisions to the Ranger battalion at Pointe du Hoc and received 34 wounded men for treatment. She also interrogated some German prisoners before they were transferred to an LST bound for England. She continued to support operations in the area until June 16, when combat operations had moved too far inland beyond the range of her guns.
USS Texas moved on the take part in the Battle of Cherbourg on June 25. She was hit by German gunfire, causing an explosion on the navigation bridge that caused serious damage to the ship, killing one man and injuring 11 others. She was hit by an unexploded shell that was later disarmed, but continued to fire 206 shells at the enemy until ordered to retire.
The battleship returned to Plymouth for repairs. The USS Texas joined Operation Dragoon later that summer, where she took part in the pre-invasion bombardment of Saint-Tropez. Without heavy opposition, she head back to New York for further repairs and upgrades.
The USS Texas took part in the pre-invasion bombardment of Iwo Jima in February 1945. She remained to provide fire support for nearly two weeks before departing to prepare for the invasion of Okinawa. The battleship participated in the pre-invasion bombardment of Okinawa as well, and remained there for two months.
After World War II ended, USS Texas brought American troops home as part of Operation Magic Carpet. She celebrated Navy Day at San Pedro, California on October 27, 1945 before making several more voyages to bring troops home.
USS Texas was decommissioned on April 21, 1948 and removed from the Naval Vessel Register on April 30, 1948. She earned five battle stars for her service in World War II. The battleship now serves as a museum ship in Houston, Texas. She has appeared in several Hollywood films, including The Sand Pebbles, Pearl Harbor, Flags of Our Fathers, and Letters from Iwo Jima.
Like all other battleship of its time, the USS Texas was constructed with a number of asbestos-containing components. Known for its resistance to heat, water, fire, and corrosion, the toxic substance asbestos was used in virtually all areas of the ship. Anyone who served onboard or participated in the battleship’s repair and overhaul is at risk for developing asbestos-related illnesses like asbestosis, mesothelioma, lung cancer, throat cancer, stomach cancer, colon cancer, and rectal cancer.
USS Texas workers should monitor their health carefully, and consult a doctor if they experience any symptoms associated with mesothelioma. Anyone who worked on or around the USS Texas, and is diagnosed with mesothelioma, should also consider contacting a lawyer to discuss their legal rights.