The USS Texas has had many identities in its century of existence. On her launch in March of 1914, the dreadnought-style battleship was among the world’s most powerful weapons. She was the bane of the Kaiser’s U-Boats in World War I, and a lifesaver for US infantry at the invasions of Normandy, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa in World War II.
On her mooring at the San Jacinto Battleground in 1948, she became the first permanent battleship museum. A destination for three full generations of field-trippers and history buffs, the Battleship Texas is now the last of her kind: the only surviving American battleship to have fought in both world wars.
When he comes back aboard, petty officer first class and World War II Texas crewman John Eddleman has another name for it. “Oh I just feel like I’m home,” he says over the phone from Oklahoma. “There are a lot of things that look exactly like they did when I left. They have real good volunteers who will take the old sailors wherever they want to go on the ship.”
Eddleman will be returning to the Texas on March 15 to help celebrate the ship’s 100th anniversary, alongside Texas Uprising, a musical led by Texan greats Robert Earl Keen, Charlie Robison, Bruce Robison, and Kelly Willis.
The day will culminate with a fireworks display, but the rowdy fun will be tempered by melancholy, as this year marks what is planned as the final reunion of the battleship’s veterans association. “I have mixed feelings about that,” says Eddleman, who conducted our interview with the aid of his daughter. (Most Texas vets are hearing impaired, thanks in part to their age but owing more to all the fusillades they endured at close quarters during the war.) “I am 91 years old, so I am not going to be thinking about this for many more years.”