Building The Texas

Design Background

Battleships No. 34 and 35 were designed in the uneasy period of late 1909 and early 1910, under Secretary of the Navy von L. Meyer, during the presidency of William Howard Taft. The design work was done in the old State, War, and Navy Building just west of the White House.

The primary consideration in this design was the rapidly accelerating naval race between Great Britain and Germany. The completion of the revolutionary “all big gun” HMS Dreadnought in 1906 had reduced all battleships built prior to that date to a comparatively low state of effectiveness. It had, in effect, cancelled Britain’s comfortable superiority and allowed Germany to begin the new race with near parity. The following table shows that all major powers were building “dreadnoughts” and the progression of features, i.e., size, power, speed, cost, over a relatively short period of time is clearly evident.

Four of the six ships in the Royal Navy’s 1909 program, the Orion class, had the main battery stepped up from 12 to 13.5 inches. Laid down on 29 November 1909 at Portsmouth Dockyard, Orion had her main armament officially described at “12”A” guns. The secret was out shortly afterwards and caused drastic rethinking in the design of battleships No. 34 and 35.

Most of the battleships designed in this period had displacements which reached or exceeded 25,000 tons in the full load condition. Length on the load waterline began to exceed 550 feet and speeds averaged 20-21 knots with a few fast ships able to make 23 knots. The 12-inch gun was nearly universal, with ten to twelve per ship being typical.

With the continued race for naval superiority between the European powers, the possibility of war in that area increased yearly. The United States had continued to build up its Navy to protect the new colonial interests acquired from Spain in the 1898 War. Additional incentive for this build-up came as a result of the Japanese dissatisfaction with the U.S. negotiated Treaty of Portsmouth (New Hampshire) that settled the 1904-1905 war in which Japan had soundly defeated Russia, on both land and sea. U.S. interests in the Far East had to be protected and President Theodore Roosevelt strenuously pushed the naval expansion program, which culminated in the ’round-the-world cruise of sixteen battleships of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet in 1907-1909. This was an incredible demonstration of power, engineering soundness and reliability in those days when ships’ machinery broke down all too frequently. The presence of this mighty fleet in Tokyo Bay ended the problem with Japan.


The plans for building Texas were not completely original and new. They were derived from the design of the preceding year for Wyoming (BB32) and Arkansas (BB33). The design was expanded and modified as necessary to suit the specifications for the new ships, which were primarily for mounting the larger caliber guns (see Armament section). The following comparison shows the similarity of the two classes:

BB 32 & 33   BB 34 & 35
Displacement, normal 26,000 27,000
Length, overall 562′ 573′
Length, W.L. 554′ 565′
Beam 93′-3″ 95′-3″
Draft, mean 28′ 6″ 28′ 6″
Draft, Max 29′ – 8″ 29′ – 8″
Main Battery 12 – 12″ 10 – 14″

USS During Her Construction

These holes are where the 14″ turrets will be placed.

New York Class

Texas was one of a class of two ships authorized by the Congress in an Act of 24 June 1910. This act directed: “The president is hereby authorized to have constructed two first-class battleships to cost, exclusive of armor and armament, not exceeding six million dollars each …. One of the battleships herein authorized shall be constructed in one of the Navy Yards . . .” This was a continuation of the practice of authorizing two battleships each year. The battleships were:

The basic design requirements for the class were:

Normal Displacement: 27,000 tons
Armament: Ten 14″/45 twin
Twenty-one 5″/ 51 single
Four 21′ Torpedo tubes (submerged)
Protection: Armor protection against 14″ guns
Maximum Speed: 21 knots
Endurance: 10,000 miles @ 10 knots

The final design characteristics as originally completed and after modernization are presented under GENERAL DATA.

The New York Navy Yard was completing Florida (BB30), which was launched in May 1910, when the contract for New York (BB34) was assigned. Four days before the commissioning of Florida, 15 September 1911, the keel was laid for BB34, thus providing continuity of employment and maintenance of vital shipbuilding capabilities. The next ship to be built by New York, Arizona (BB39), was laid down 16 March 1914, a month before New York was to be commissioned, which in turn would absorb the work force from that ship.

The contract for construction of Texas (BB35) was awarded to the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry-dock Company, which had completed Delaware (BB28) in April 1910. Pennsylvania (BB38) was to follow BB35 at Newport News and her keel was laid 27 October 1913, the day before Texas ran her official trials.

Both yards were experienced constructors of major warships; starting five months later than Newport News, New York built their ship almost four months faster with both ships finishing a month apart in the spring of 1914.

