Maine and Texas were part of the "New Navy" program of the 1880s. They, and BB-1 to BB-4 were authorized as "coast defense battleships". The next group, BB-5 Kearsarge through BB-25 New Hampshire, followed general global pre-dreadnought design characteristics and entered service between 1900 and 1909. The definitive American predreadnought was the penultimate class of the type, the Connecticut class, sporting the usual four-gun array of 12" weapons, a very heavy intermediate and secondary battery, and a moderate tertiary battery. They were good sea boats and heavily armed and armored for their type. The final American pre-dreadnought class, the Mississippi-class second-class battleships, were a poorly thought out experiment in increasing numbers regardless of quality, and the USN quickly wished to replace them, doing so in 1914, selling them to Greece to pay for a new super-dreadnought battleship, the new USS Idaho (BB-42).
The dreadnoughts, BB-26 South Carolina through BB-35 Texas, commissioned between 1910 and 1914, uniformly possessed twin turrets, introduced the superimposed turret arrangement that would later become standard on all battleships, and had relatively heavy armor and moderate speed (19–21 knots). Five of the ten ships favored the more mature vertical triple expansion (VTE) propulsion over fuel-inefficient but faster direct-drive turbines. The ships possessed 8 (South Carolina class), 10 (Delaware and Florida) or 12 (Wyoming class) 12" guns, or 10 (New York class) 14" guns. The dreadnoughts gave good service, the last two classes surviving through World War II before being scrapped. However, they had some faults that were never worked out, and the midships turrets in the ten and twelve-gun ships were located near boilers and high-pressure steam lines, a factor that made refrigeration very difficult and problematic in hot climates. One of their number, Texas (BB-35), is the last remaining American battleship of the pre–World War II era and the only remaining dreadnought in the world.
Next came the twelve Standards, beginning with BB-36 Nevada. The last ship commissioned was BB-48 West Virginia (BB-49 through 54 were also Standards, but were never commissioned, and scrapped under the Washington Naval Treaty), commissioned over the period 1914 to 1920. Oklahoma (BB-37) was the last American battleship commissioned with triple expansion machinery; all the other Standards used either geared steam turbines (Nevada, the Pennsylvanias, Idaho and Mississippi) or turbo-electric propulsion (New Mexico, Tennessee through West Virginia). The Standards were a group of ships with four turrets, oil fuel, a 21-knot top speed, a 700 yard tactical diameter at top speed, and heavy armor distributed on the "All or Nothing" principle. Armament was fairly consistent, starting with ten 14" guns in the Nevadas, twelve in the Pennsylvanias, New Mexicos and Tennessees, and eight 16" guns in the Colorados.
Mid to late 1900s[edit source | edit]
After the 1930s "builders holiday," the USN commissioned ten more battleships of an entirely new style, the so-called fast battleship. These ships began with BB-55 North Carolina and the last ship laid down was BB-66 Kentucky (the last completed ship was BB-64 Wisconsin). These ships were a nearly clean break from previous American design practices. All ten ships were built to a Panamax design (technically post-Panamax, as they exceeded normal Panamax beam by two feet, but they were still able to transit the canal). They were fast battleships, and could travel with the aircraft carriers at cruising speed (their speed was not intended for that role, but rather so they could run down and destroy enemy battlecruisers). They possessed almost completely homogenous main armament (nine 16" guns in each ship, the sole difference being an increase in length from 45 to 50 calibers with the Iowa class vessels), very high speed relative to other American designs (28 knots in the North Carolina and South Dakota classes, 33 in the Iowa class), and moderate armor. The North Carolinas were of particular concern, as their protection was rated as only "adequate" against the 16" superheavy weapon. They had been designed with, and armored against, a battery of three quadruple 14" guns, then changed to triple 16" guns after the escalator clause in the Second London Naval Treaty had been triggered. Secondary in these ships was almost homogenous as well: Except for South Dakota, configured as a flagship, the other nine ships of this group sported a uniform 20-gun 5" secondary battery (South Dakota deleted two 5" mounts to make room for flag facilities). Visually, the World War II ships are distinguished by their triple-turret arrangement and the massive columnar mast that dominates their superstructure. The last ship, Wisconsin (BB-64), commissioned in 1944 (Wisconsin was approved last; however, Missouri commissioned 3 months later, due to delays from additional aircraft carrier construction). Missouri (BB-63), famous for being the ship on which the Japanese instrument of surrender was signed, was the last battleship in the world to decommission on 31 March 1992. Seven of these ten ships are still in existence. South Dakota,Washington and Indiana were scrapped, but the remainder are now museum ships. There was intended to be another class of five of these ships, the Montana class (BB-67 Montana through BB-71 Louisiana), but they were canceled before being laid down in favor of a greater number of aircraft carriers. The Montana class ships would have been built to a 60,000-ton post-Panamax design, and carried a greater number of guns (12x 16") and heavier armor than the other ships; otherwise they would have been homogenous with the rest of the World War II battleships.
In October 2006, the last battleships, (USS Iowa and USS Wisconsin), were stricken from the Naval Registry.
Ship list[edit source | edit]
(s) indicates ship was second class battleship (relative to other US battleships of the era).
Armament: 2 × 12 in (305 mm) (2x1 en echelon); 6 × 6 in (152 mm) (6x1); 12 x 6 pounders (2.7 kg) (12x1); 6 x 1 pounders (6x1); 4 then 2 (fore and aft tubes removed 1897) x 14 inch (356 mm) torpedo tubes
Speed: 18 knots
Ships in class: 1
Commissioned: 15 August 1895
Decommissioned (as USS San Marcos): 1 February 1911
Fate: Sunk as a target in Tangier Sound in Chesapeake Bay.
Armament: 9 × 16 in (406 mm) (3x3), 20 × 5 in (127 mm) (10x2), 80 x 40mm AA (20x4), 49 x 20 mm AA (49x1) (1980s modification added 32 x Tomahawk and 16 x Harpoon missiles and 4 x Phalanx CIWS, and deleted 8 5-in guns and all other light anti-aircraft gun systems)
Commissioned: Four commissioned; first, Iowa 1943; last, Wisconsin 1944.
Fate: Iowa preserved as memorial in San Pedro, California; Missouri preserved as memorial at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; Wisconsin preserved as memorial in Norfolk, Virginia; New Jersey preserved as memorial in Camden, NJ; Illinois canceled and scrapped on slip; Kentucky launched 1950, not completed, scrapped 1958.