The six ships of the Connecticut-class were the definitive U.S. Navy mixed-battery battleships, a type shoved from the pinnacle of naval esteem by the "all-big-gun" HMS Dreadnought even before the last four went into commission. However, since it took several years to build a significant fleet of "dreadnoughts", these ships and their immediate predecessors formed the backbone of the U.S. Navy's battle line into the early 'Teens. Five of them took part in the 1907-09 World cruise of the "Great White Fleet", a striking demonstration of the strategic mobility of their type.
The Connecticuts were big ships for their day, with fully a thousand tons more displacement than the largest earlier U.S. battleships. Their main battery of four 12-inch guns in two turrets followed the pattern established before, though these guns fired their shells at a higher velocity. In its secondary battery, eight 8-inch guns in twin turrets at the superstructure corners and twelve 7-inch guns in casemates in the hull sides, the Connecticut-class design marked the end of a notable internal debate within the U.S. Navy. There were also twenty single-mounted three-inch guns to drive away hostile torpedo craft.
At the end of their great world tour in early 1909, Connecticut, Louisiana, Vermont, Kansas and Minnesota, still resplendent in "white and buff" paint, were welcomed home by their final sister, New Hampshire, wearing the grey recently adopted by the Navy. They were soon modernized, trading in their solid "military" masts and elaborate upperworks for "cage" masts and reduced superstructures, losing a few three-inch guns and gaining submerged tubes for 21-inch torpedoes. They also got grey paint, bringing to an end two decades of the Navy's most attractive, if militarily useless, warship color schemes. New Hampshire received a similar overhaul in 1910.
For the next eight years, the Connecticuts were kept busy with fleet maneuvers off the U.S. east coast and in the Caribbean, and in a number of armed interventions in troubled nations "south of the border". Before World War I erupted in Europe there were also occasional trans-Atlantic voyages and spectacular Naval reviews in New York harbor. During the United States' participation in the "Great War", the ships were employed in training and convoy escort. They gave up their seven-inch guns and most of their three-inchers for use afloat on other ships and ashore as heavy field artillery, but received more weather-resistant upperworks. A half-year's duty as transports marked their immediate post-war service, followed by a variety of training, diplomatic and other duties. In 1920, naval designations were changed; All but Connecticut were decommissioned in 1920-21. She left the active fleet in 1923, the year that all were disposed of under the terms of the Washington naval limitations treaty.
The Connecticut-class numbered six ships, all built on the east coast:
- USS Connecticut (BB 18). Built by the New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, N.Y. Keel laid in March 1903; launched in September 1904; commissioned in September 1906.
- USS Louisiana (BB 19). Built by the Newport News Ship Building and Drydock Company, Newport News, Virginia. Keel laid in February 1903; launched in August 1904; commissioned in June 1906.
- USS Vermont (BB 20). Built by the Fore River Shipbuilding Company, Quincy, Massachusetts. Keel laid in May 1904; launched in August 1905; commissioned in March 1907.
- USS Kansas (BB 21). Built by the New York Shipbuilding Company, Camden, New Jersey. Keel laid in February 1904; launched in August 1905; commissioned in April 1907.
- USS Minnesota (BB 22). Built by the Newport News Ship Building and Drydock Company, Newport News, Virginia. Keel laid in October 1903; launched in April 1905; commissioned in March 1907.
- USS New Hampshire (BB 25). Built by the New York Shipbuilding Company, Camden, New Jersey. Keel laid in May 1905; launched in June 1906; commissioned in March 1908.
- Displacement: 16,000 tons
- Dimensions: 456' (length overall); 78' 10" (extreme beam)
- Powerplant: 16,500 horsepower, triple-expansion reciprocating engines, two propellers, 18 knot maximum speed
- Armament (Main Battery): four 12"/45 guns in two twin turrets; eight 8"/45 guns in four twin turrets (four guns per side); twelve 7"/45 guns in single casemate mountings (six guns per side)
- Armament (Secondary Battery): Twenty 3"/50 guns in single mountings.
