Thanks to:
By Kennedy Hickman, Guide

USS Alabama (BB-8)
Photograph Courtesy of the US Naval History & Heritage Command

USS Alabama (BB-8) - Overview:

  • Nation: United States
  • Type: Battleship
  • Shipyard: William Cramp & Son
  • Laid Down: December 1, 1896
  • Launched: May 18, 1898
  • Commissioned: October 16, 1900
  • Fate: Sunk as a target, September 27, 1921

USS Alabama (BB-8) - Specifications

  • Displacement: 11,565 tons
  • Length: 374 ft., 10 in.
  • Beam: 72 ft., 5 in.
  • Draft: 25 ft.
  • Propulsion: 2 x vertical inverted triple-expansion steam engines, 2 x propellers
  • Speed: 16 knots
  • Complement: 536 men

4 13 in. guns
14 6 in. guns
16 6-pounder guns
4 1-pounder guns
4 18 in. torpedo tubes

USS Alabama (BB-8) - Design & Construction:

Created as an improvement on the Indiana-class (USS Indiana, USS Massachusetts, and USS Oregon) and Kearsarge-class (USS Kearsarge and USS Kentucky), the Illinois-class was described as a new type of sea-going, coastal battleship. Consisting of three ships, USS Illinois (BB-7), USS Alabama (BB-8), and USS Wisconsin (BB-9), the new type mounted four 13 in. guns carried in twin British-style turrets. An alteration from the round monitor-style turrets that had been used on earlier American battleships, the new type were easier to armor and required less space. The Illinois-class also saw the removal of the secondary battery of 8" guns that had appeared aboard the Indiana- and Kearsarge-class ships. Instead, the main battery was supported by fourteen 6" guns and sixteen 6-pounder guns. This alteration to the vessel's armament simplified munitions handling and logistics. Powered by two inverted vertical triple-expansion steam engines, the class featured two distinctive, side-by-side funnels amidships.

Ordered in 1896, the contract for Alabama's construction was awarded to William Cramp and Sons in Philadelphia, PA. Laid down December 1, 1896, work continued through the following year. Launched on May 18, 1898, as the Spanish-American War raged, Alabama was sponsored by Mary Morgan, daughter of Senator John T. Morgan. Construction continued on Illinois over the next two years until the vessel's completion in 1900. Commissioned on October 16, Captain Willard H. Brownson, assumed command. Assigned to the North Atlantic Squadron, the new battleship commenced training that fall and spent the majority of its time at Philadelphia and New York.

USS Alabama (BB-8) - Early Career:

Joining the squadron in January 1901, Alabama steamed south to take part in fleet exercises near Pensacola, FL. For the next three years, the battleship conducted routine peacetime activities. This saw Alabama operate in the North Atlantic in the summer and fall before returning south for maneuvers and training in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean during the winter. In 1904, Alabama joined a squadron dispatched to Portugal and the Mediterranean. Following a ceremonial visit at Lisbon, the American warships passed Gibraltar and commenced goodwill calls at Corfu, Trieste, and Fiume. Moving on to Greece, Alabama and its consorts then departed and returned home via the Azores. After a three-month overhaul at Philadelphia, the battleship rejoined the North Atlantic Squadron. The next three years saw a resumption of its standard peacetime operations.

USS Alabama (BB-8) - Great White Fleet:

In 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt became worried about the US Navy's lack of power in the Pacific due to the increasing threat posed by the Japanese. To impress upon the Japanese that the United States could move its main battle fleet to the Pacific with ease, he commenced planning a world cruise of the nation's battleships. Dubbed the Great White Fleet, Alabama, commanded by Captain Ten Eyck De Witt Veeder, was assigned to Rear Admiral Charles Sperry's Fourth Division, Second Squadron. Among the older battleships in the fleet, Alabama's squadron consisted of Illinois, Kearsarge, and Kentucky. Departing Hampton Roads on December 16, 1907, the fleet steamed south making port calls in Brazil before passing through the Straits of Magellan. Turning north, the fleet, led by Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans, reached San Diego on April 14, 1908.

Reaching San Francisco on May 6, Alabama and USS Maine (BB-10) remained behind when the fleet departed for Puget Sound twelve days later. Replaced by USS Wisconsin (BB-9) and USS Nebraska (BB-14), the two battleships were detached due their high coal consumption. On June 8, Alabama and Maine departed to complete a more direct circumnavigation than the remainder of the fleet. Steaming west, the pair made port calls at Hawaii and Guam before arriving at Manila in the Philippines on July 20, 1908. Turning southwest, Alabama and Maine stopped at Singapore and Ceylon before transiting the Indian Ocean and passing through the Suez Canal. Briefly pausing at Naples in mid-September, they then stopped at Gibraltar before re-crossing the Atlantic. On October 20, Alabama arrived at New York four months ahead of the remainder of the Great White Fleet.

USS Alabama (BB-8) - Modernization:

Remaining in port, Alabama entered reserve status on November 3. Inactive for over a year, it was decommissioned on August 17, 1909 and moved into the yard for an extensive overhaul and modernization. This saw the installation of two cage masts and the removal of all but four of the 6-pdr. guns. Also, Alabama received new boilers and other modern equipment. Re-commissioned on April 17, 1912, with Commander Charles F. Preston in command, the battleship moved to the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. Placed in full commission on July 12, Alabama took part in summer maneuvers with the Atlantic Fleet before moving back to reserve status in September. The following summer, the battleship served as a training vessel for naval militias from several states before being laid up in October. On July 1, 1914, Alabama was again placed in reserve.

USS Alabama (BB-8) - World War I & Later Career:

Remaining in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet in Philadelphia, Alabama sat inactive until January 22, 1917 when it assumed the role of receiving ship at the yard. With the American entry into World War I in April, the battleship shifted south to become a training ship in the Chesapeake Bay. Alabama remained in this role for the duration of the conflict. Following winter maneuvers in the Caribbean in early 1919, it spent the summer conducting cruises for midshipmen from the US Naval Academy. Returning to Philadelphia in the fall, Alabama was decommissioned on May 7, 1920. Transferred to the War Department on September 15, 1921, the battleship became a target for aerial bombing tests conducted by Brigadier General Billy Mitchell. Sunk on September 27, Alabama remained submerged in the Chesapeake until 1924 when the hull was sold for scrap.