Wednesday, September 21, 2005

USS Texas

For a life-long landlubber, I love ships. Especially those guarantors of our nation's security, the venerated warships of the US Navy.

Being from Iowa, it's with not a little pride that I fondly recall the mightiest quartet of battleships ever built, the Iowa Class. Ships built well enough to serve into the waning years of the 20th Century (and beyond, if again called upon), and see action in one major, and three minor wars. In 1989, I had the unexpected pleasure of receiving a brief but thoroughly gratifying tour of the then in-commission USS New Jersey, basing in southern California. An awesome experience.

Today, with all of the human drama building around Hurricane Rita, my thoughts dwell as well on one venerable historical vessel, now resting once again in Harms' Way: the USS Texas, BB 35. In her day, an old, slow, but formidable battleship of the US Navy; now, a floating museum located at the San Jacinto Memorial Battleground near Laporte, Tx, close to Houston.

And in Hurricane Rita's projected track.

To some, she's little more than a relic of the early-mid 20th Century; to me, she's invaluable history and a living, tangible tribute of this nation's power from an era where military might -- and the ability to project it -- meant the difference between having freedom, and having it threatened, if not taken away.

Not so different today as then; different enemies, same need of projectable power to meet them.

In brief, the USS Texas was commissioned in 1914. She saw service in World War I, but never came to serve that primary role she was built to perform: meet the nation's enemies in battle. A generation later -- newer, faster battleships were coming online, and much of the older US battle line lay devastated in the mud of Pearl Harbor -- the USS Texas would fulfill her mission many times over: as fire support off French North Africa, during the TORCH invasion in November, 1942; as fire support on the historic morning of June 6, 1944, off Pointe du Hoc, Omaha Beach and targets inland, for the Great Crusade; she and the USS Arkansas would duel with German shore batteries near Cherbourg; the Texas was straddled 65 times during the engagement, and hit once by a dud 240 mm shell, but never flinched in her mission of fire support; in August, she would again provide fire support against German shore batteries during the Allied invasion of Southern France.

Not content to rest on her laurels at the conclusion of her ETO mission, USS Texas would sail on to the Pacific Theatre of Operations, providing invaluable fire support to the soldiers and Marines who stormed the harrowing, heroic beaches of Iwo Jima in February, 1945; and one last time, she provided two months' worth of on-call fire support at Okinawa, during which time she was singled out by a Japanese kamikaze aircraft for destruction; but it was the kamikaze who went to destruction, at the hands of those who stoutly manned the guns of the USS Texas.

In 1948, she was decommissioned, and came to her place of honor at San Jacinto Memorial Battleground.

In the summer of 1990, while in Houston on business, I had the opportunity to stand on the deck of the USS Texas. Like my experience the year was awesome.

Now, 60 years after having last fired her guns in anger, the USS Texas stands again in Harms' Way. This time, with no mission to defend our shores; the enemy -- Rita -- is one for which the Texas was not built to confront.

But confront she must.

So while my thoughts and prayers will be with the evacuees and the emergency services personnel -- many of whom don't have the luxury of evacuating ahead of Rita -- I will have a thought and prayer as well for a valiant, durable, long-serving fighting lady, and deserved historical monument to a great nation at a great and trying time in her national history.

With the tradition long established, and bearing the name USS Texas, I believe she'll meet this challenge as stubbornly and doggedly as heretofore; I believe she'll come through.


Blogger FTS said...

Awesome post. Oblige me a moment to stick out my Texan chest in pride.

I have a feeling she will come through the storm intact, just as the state whose name she proudly bears.

21 September, 2005 21:08  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's hoping you all get splattered like you all deserve

21 September, 2005 21:18  
Blogger Skunkfeathers said...

Dear Anincompoop: thank you for your mindless sentiments. When your time comes, I hope it's grisly. Like you deserve.

21 September, 2005 22:45  
Blogger Karen said...

That was a wonderful post. Rita sounds worse than Katrina from what I just read. My heart goes out to all those in the path.

22 September, 2005 06:24  
Blogger Monica said...

How did I miss this post? Thank you for your eloquent post and allow me to also feel pride like FTS, although forgive me if I don't stick my chest out...(I have to remain true to Seymour, you know, even if he IS cheating on me with Jane.)

As for your anonymous commenter, welcome to the club, Skunk, and I second your comment back.

27 September, 2005 12:03  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the next national hurricane center miami ; the easy way to keep going.

06 November, 2005 22:50  

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