Battleships are veritable floating fortresses, capable of dishing out and receiving stunning amounts of punishment.
But these kings of the oceans dominated the waves for only a short period. The age of frigates and cruisers gave way when America got her first true battleship in 1895, but the U.S. decommissioned her last active battleship in 1992.
Here are 5 American battleships that lived up to their name during that century:
1. The USS Texas “avenged” its sister, the USS Maine.
The USS Texas. Photo: Public Domain via Wikipedia
America got its first proper battleship in 1895 with the commissioning of the USS Texas. Texas entered the fleet just ahead of the USS Maine. When the Maine was lost in Havana Harbor on Feb. 15, 1898 to an explosion of unknown origin and America declared war on Spain, the Texas was one of the ships that sent Spanish possessions in the Atlantic.
Texas and another ship destroyed the Spanish fort at Cayo del Tore in a mere 75 minutes. Later, Spanish ships attempted to run the American blockade and the Texas attacked four of the enemy ships simultaneously, heavily damaging each and forcing them to run aground. She then assisted in the destruction of the rest of the Spanish fleet, helping to force the end of the war.
2. USS Alabama fought in both the Atlantic and Pacific with distinction.
The Alabama is now a museum in it’s namesake state. Photo: Wikipedia/Tigerplish via CC BY-SA 3.0
The USS Alabama completed its shakedown in Jan. 1943 before being sent to escort merchantmen past Nazi submarine patrols and across the Atlantic to Britain and Russia. Soon after, she was sent to Norway lure out the Tirpitz and to support a feint that distracted the Germans from Operation Husky and the invasion of Sicily.
In the middle of 1943, Alabama was sent to the Pacific via America for repairs. In the Pacific, the ship assisted in the assaults on anumber of islands including Tarawa, the Marshall Islands, and the invasion of the Philippines. It also protected carriers from enemy planes during a number of operations and bombarded the Japanese home island of Honshu before the Japanese surrender.
3. USS Iowa saw combat in World War II, Korea, and the Persian Gulf war.
The Iowa fires all of its guns during a 1984 firepower demonstration. Photo: US Navy PH1 Jeff Hilton
The USS Iowa entered World War II in Aug. 1943, operating in the Atlantic and carrying President Franklin D. Roosevelt to North Africa. Iowa later headed to the Pacific where she assisted in a number of landings and helped the Alabama shell Honshu, the island that Tokyo sits on.
Iowa was reactivated for the Korean War and then the Persian Gulf War. During the Gulf War, the Iowa carried a number of Tomahawk and Harpoon missiles and escorted Kuwaiti oil tankers to international waters.
4. USS New Jersey was the most decorated battleship in U.S. history.
The USS New Jersey with all guns blazing. Photo: US Navy
The New Jersey first served in World War II, striking targets across the Pacific. She went into reserve status after the War but was called back up to pound positions in Korea. The New Jersey was placed on reserve status in 1957 but returned to active service in 1968, providing artillery support to forces in the Vietnam War.
After another period of deactivation, the Jersey was upgraded in 1982 with cruise missiles and supported American operations in the Lebanese War from 1983-1984. Over decades of service the USS New Jersey was awarded with 19 battle stars.
5. Mighty Mo’ hosted the Japanese surrender ceremony and was America’s last battleship.
USS Missouri engages a target during naval exercises. Photo: US Navy PH1 Terry Cosgrove
The USS Missouri was the last American battleship to be commissioned and the last one to be decommissioned, serving from 1944 to 1992. Mighty Mo’ bombarded Japanese positions at Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and the Japanese mainland. As the flagship of the 3rd Fleet in 1945, the ship played host to the Japanese surrender ceremony that marked the end of World War II.
In her later years of service, Mo’ attacked enemy positions in the Korean War and was part of the fake landing of amphibious forces on the Iraqi coast in Desert Storm. After its final decommissioning in 1992, the USS Missouri was converted into the Battleship Missouri Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.