Leaking battleship that saw battles in both world wars heads towards the shipyard

LA PORTE, Texas – It is the only surviving battleship that served in both world wars, having fought Nazis and the Japanese Army in WWII. But the biggest challenge for the USS Texas in recent years has been a leaking, rusting hull that at times forced workers to pump out about 2,000 gallons (7,570 liters) of water per minute from the 110-year-old ship.

To ensure the historic ship doesn’t sink and can continue to receive visitors, the foundation responsible for its care is towing the ship Wednesday from its longtime home along the Houston Ship Channel to a shipyard in Galveston for much-needed repairs.

Tony Gregory, president of the Battleship Texas Foundation, said Wednesday the ship’s towing by tugs and launching was perfect. He said there were problems for the first 15 minutes after the ship was towed, but there were no problems.

“It went smoother than we thought and quicker than we thought… and she’s gone, down the channel,” he said.

Gregory said he expects the ship to arrive in Galveston by 4 p.m

The voyage from its longtime berth at the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site in the Houston suburb of La Porte is part of a $35 million project to repair the hull and ultimately restore the ship to its former glory.

Repairing the ship is part of the foundation’s plans to eventually relocate it to a new location in Texas, possibly one of three nearby cities, including Galveston, to attract more visitors and increase revenue.

Getting the ship in for repairs is “the most important step in getting the ship back in top shape,” Gregory said Tuesday as he stood on the ship while workers made final preparations.

The battleship is towed by four tugs at a speed of about 5 knots per hour. The 40-mile (64-kilometer) journey to Galveston was expected to take around nine hours and was not without risk, as the ship’s hull could leak enough to sink it.

“Once we get going I expect it to be pretty smooth… We feel like we’re prepared,” Gregory said.

Since 1948, the USS Texas has occupied the state’s historic site where the decisive battle of the Texas Revolution was fought. There it serves as a museum and tourist attraction. The battleship was previously taken to the same shipyard in Galveston for repairs in 1988.

For the past three years, the ship has been closed to the public as the foundation prepares for repairs. In 2019, the Texas legislature approved the $35 million to repair the hull. The foundation plans to make other fixes, which it pays for. All repairs are expected to take up to a year.

The foundation expected many people to gather along the ship’s canal to watch the ship go by.

Tricia Thomas, 50, one of the people invited to watch the ship being untied, said she became emotional and torn when she saw the ship move and heard its whistle as it began its journey . As the ship began to move, Thomas said, people clapped and cheered.

“It’s amazing to see a 100 year old ship back on the water moving as it has for so many years. It was exciting,” said Thomas, who lives in Kingwood, a suburb of Houston.

Thomas said she believes it’s important to preserve the ship so future generations can learn its story and it can remind people how to come together for a common cause that’s bigger than they are.

“I think that’s probably the greatest story she can tell,” Thomas said.

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