The Battleship Texas has left its long-time berth at the San Jacinto Battleground and was towed to a drydock in Galveston where it will undergo significant repairs over the next few years. The ship, now managed by the nonprofit Battleship Texas Foundation but still owned by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, has been one of the most unique state parks in the nation since it was placed under the care of TPWD in 1983.
Early in the morning of August 31, the last of the steel collars that tethered the ship to its moorings were removed and the ship floated freely once again. A small flotilla of tugboats maneuvered the ship into the Houston Ship Channel and 110-year-old ship began a trip of about 50 miles across Galveston Bay. Crowds gathered at viewing sites along the way, where well-wishers cheered one of the most historic ships in the world as sailed smartly by. About eight hours later, she was smoothly led into a drydock at the Gulf Copper & Manufacturing shipyard on Pelican Island in Galveston, where the ship will undergo significant repairs to her hull.
Commissioned in 1914, the ship was the most powerful fighting vessel in the world when it began service. Today, it is the last remaining Dreadnought class ship in the world and the only battleship remaining that saw action in both World Wars. During her storied career the ship saw action in the North Atlantic in World War I and in World War II provided support for Allied troop landings in North Africa, the D-Day landings, before sailing to the Pacific to fight at Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
After being decommissioned in 1946, the ship was preserved through a statewide effort that brought the ship to the San Jacinto Battleground in 1948, where it was opened to the public as a memorial and the first museum ship and memorial. Unfortunately, the small agency created to operate the ship at the time was not able to support the on-going maintenance needs of historic ship and it began a prolonged period of decline, and the ship sank into the mud.
In 1983, responsibility for the ship was placed the State Park system and plans to revive the ship were initiated. In 1988 the ship was towed to Galveston for replacement of the worst parts of the leaky hull and it returned to San Jacinto in 1990 as an improved ship, but one that still needed additional work to mend the effects of the ravages of time to the steel of the vessel.
In 2007 the voters of Texas approved $25 million in funding to begin these major repairs, but it seemed at times that the work could not happen soon enough to save the ship, and for the next twelve years the ships crew and a number of supportive contractors battled to keep the ship intact and afloat, pumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of water out of the ship each day and images of the ship tilting scarily to one side appeared in media across the state.
In 2019 the legislature provided $35 million to address long overdue hull repairs. Now, after more than a decade of internal structural repairs and countless hours of planning, the ship’s hull will be refurbished, ensuring the ship remains afloat for decades to come. Once the repairs are complete, the ship will travel to a new location where it will once again serve the state by preserving the history of those who served on the “Mighty T”.