The United States will continue its struggle to preserve its retired battleships, but it will need to see action again. For the best, really.
Image: Creative Commons.
A defence expert, discusses why the age of battleships has ended. There is no denying the romantic appeal of the United States Navy’s “big gun” fast-battleships once again going out to sea, especially for military history buffs. The four warships of the Iowa class, the largest in American history, were kept in one piece so that they might return to service. They are occasionally discussed regarding a possible return to active duty.
Smaller and more manoeuvrable guided-missile destroyers can accomplish the job of shore bombardment better, but there are other reasons such hopes are realistic. Naval warships, while being called “fast battleships,” would need enormous personnel and be easy prey in an age of hypersonic missiles and stealth aircraft.
The United States needs the naval infrastructure to undertake such a massive overhaul.
Eight former U.S. Navy battleships are now among the most stunning museums in the country. Each decommissioned ship has a unique history, but they all have one thing the same: the elements have taken a terrible toll on what were once magnificent ships.
While extensive restorations saved the South Dakota-class USS Massachusetts, the USS Texas is currently undergoing repairs due to a leaking hull.
Even the USS North Carolina, another South Dakota-class battleship built before the United States entered World War II, needed a unique cofferdam to be preserved.
Despite the widespread belief that the four Iowa-class battlewagons are in better shape, the USS New Jersey recently replaced the wood decks for the first time in decades. The passage of time remains the greatest threat to these vessels, and with each passing year, any attempt to return them would become an enormous task.
Inadequate availability of replacement parts is another problem that would prevent any battleship from the Iowa class from being put back into action. Since the Battleship New Jersey museum relies on the donations of its volunteers, those individuals have occasionally been compelled to visit the Philadelphia Navy Yard’s inactive fleet, where they have scavenged what they need to keep the Battleship New Jersey afloat.
Also, the Navy has been getting rid of surplus gear.
It can be expensive to store and preserve equipment from decommissioned warships. Still, a charity could conserve four battleship barrels made for the United States Navy during World War Two. One that was destined for the junkyard will be given a second chance at life in Virginia Beach.
One of the nine 120-ton barrels still in storage in Chesapeake was acquired by the Coast Defense Research Group. Developed during WWII for the Iowa-class ships, it has a maximum firing range of 24 miles and can launch missiles weighing between 1,900 and 2,700 pounds. The Navy was getting ready to get rid of its stock of battleship parts a decade ago when the charity stepped in to try to find new homes for all those barrels.
“They’re historical objects,” said Coast Defence Study Group spokesperson Terry McGovern. Why not smash them into little metal pieces?
Although the barrels were spared from the flames, moving them was quite a chore, as they were each 68 feet in length. It necessitated identifying suitable locations, acquiring necessary licences, and generating funds for transportation and set-up. The barrels have found homes throughout the United States, including the Arizona State Capitol and the World War II memorial at Delaware’s Fort Miles Museum.
Despite ongoing efforts to preserve America’s decommissioned battleships, they will likely return to active service. It’s for the best that it happened. They make for nice museum displays, but their fighting days are over.