It’s often said that the paranormal has a way of attaching itself to places and objects with a violent history, and when that history contains honored tours of duty in both World War I and World War II, it comes as little surprise that the USS Texas has had numerous reports of paranormal occurrences over the years. There are those who say that voices of the past can be heard among its halls, that ghostly wisps are a common sight across the decks, and that by certain ladders it isn’t rare to see a redheaded sailor in an out of date uniform smiling pleasantly as if he hasn’t a care in the world.
All of this can be found in Houston, at the battleship USS Texas.
History of the USS Texas
Launched in May of 1912 and commissioned in March of 1914, in its day the USS Texas was a marvel of American ingenuity and military superiority. With ten fourteen-inch guns that could fire a 1,400-pound shell over 13 miles and four 21-inch torpedo tubes, she was a ship made for war in a dark time in world history, and she would serve well over the years.
World War I
The outbreak of World War I saw the USS Texas serving in a defensive and training capacity at the mouth of the York River in 1917. Despite a later incident that saw her running aground off New York, by early 1918 the Battleship Texas’ aid was summoned across the Atlantic, joining the 6th Battle Squadron of Britain’s Grand Fleet. While her duties predominantly consisted of convoy work and helping the British blockade the North Sea when German heavy ships were on the move, the USS Texas and her crew served admirably.
Though the rest of the war saw little action for the USS Texas, she kept busy during the interwar period, being the first American battleship to launch a plane and being one of the first ships to join the newly formed Pacific Fleet. In 1927, the Texas was dubbed the flagship of the United States Fleet while undergoing the occasional modernization upgrade and performing multiple duties across the Pacific and Atlantic oceans as needed.
World War II
When World War II broke out in Europe, the Texas at first kept with American policy of neutrality, patrolling the Atlantic in the hopes of keeping the war out of the western hemisphere, but as the war drew on and sides were being solidified, she began escorting Lend-Lease material to England to help them in the effort. After the Pearl Harbor attack brought America into the War, the USS Texas provided a number of convoy and escort duties across the Atlantic, though combat would soon be in her future.
In October of 1942, the Battleship Texas joined a task force of ships in Operation Torch, allowing for the invasion of occupied North Africa. Notably, a young journalist by the name of Walter Cronkite began his career as a war correspondent reporting on Operation Torch aboard the Texas.
1943 saw a familiar pattern of convoy and escort duties for the Texas, but her finest hours were ahead as the US Texas was brought aboard Operation Overlord in 1944: the invasion of Normandy. The Texas provided vital fire support for the D-Day landings, bombarding strategic targets and nearly grounding herself to get close to necessary targets to allow for the success of the landings. She would provide support for the next few days, firing on strategic targets to aid in a successful invasion, before finally retiring back to Plymouth.
For the remainder of the war, the USS Texas served with distinction across multiple theaters of battle, including taking part in the Battle of Cherbourg, Operation Dragoon, and the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. At the war’s end, the Texas spent the remainder of her time ferrying troops home before being placed on the inactive list.
In 1948, the USS Texas began her journey to a final anchorage in Houston, Texas to act as a museum ship at San Jacinto State Park. Though she has been passed between numerous hands over the years and her condition has both deteriorated and been restored over the years, she remains a beautiful monument to America’s naval history. At more than 100 years old, the Texas remains America’s oldest and first permanent battleship museum, offering regular guided and self-guided tours to the public.
Ghosts of USS Battleship Texas
Perhaps most amazingly in such an illustrious history across many of the most violent theaters of battle in world history, there have been relatively few reported deaths onboard. Helmsmen Chris Christiansen is the only known combat fatality, having been struck by a German shell on June 25, 1944, just outside of Cherbourg. Other known deaths include an Army Ranger who died on a Texas operating table in the days following D-Day and two sailors who fell overboard during World War I. For all the action that the Texas saw, it was rather fortunate to have lost as little as it did.
While there have been relatively few deaths on this ship despite its storied history across both World Wars, that’s not to say that there hasn’t been a fair number of paranormal accounts over the years.
Most common are the mysterious white vapors and voices that can be heard. Whether these are supernatural specters or perhaps just echoes of the ship’s heyday, it’s hard to tell, but they are hardly infrequent. People have reported white vapors throughout the ship, and the voices that can be heard often have an urgency to them that sounds as if they’re straight out of the wars. These are not occurrences that are isolated to any particular part of the ship and have been seen throughout the years.
Red Haired Sailor
The most defined specter of the ship is that of a young sailor in uniform. Red-haired and often smiling, he has often been seen wandering the halls of the ship and has most especially been spotted standing nonchalantly around some of the ship’s many ladders. Though it is difficult to tie him specifically to any of the people who’ve been verified to die on the ship, his presence is not described as a hostile one and is perhaps just that of a sailor who never left his duty behind or fled his post.
Though it has proven controversial, ghost hunting tours of the USS Texas have been available from time to time, allowing ghost seeking equipment and a unique experience for all of those who’ve taken part. Whether or not your visit to the USS Texas will contain a supernatural encounter is something we cannot guarantee, but at the very least it is a fascinating piece of American history that is a must-see for any of those with an interest in naval or World War history.