World War II Museum Ships:
The Battleships

by J. M. Pressley
First published: November 14, 2007

World War II marked the end of the battleship's dominance on the high seas. Once the pride of the fleet, a handful of these ships survive as floating museums across America.

Ninety minutes after the Japanese launched an attack on the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, the battleship was effectively finished as the backbone of fleet operations. Five of the eight battleships at port were sunk, and the remaining three suffered damage. The Japanese had effectively demonstrated what many theorists had been saying for years—air supremacy was the modern key to victory at sea. The battleship was obsolete.

At the dawn of the twentieth century, it hadn't been so. Battleships were the first modern global arms race. But battleships were built with one primary scenario in mind—engaging other battleships. They were neither designed nor suited to defend themselves against anything other than capital ships, and the indecisive Battle of Jutland had shown that the cost of building battleships made it expensive to risk them in actual combat. Torpedoes and mines created additional concerns, and as World War II would prove, a battleship could not stand alone against a coordinated air assault. The sinkings at Pearl Harbor, along with the loss of the German Bismark and British Prince of Wales, made 1941 a year that marked the end of the battleship's reign.

From that point on, the battleship would play a diminished but supportive role to the aircraft carrier, providing tactical fire support and defensive screening for the task forces in the Pacific. The last U.S. battleships to be built, the Iowa class vessels, saw active service from World War II through Operation Desert Storm before being decommissioned in the early 1990s. Thanks to the dedicated efforts of volunteers and state governments, several of these ships remained preserved as a reminder of their proud heritage.

USS Alabama (BB-60)

South Dakota class battleship, located at Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile, AL since June of 1964. The Alabama was commissioned in August of 1942 and earned nine battle stars for her service in World War II. She served in both the Atlantic and Pacific during the war.
Website: http://www.ussalabama.com

USS Massachusetts (BB-59)

South Dakota class battleship, located at Battleship Cove in Fall River, MA since August of 1965. The Massachusetts was commissioned in August of 1942 and earned 11 battle stars for her service in World War II. Nicknamed "Big Mamie," the Massachusetts was spared from the scrapper's torch following a successful campaign by the state to preserve her as a museum.
Website: http://www.battleshipcove.org

USS Missouri (BB-63)

Iowa class battleship, located at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, HI since January of 1999. The Missouri was commissioned in June of 1944 and earned three battle stars for her service in World War II. Nicknamed "Big Mo," the Missouri has the distinction of being the site of the formal Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay. She also earned five battle stars for service during the Korean Conflict and three for service during Operation Desert Storm.
Website: http://www.ussmissouri.com

USS New Jersey (BB-62)

Iowa class battleship, located at the Battleship New Jersey Museum and Memorial in Camden, NJ since October of 2000. The New Jersey was commissioned in June of 1944 and earned nine battle stars for her service in World War II. Nicknamed "Big J," the New Jersey is the most decorated battleship in the history of the U.S. Navy, earning four battle stars in Korea, two in Vietnam and four more in Lebanon and the Persian Gulf through 1990.
Website: http://www.battleshipnewjersey.org

USS North Carolina (BB-55)

North Carolina class battleship, located at the Battleship North Carolina Memorial in Wilmington, NC since October of 1961. The North Carolina was commissioned in April of 1941 and earned 15 battle stars for her service in World War II. She participated in every major campaign of the Pacific theater, earning the nickname, "The Showboat." Decommissioned in 1947, a statewide campaign in 1958 saved her from scrapping.
Website: http://www.battleshipnc.com

USS Texas (BB-35)

New York class battleship, located at San Jacinto State Park in Houston, TX since June of 1948. The Texas was commissioned in March of 1914 and earned five battle stars for her service in World War II. She is one of two surviving ships to have served in both world wars, the oldest battleship still afloat, and was the first battleship dedicated as a museum ship.
Website: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/parks/battleship_texas/

USS Wisconsin (BB-64)

Iowa class battleship, located at Nauticus: The National Maritime Center in Norfolk, VA since April of 2001. The Wisconsin was commissioned in April of 1944 and earned five battle stars for her service in World War II. She earned another battle star in Korea and saw service in Operation Desert Storm in 1991. Wisconsin and her sister ship Iowa were the last battleships to be struck from the Naval Vessels Register, in 2006.
Website: http://www.nauticus.org/wisconsin.html

Notes

The USS Iowa (BB-61), having been struck from the NVR, is cleared for transfer to a memorial association for designation as a museum ship. It is the only ship of its class not currently open to the public as a memorial. In addition to the Missouri, Pearl Harbor is also home to two sunken battleship memorials in tribute to the ships and men lost during the Japanese attack. The battleships Arizona (BB-39) and Utah (BB-31) both have memorials at the sites of their respective wrecks.

Sources

Naval History and Heritage Command, Navy.mil