Click the play button above to view a brief history of USS Massachusetts. View a transcript (PDF 20KB) of this video.
The oldest existing American battleship, USS Massachusetts was one of three "Indiana" class battleships authorized in 1890 for the new "Steel Navy." Among the most powerful ships of their time, Indiana, Massachusetts, and Oregon were the first heavy-caliber, heavy-armor battleships to be built by the United States, and the first to be given hull numbers. Officially commissioned by the Navy on June 10, 1896, she was over 350 feet long, with a beam of 69 feet and a draft of 24 feet.
Massachusetts saw her first battle during the Spanish-American War. She sailed to Cuba to help blockade the ports of Cienfuegos and Santiago. In the following years Massachusetts performed a variety of duties, conducting battle practice in several different ports. In 1906, she was decommissioned, but in 1910 was refitted with a caged mainmast and other modern hardware, including one of the first shipboard wireless telegraphs. Massachusetts was placed in reduced commission to serve as a summer practice ship for midshipmen. She also served as a gunnery practice ship for naval reserve crews after war was declared with Germany.
In 1919, Massachusetts returned to Philadelphia and was decommissioned for the final time. Stripped of her guns and furnishings, the obsolete ship was towed to Pensacola in January 1921 to be used as a target for experimental artillery, and scuttled just outside the entrance to the bay. Scarred and torn, the ship sat peacefully for years in the Gulf, attracting fish and fishermen alike. In the late 1950s, several salvage companies tried to salvage the wreck but with the support of the people of Pensacola, the state filed an injunction to prevent salvage, and when the case was brought before the Supreme Court, the title to Massachusetts was awarded to the State of Florida.
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