USS Connecticut (BB 18)
Connecticut, lead ship of the class, became flagship of the Atlantic Fleet in April 1907 and retained that role for some five years. During the rest of 1907, Connecticut took part in the Jamestown Tri-Centennial celebration and participated in fleet exercises. In December, she led the Atlantic Fleet's battleships out of Hampton Roads, Virginia, beginning a historic cruise around the World that lasted until February 1909.
Upon her return to the United States, Connecticut was modernized, receiving new "cage" masts, grey paint and numerous other alterations. Thereafter, she mainly conducted routine operations in the western Atlantic and Caribbean. However, in 1910-11 and in 1913 the battleship crossed the Atlantic to visit European waters. During World War I, Connecticut was employed as a training ship off the U.S. east coast and in the Chesapeake Bay. In the first half of 1919, she served as a transport, making four trans-Atlantic voyages to bring home veterans from France.
In 1920, the year she was given the hull number BB-18 (a change from "battleship #18"; all other warships followed suit), Connecticut made a training cruise through the Panama Canal to the west coast. She made another training voyage in 1921, this time to Europe, then transferred to the Pacific Fleet. USS Connecticut decommissioned at the Puget Sound Navy Yard in March 1923 and was sold for scrapping in November of that year.
USS Louisiana (BB 19)
Louisiana was commissioned in June 1906, and during that year and the next, she was active in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean areas, including making a diplomatic visit to Havana, Cuba, in September 1906 and carrying President Theodore Roosevelt to Panama later in that year. From December 1907 until February 1909, Louisiana steamed around the World with the other battleships of the "Great White Fleet". During this cruise, she called on ports in Trinidad, South America, Mexico, the U.S. west coast, Hawaii, Australia, the Philippines, Japan, China, Ceylon, and the Mediterranean.
Overhauled following her return to the United States, Louisiana was fitted with the then-new "cage" masts. For the next six years, she primarily operated off the U.S. east coast and in the Caribbean area, participating in Atlantic Fleet battleship exercises. She also made two cruises to European waters in late 1910 and in mid-1911. In April–August 1914, Louisiana was one of many U.S. warships that took part in the occupation of Vera Cruz, Mexico. From late 1915 until the spring of 1917, she was employed on training duties when not in reserve.
Louisiana's World War I service, from April 1917 until the Armistice of 11 November 1918, mainly consisted of gunnery and engineering training operations along the U.S. Atlantic coast and undertook convoy escort missions during the conflict's last two months. From December 1918 until mid-1919 she served as a troop transport, bringing servicemen back to the United States from Europe. USS Louisiana was reclassified BB-19 in July 1920 and decommissioned in the following October. After three years of inactivity, she was sold for scrapping in November 1923.
USS Vermont (BB 20)
Vermont was commissioned in March 1907, and spent most of the rest of that year on trials, "shake down" operations and fleet maneuvers. With other Atlantic Fleet battleships, she was a participent in the "Great White Fleet".
Modernized after this trip, Vermont received two "cage" masts and other new features. After completion of this work in June 1909, she spent most of the following eight years taking part in fleet operations along the U.S. east coast and in the Caribbean. In 1910-11 and again in 1913, the battleship crossed the Atlantic to visit European ports. She also participated in the Vera Cruz intervention during April–October 1914 and supported U.S. Marines in Haiti in 1916-17.
During the U.S. involvement in the First World War that began in April 1917 and lasted until the Armistice of 11 November 1918, Vermont mainly served on training duties in Chesapeake Bay and off the Atlantic coast. In June and July 1918, she also performed a diplomatic mission, transporting the body of the late Chilean Ambassador to his homeland for burial. Starting in January 1919, Vermont made four trans-Atlantic round-trip voyages as a troop transport, bringing about 5000 U.S. servicemen back to the U.S. from France. In July 1919, she transited the Panama Canal to join the Pacific Fleet. After nearly a year of operations along the west coast, USS Vermont was decommissioned in June 1920. Though reclassified as BB-20 soon thereafter, she saw no further active service and was sold for scrapping in November 1923.
