Bullock Museum opens battleship exhibit


Ethan Oblak

Ed Gutierrez views artifacts from the Battleship Texas exhibit at the Bob Bullock Museum on Sunday afternoon. 

Kate Dannenmaier

World War II may seem like something from the distant past, but students now have the opportunity to connect to the lives of sailors aboard one of the era’s most
innovative battleships.

The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, in collaboration with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, opened “Battleship TEXAS: Commemorating 100 Years” this month. Rob McCorkle, information specialist at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, said the ship was a critical vessel for both world wars. The battleship participated in the important battles of Normandy, Iwo Jima and Okinawa during World War II, according to McCorkle.

“When the Battleship Texas was actually commissioned and launched 100 years ago, it was the biggest and best battleship in the world,” McCorkle said. “It had the most armaments, it had a huge crew and it was involved in a number of firsts in the nation.”

Jim Hornfischer, author and naval historian, said the ship was technologically sophisticated compared to other ships because it had the first fire control system, a mechanical system that was able to aim shells up to 15 miles away.

“She’s truly a glorious relic of a bygone era of naval warfare,” Hornfischer said.

The battleship was known as a “City on the Sea” because it was a self-sustaining environment, according to Hornfischer. 

“It really is a city or a small town, at the very least, because of the number of people involved and the way that they had to rely on each other to survive when the shooting starts,” Hornfischer said.

The exhibit displays letters, diaries and uniforms of the ship’s crew members. Lauren Kusnierz,  Undergraduate Museum Studies Guild graduate advisor and radio-television-film graduate student, said it’s important to see physical artifacts that belonged to crew members as a way of making the history come to life.

“For me, there is something about seeing everyday objects of individuals that makes a connection that transcends history; he isn’t a black and white photographic in his formal dress uniform,” Kusnierz said. “He was a living, breathing human being who had to brush his teeth.”