February 28, 1893: The U.S. Launches its First Battleship, the USS Indiana BB-1

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A Brief History

On February 28, 1893, the United States Navy made an enormous step toward eventually ruling the seas by launching its first ever battleship commensurate with those of other great naval powers.  Though the USS Indiana BB-1 was launched on this date, she would not be commissioned until 2 years later.

Digging Deeper

Designed for coastal defense, the Indiana was not intended to throw her weight around the world as her decks were not designed to take heavy seas in the open ocean.  About 351 feet long and with a beam of 69 feet, she did not have the size or proportions of later battleships, and she displaced only 10,453 standard tons.

Heavily armed with 4 x 13 inch guns and 8 x 8 inch guns as her heavy batteries, the Indiana also sported 4 x 6 inch guns (removed in 1908 and replaced by 12 x 3 inch guns in 1910), smaller guns and 4 x torpedo tubes.  The Indiana was also heavily armored, with a belt of armor between 8 and 18 inches thick and 15 inch armor on her main turrets.
Only capable of a speed of 15 knots, the ship was quickly made obsolete by advances in battleship design.  She did serve, however, in combat during the Spanish-American War and contributed to the sinking of some Spanish vessels.

Decommissioned in 1903 (Wow, what a waste of money!), she was re-commissioned in 1906, only to be decommissioned again in 1914.  In the middle of World War I, she was re-commissioned one last time before being decommissioned for good in 1919.  Her designation was changed to “Coast Battleship 1 IN5284” at that time, so that her name could be reused on a newer battleship.  She met a sad and unglamorous end in 1920 when she was sunk during a test of airplane vs. battleship.

In typical government fashion, the aerial bombing test was conducted with dummy bombs and explosives being off on the location of the bomb hits.  Navy brass pooh-poohed the tests, claiming that airplanes could not sink a battleship, so further tests were conducted with captured German battleships which were indeed sunk with real bombs.  Critics, however, still did not believe the results, which is probably why Pearl Harbor occurred as it did.

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About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.