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BB-23 Mississippi Class

The Mississippi class represented the U.S. Navy's final design of what would soon be called "pre-dreadnoughts", battleships with a main battery of two or more different-sized guns. Congressional action limited their displacement, a response to the rising size and cost of battleships that was also justified by the hardy theory that numbers of ships are more important that the quality of individual units. Accordingly, they were smaller, slower and shorter-ranged than their contemporaries, though their armament was similar in power: A pair of 12-inch guns in a turret at each end of the superstructure, 8-inch guns mounted in two twin turrets on each side amidships and four 7-inch guns in casemates on each side of the hull. Operationally, the Navy clearly regarded them as inadequate, a view that undoubtedly encouraged their early disposal.

The Mississippi and her sister ship, the Idaho, were twin-screw armored battleships built by the William Cramp & Sons' Ship and Engine Building Company, of Philadelphia, Pa. The contracts for these two vessels were signed January 25, 1904, the price for each being $2,999,500. These prices did not include the armor and armor bolts (exclusive of protective deck), ordnance and ordnance outfit and certain articles supplied by the Government.

The Mississippi and Idaho, commissioned in 1908, had a full load displacement of 14,465 tons, a designed speed of 17 knots, and carry each a main battery of four 12-inch and eight 8-inch guns, in turrets, and eight 7-inch guns, in broadside. These ships, which were undertaken after the Connecticut type had been developed and undertaken, are regarded as a less efficient type, because, owing to their smaller size, they have less speed, smaller battery, and shorter coal endurance - three vital features in warships that, with adequate armor protection, can be obtained only by means of large displacements.

The main engines were required to develop ten thousand indicated horsepower, when making one hundred and twenty revolutions per minute, with a steam pressure of two hundred and fifty pounds at the high-pressure cylinder. The guaranteed speed of the ships was seventeen knots per hour for four hours.

There is installed and fitted complete an electric generating-plant consisting of eight 100-kilowatt generating sets, all of 125 volts pressure at the terminals. These sets are located in two independent dynamo rooms. The generating sets and the engines and dynamos conformed in all respects to the latest requirements of the specifications for the United States Navy.

The steam anchor windlass was located in the windlass inclosure on the upper deck, which was provided with two wild-cats, the design being suitable for handling anchors of about 14,300 pounds, each with 2 J-inch chain. The windlass was of the worm-gear type. The windlass engine was designed for a working steam pressure of 150 pounds per square inch, but is able to withstand the full boiler pressure.

The steering gear was located aft, and was of the standard type of the Bureau of Construction and Repair, consisting of a right and left-hand screw with traversing nuts directly connected, by side rods, to a crosshead on the rudder stock. The steering engine is capable of putting the rudder from hard a port to hard a starboard, and vice versa, in twenty seconds, with a working steam pressure of 150 pounds per square inch.

There were two 3-cylinder, triple-expansion, outboard-turning-engines of the vertical, inverted, direct-connected type, in two watertight compartments, separated by a fore-and-aft watertight bulkhead. The order of the cylinders, beginning forward, are high pressure, intermediate pressure and low pressure. The cranks are at angles of 120 degrees to each other, the intermediate following the high pressure, and the low pressure following the intermediate pressure.

The frames of the engines consist of forged-steel columns braced by forged-steel stays. The engine bedplates are of cast- iron supported on the keelson plates. All crank, line and propeller shafting is hollow. The shafts, piston rods, connecting rods and working parts generally are of forged, open-hearth steel. The main valves are worked by the Stevenson link motion with double-bar links. There is one piston valve for the high-pressure cylinder and two each for the intermediate and the low-pressure cylinders.

Each main engine had a reversing gear of the usual floating-lever, oil-controlled type. In each engine room there is a double engine for turning the main engines, with steam at too pounds pressure. This engine drives, by worm gearing, a second worm which may be made at will to mesh with a worm wheel fitted on the crank shaft. The turning engines have piston valves. Provision was made for turning by hand.

Two 3-blade propellers were both outboard turning for ahead motion. The blades and the hub are of manganese-bronze.

During their early careers, Mississippi and her sister, USS Idaho, underwent the same pattern of modernization as other modern U.S. Navy battleships. Commissioned right at the end of the era of "white and buff" paint schemes, both received new "cage" mainmasts and were repainted overall gray before the end of their first year's service. In 1910, they were fitted with "cage" foremasts in place of the original "military"type, giving them a much more balanced appearance.

In addition to the usual east coast and Caribbean service pattern of most their contemporaries, both ships made a cruise or two to Europe. Mississippi ended her American career as an aviation support ship, the Navy's first of the type, and tended her seaplanes in a pioneering combat role during the 1914 Vera Cruz operation.

The Congress had restricted the size, and, subsequently, the speed and endurance of the Mississippi and the Idaho so that these vessels were about 3,000 tons smaller than sister ships laid down at the same time. While the vessels, when completed, constituted excellent lighting craft, they had no place in the US Navy's organization, so that when the opportunity arose to dispose of them by sale to parties who after their purchase disposed of them to the Government of Greece, the Navy Department urged upon Congress the approval of the same and the application of the proceeds toward the construction of a modern vessel, with the result that the US disposed of the Mississippi and Idaho and obtained in exchange the superdreadnaught California, a vessel of 32,000 tons and enormously greater effectiveness.

In July 1914, the two ships were sold to Greece, the only U.S. Navy battleships ever to be transferred to a foreign power. The Turkish people had raised money by popular subscription and had purchased a Brazilian dreadnaught which was then under construction in England. The government had ordered also a second dreadnaught in England, and several submarines and destroyers in France. Turkey had rather too boldly advertised her intention of attacking Greece as soon as she had received her dreadnaughts. Both the ships for which Greece was now negotiating were immediately available for battle! The Idaho and Mississippi were not indispensable ships for the American navy; they could not take their place in the first line of battle; they were powerful enough, however, to drive the whole Turkish navy from the Agean. Evidently the Greeks did not intend politely to postpone the impending war until the Turkish dreadnaughts had been finished, but to attack as soon as they received these American ships. US President Wilson consented to the sale in June 1914 because he knew that Turkey was preparing to attack Greece and believed that the Idaho and Mississippi would prevent such an attack and so preserve peace in the Balkans. The administration sold these ships on July 8, 1914, to Fred J. Gauntlett, for $12,535,276.98. Congress immediately voted the money realized from the sale to the construction of a great modern dreadnaught, the California. Mr. Gauntlett transferred the ships to the Greek Government. Rechristened the Kilkis and the Lemnos, those battleships immediately took their places as the most powerful vessels of the Greek Navy, and the enthusiasm of the Greeks in obtaining them was unbounded.

Nearly three decades later, in April 1941, after their active service had ended, they were sunk by German dive bombing attacks. They were the first American-built battleships to be lost to hostile air attack.



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