Thanks to:
By Kennedy Hickman, Guide

USS Kentucky (BB-6)
Photograph Courtesy of the US Naval History & Heritage Command

USS Kentucky (BB-6) - Overview:

  • Nation: United States
  • Type: Battleship
  • Shipyard: Newport News Shipbuilding
  • Laid Down: June 30, 1896
  • Launched: March 24, 1898
  • Commissioned: May 15, 1900
  • Fate: Sold for scrap, January 23, 1924
USS Kentucky (BB-6) - Specifications
  • Displacement: 10,470 tons
  • Length: 375 ft., 4 in.
  • Beam: 72 ft., 3 in.
  • Draft: 23 ft., 6 in.
  • Propulsion: 2 x vertical triple-expansion steam engines, 2 x propellers
  • Speed: 16.8 knots
  • Complement: 555 men
4 13 in. guns
4 8 in. guns
14 5 in. guns
20 6-pounder guns
8 1-pounder guns
4 .30 in. machine guns
4 18 in. torpedo tubes

USS Kentucky (BB-6) - Design & Construction:

Designed as a successor to the earlier Indiana-class (USS Indiana, USS Massachusetts, andUSS Oregon), the Kearsarge-class of battleship was intended for coastal defense. Consisting of two ships, USS Kearsarge (BB-5) and USS Kentucky (BB-6), the new class carried four 13 in. guns mounted in twin turrets. This armament was supported by four 8 in. guns contained in twin turrets which were located atop the 13 in. turrets. Further firepower was provided by fourteen 5 in. and twenty 6-pounder guns. Powered by two vertical triple-expansion steam engines, the Kearsarge-class' armor utilized the Harvey process which made it thinner but stronger than that on its predecessors.

Authorized on March 2, 1895, the contract for Kearsarge and Kentucky's construction was given to the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company in Virginia. Laid down on the same day, June 30, 1896, construction of the two vessels proceeded in parallel. Launched on March 24, 1898, Kentucky was sponsored by Christine Bradley, daughter of Kentucky Governor William Bradley. As the governor's family was teetotalers, Bradley sent a bottle of water from Lincoln Spring in Hodgenville, KY to be used for the ship's christening. Kearsargeslid down the ways on the same day. Work progressed on Kentucky as the Spanish-American War raged and it reached completion in 1900. Commissioned on May 15, Captain Colby M. Chester assumed command.

USS Kentucky (BB-6) - Early Service:

After fitting out at the New York Navy Yard, Kentuckyreceived orders for the Far East to support Western forces during the Boxer Rebellion. Departing on October 26, the battleship passed through the Mediterranean before transiting the Suez Canal en route to Manila. Arriving in the Philippines on February 5, 1901, Kentucky became the flagship of Rear Admiral Louis Kempff. Over the next three years, it promoted American interests in the region through numerous port calls in China and Japan as well as later served as flagship of Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans' Asiatic Fleet. Concluding its Far East tour, Kentucky sailed for home on March 13, 1904. Against passing through the Suez Canal, the battleship arrived at New York on May 21.

Entering the yard, Kentucky commenced a five-month overhaul which included the installation of smoke ejectors. Returning to active duty on October 26, the battleship joined the North Atlantic Fleet and conducted operations off the East Coast. After welcoming a British squadron to Annapolis and New York, Kentucky resumed its activities along the coast. On September 23, 1906, it embarked the Marine detachments of several vessels while off Provincetown, MA. Racing south, Kentucky landed this force at Havana on October 1 to protect American interests during the Cuban Insurrection. Remaining offshore for nine days, the battleship then withdrew back to New England. The following April, Kentucky and a number of its consorts took part in the Jamestown Exposition before resuming maneuvers.

USS Kentucky (BB-6) - Great White Fleet:

In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt became worried about the US Navy's lack of strength in the Pacific due to the growing threat posed by the Japanese. To impress upon the Japanese that the United States could shift its main battle fleet to the Pacific with ease, he began planning a world cruise of the nation's battleships. Dubbed the Great White Fleet,Kentucky, commanded by Captain Walter C. Cowles, was assigned to the force's Fourth Division, Second Squadron. Kentucky and its sister Kearsarge were two oldest ships in the fleet and were already considered obsolete. Departing Hampton Roads on December 16, 1907, the fleet steamed south making port calls in Brazil before passing through the Straits of Magellan. Sailing north, the fleet, led by Evans, reached San Diego on April 14, 1908.

Briefly pausing in California, Kentucky and its consorts then crossed the Pacific to Hawaii before arriving in New Zealand and Australia in August. After taking part in festive visits, the fleet turned north for the Philippines, Japan, and China. Finishing port calls in these nations, the American battleships crossed the Indian Ocean before passing through the Suez Canal and entering the Mediterranean. Here the fleet parted to show the flag in several ports. Steaming west, Kentucky made visits to Tripoli and Algiers in January 1909 before the fleet regrouped at Gibraltar. Crossing the Atlantic, the battleship arrived at Hampton Roads on February 22 where it was inspected by Roosevelt. Having completed its world cruise, Kentuckyreceived orders to sail to Philadelphia for an overhaul and modernization.

USS Kentucky (BB-6) - Later Service:

Decommissioned on August 28, 1909, Kentucky commenced a major modernization program at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. Costing $675,000, the work included in installation of two cage masts, four 5 in. guns, and new water-tube boilers. As part of the program, sixteen ofKentucky's 6-pdr. guns were removed as well as all of the 1-pdr. guns. Emerging on June 4, 1912, the battleship re-entered commission but was placed in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet the following year. On June 23, 1915, Kentucky resumed active service and departed to support the American occupation of Veracruz that September. The ship remained in the vicinity until June 1916 when it sailed for Philadelphia with stops at Guantanamo Bay and Santo Domingo.

After maneuvers off Newport, RI, Kentucky arrived at New York in October and entered the yard on January 1. The battleship remained there as the United States entered World War I in April. Steaming south a month later, Kentucky spent the conflict as a training ship in the Chesapeake and along the Atlantic coast. With the war's conclusion, it underwent an overhaul before taking part in fleet maneuvers in the spring of 1919. That summer, Kentucky embarked midshipmen from the US Naval Academy for a training cruise in the Caribbean and along the East Coast. With its completion, the battleship moved to Philadelphia where it was decommissioned on May 29, 1920. Kentucky remained there until being sold for scrap to the Dravo Corporation on January 23, 1924. This move was part of the US Navy's compliance with the newly-signed Washington Naval Treaty.