When Europe erupted into war in August, 1914, Texas and New York were the most modem U.S. battleships. Indeed, they were the most powerful battleships in the world until January 1915 when the Royal Navy commissioned HMS Queen Elizabeth, mounting 15-inch guns, at Portsmouth Dockyard.

Compartmentation and Arrangement

The hull was of riveted steel construction and transversely framed. There were three decks extending the full length of the ship: the main deck, second deck and third deck. The main deck line was straight with considerable sheer, sloping from approximately 55 feet above the keel at the forward perpendicular to about 47 feet at its after end. The main deck ended about 7 feet short of the stern, being cut away above the second deck to form an unarmored casemate for the after 5-inch gun.

The second deck was 8 feet below the main deck aft to the stack, at which point it sloped downward to 10 feet below the main deck at the forward end of No. 3 barbette; it then continued at 10 feet below the main deck aft to the stern.

The third deck was a constant 31 feet above the keel for its entire length. Thus, the second deck gradually rose away from the third deck as it ran forward, increasing the height between the second and third decks to over 13 feet below the conning tower. From this point forward the space between the decks was occupied by the half deck which extended forward to the stem.

Below the third deck, two platform decks were fitted forward of the boiler rooms and in way of the midships and aft magazines. Aft, the deck armor was carried down on a special sloping deck below the third deck and enclosing a void space over the steering gear motor and ram compartments. Below the steering gear flat were trimming tanks.

An inner bottom was fitted for the entire length between the peak tanks and, transversely, it followed the shape of the hull up the sides to the third deck forming a solid structure on which the side belt armor was mounted. Thus the inner bottom plating formed a second shell on the sides. This was backed up further inboard by a 11/2 inch thick torpedo bulkhead which formed the inboard boundary for the side coal bunkers.

This underwater side protection would have proven inadequate for the torpedoes used in World War I. The torpedo bulkhead was too thick, and too rigid, and too close to the side of the ship. As an anti-torpedo device this system of shell, inner bottom, coal and internal bulkheads lacked depth in the transverse direction and depended on the mass of a heavy bulkhead to contain the expanding gases of a torpedo explosion. Later, tests and experience showed this system would not suffice and it was drastically altered during the later modernization. It was fortunate that neither of these ships was torpedoed during the first World War.

Another weak feature of the design was the centerline wiring passages extending through many bulkheads. Their location, below the waterline, provided a path for the spread of flooding water into many compartments if damaged at any point along their length. They were within the armored citadel as far from the sides of the ship as possible, but, in way of the midships magazines and boiler rooms, they rested right on the inner bottom and were vulnerable to under-bottom explosions. Although fitted with divisional bulkheads at each compartment bulkhead, the many wiring penetrations were a source of weakness.

The hull had a full midship section shape and fine ends. A protruding bulbous bow was fitted, as developed by Admiral David W. Taylor, which considerably reduced wave making resistance at the higher speeds. This was the reason for the underwater hull projecting forward of the above water portion. It was not intended, nor built, as a ram; long range gun fire having made such tactics untenable. The size and shape of the bow was established by towing various models in the Experimental Model Basin in the Washington Navy Yard. A cruiser stern was fitted with one large semi-balanced rudder. The deadwood was cut away for a short distance ahead of the rudder. Side docking keels were fitted in way of the torpedo bulkheads. The outboard portions of the two propeller shafts were each supported by two struts, the propellers being opposite the rudder stock. The usual bilge keels were fitted and two anchors were carried on the port side and one to starboard.

The second deck was officers’ country from the bow aft to the forward armored diagonal bulkheads of the 5-inch battery.

Between No. 2 and 3 14-inch gun barbettes, the battery contained five casemates on each side for the ten 5-inch guns. These casemates were also messing and berthing spaces for the crew. The average width of the casemate was 21 feet and access was provided from a 7 foot longitudinal passageway on each side, just inboard of the casemates. The 32 foot wide space between the passageways contained boiler uptakes, evaporators, and the cafeteria with steam tables opening into each longitudinal passageway.

Aft of the battery, many rooms were built in against the shell: offices, sick bay, laundry, etc. The space not taken up by barbettes was used for hammock berthing. Pillars were frequent, due to the riveted construction. A block of small compartments amidships between No. 3 and 4 14-inch gun barbettes were designed as access routes from the main deck to the space directly over the engines. Removable sections of the deck, bolted in place, provided access for the removal and installation of major machinery items. The crews’ head and washrooms were aft with one 5-inch mount in the stern firing directly aft.




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