No, not the state – the battleship: the USS Texas (BB-35), a 32,000-ton vessel that fired 255 14-inch shells toward Nazi positions during D-Day’s opening 34 minutes in 1944. The 100-year old vessel has been on display in the Houston Ship Channel for more than 60 years.
But the 573-foot dreadnought has sprung several leaks recently, forcing the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife to shut it down to visitors since mid-June. The state scrapped its plan to open it for July 4th after a new pair of leaks appeared. They have been patched with concrete, plywood and epoxy, and there are plans to open the vessel this weekend. But now a third leak began. Plans call for a pair of emergency pumps to remain aboard the vessel to fight any new leaks.
Texas has spent $300,000 on Texas since the latest round of leaks was detected June 9. The ship’s half-inch thick steel plate has been eaten away by decades in salt water.
The state wants to dry-berth the ship, and in 2007 Texas and private donors pledged $29 million to make that happen. Unfortunately, recent estimates peg the cost of the project as high as $75 million (it cost $5.8 million to build).
If the Lone Star State can’t keep its namesake warship afloat, who can? Well, apparently Alabama, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Wisconsin all can (although the USS Wisconsin is based in Virginia, and the USS Missouri, like the sunken USS Arizona, is based in Hawaii). And the USS Iowa – site of one of the most disgraceful episodes in the Navy’s history (where the service tried to pin the deaths of 46 sailors on a supposedly gay shipmate, who also died in the 1989 gun turret blast) — is scheduled to open to the public for the first time on Saturday in Los Angeles.