USS Kansas (BB 21)
Kansas joined the Atlantic Fleet's battleships soon after her 1907 commissioning in Hampton Roads, Virginia, in time to take part in the cruise around the World that began in December 1907. At the end of this epic voyage, Kansas began an overhaul that greatly changed her appearance. She emerged with two new "cage" masts and grey paint in place of the previous "white and buff". During the next eight years, she mainly operated with the battle fleet in U.S. and Caribbean waters, but also made three trans-Atlantic cruises. In late 1911, Kansas called on ports in France and England. The next spring, she went to the Baltic and in 1913 visited Italy. In a diplomatic mission in July 1914, the battleship transported the body of the late Venezuelan Minister back to his country for burial.
After the United States entered World War I in April 1917, Kansas served in training and escort roles until the conflict's end in November 1918. Next assigned work as a troop transport, she made five round-trips to France from then until mid-1919, helping to bring home veterans of the "Great War". In June 1920, Kansas passed through the Panama Canal to the Pacific, taking Naval Academy midshipmen on a training cruise that reached as far west as Hawaii. Returning to the Pacific in October 1920, she steamed to Samoa and Hawaii. She made a final voyage to Europe on a midshipmen's training cruise in mid-1921. Kansas was inactive after the conclusion of that trip. Decommissioned in December 1921, she was stricken from the Navy list in 1923 and broken up in 1924.
USS Minnesota (BB 22)
Minnesota was commissioned in March 1907 and participated in the Jamestown Exposition during much of that year. From December 1907 to February 1909, she was part of the "Great White Fleet". Upon her return to the United States, she was modernized, receiving initially a "cage" foremast and other superstructure alternations, as well as a coating of grey paint. About a year later, she was fitted with a second "cage" mast.
During 1909-16, Minnesota performed the typical duties of contemporary battleships, taking part in fleet operations along the Atlantic coast and in the Caribbean area and supporting military interventions in Cuba and Mexico. She also crossed the Atlantic once to visit northern European waters. Minnesota served as a gunnery and engineering training ship during World War I. Damaged by a German mine on 29 September 1918, she was under repair until March 1919, then briefly served as a troop transport bringing service personnel home from France. In 1920, the battleship was designated BB-22. She made Midshipmen's training cruises in 1920 and 1921 and was decommissioned and stricken from the Navy registry in December of the latter year. After she was dismantled at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, USS Minnesota's remains were sold for scrap in January 1924.
USS New Hampshire (BB 25)
New Hampshire was commissioned in March 1908, and in June of that year she carried a Marine Corps' Expeditionary Regiment to Panama, then visited Quebec and ports in the northeastern U.S. New Hampshire spent most of her service career on routine activities off the U.S. east coast and in the Caribbean area, but also took part in several special operations and made a number of voyages to Europe. In late 1910, after her appearance had been altered by the installation of a pair of "cage" masts, and again in 1911 she crossed the Atlantic to call on northern European ports. New Hampshire was active in protecting United States' interests in Mexico and the Dominican Republic during 1912-15, including participation in the Vera Cruz intervention in April–June 1914.
During World War I, New Hampshire was mainly engaged in training service along the U.S. coast, but performed convoy escort service during the last months of 1918. She was then employed as a transport, bringing troops home from France between December 1918 and June 1919. In mid-1920, the battleship carried U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen on a cruise through the Panama Canal to Hawaii and the west coast. In that year, when the Navy formally adopted hull numbers, she was designated BB-25. New Hampshire operated off Haiti later in the year and into 1921, then steamed to Sweden on a diplomatic mission. On that, her final operation, she also visited Germany and England. Placed out of commission in May 1921, USS New Hampshire was sold for scrapping in November 1923.
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