Between 1911 and 1923, the US Navy used seven predreadnought battleships in a series of gunnery and aerial bombing tests. Most occurred in the United States, although one ship was expended in Panama. Of the seven, only two were salvaged and scrapped. The other five remain in various stages of completeness where they sank.
Texas' defining moment occurred on 3 July 1898 when she played a pivotal role in the destruction of the Spanish cruisers Vizcaya and Cristobal Colon, during the Battle of Santiago. This significant contribution helped shed Texas' reputation as a bad luck ship, that gave her the nickname "Old Hoodoo".
|USS San Marcos (ex-Texas).|
In March 1911 she was anchored in the shallow waters of Chesapeake Bay, near Tangier Island, Virgina. She was shelled by the battleship New Hampshire and sank on 22 March. An study of the effects of the shelling showed that modern gunnery was devastating, with massive holes punched through the ship. The damage was so great that seawater flowed freely in and out of the hull. This information helped the navy improve the armor configuration on the Nevada-class battleships then under design.
|Damage aboard San Marcos (ex-Texas)|
Indiana was at the Battle of Santiago on 3 July 1898, but because she was positioned to the east of the harbor, she did not play a significant role when the Spanish ships attempted to escape to the west. After the Spansh-American war, Indiana spent most of her years in reserve or as a training ship. She did go through a modernization starting in 1903, but she was largely passed by newer and more capable ships.
At the end of World War One, Indiana was selected by the navy to be expended as a target. Army general and air power advocate Billy Mitchell was claiming aircraft could sink battleships, so the navy attempted to preempt his call to bomb a battleship under combat conditions. Many historians claim this evaluation was done strictly to counteract any results coming from Mitchell's plan to sink a surplus warship.
Indiana was renamed Coast Battleship Number 1 to free her name for a new South Dakota-class battleship then under construction. She was taken to Chesapeake Bay and moored near the wreck of the Texas.
|Wreck of ex-Indiana. Wreck of ex-Texas is to the right.|
Mitchell claimed that the tests proved aircraft could sink a battleship. But the navy's official report disputed that statement and Captain William Leahy (later first Chariman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) said "The entire experiment pointed to the improbability of a modern battleship being either destroyed or completely put out of action by aerial bombs". In the end the tests on Indiana were inconclusive and it wouldn't be until later tests, that Mitchell was proven to be correct. However it wasn't until the sinking of the British battleship Prince of Wales and battlecruiser Repulse in 1941, that conclusively proved that aircraft were capable of sinking an operating battleship at sea.
Indiana was subsequently raised and scrapped starting in 1924.
|Massachusetts during the Spanish-American War.|
In 1919 Massachusetts was renamed Coast Battleship Number 2, and she was taken to Pensacola for use as a target. But unlike Indiana, she was subjected to a less controversial series of tests. Massachusetts was scuttled in shallow water, where she became a static target for land-based artillery. The army brought in various rail-based artillery pieces that raked the ship with around one-hundred hits.
Her wreck is easily accessible by divers and can be seen during low tides.
|Iowa sometime after the Spanish-American War.|
|Ex-Iowa under remote control.|
|Ex-Iowa damaged in the Gulf of Panama.|
|Battleship Alabama. Note side-by-side stacks.|
Alabama was an Illinois-class battleship launched during the Spanish-American War and was commissioned in 1900. She was part of the Great White Fleet, but had to drop out of the main force while in San Francisco. However she, along with Maine, continued on as an independent unit and completed the circumnavigation of the globe separately. During World War One she was used as a training ship along the Atlantic coast of the United States.
|Alabama hit with a white phosphorous bomb.|
|Alabama with ex-Texas (far left) and ex-Indiana (2nd from left)|
|Hulk of USS Alabama being scrapped.|
Alabama herself was sold for scrap in 1924. Her hulk was raised and taken to Baltimore, Maryland where she was broken up in the late 1920s.
|Battleship Virginia sometime after 1900.|
Her career during World War One was relatively uneventful, with Virgina serving as an escort for one convoy to Europe.
|Bow of Virginia or New Jersey. Note collapsed main deck & main guns at top.|
|Sinking of Virginia.|
|Another view of Virginia sinking.|
New Jersey (BB-16)
|Battleship New Jersey in 1909. Note stacked turrets.|
At the end of the war New Jersey was decommissioned and handed over to the War Department. As with Virginia, she was taken to a location off Diamond Shoals and prepared for use as a target.
|New Jersey sinking at Diamond Shoals.|
|Infograph of New Jersey, from the Courier-Post Online|