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BB-34 New York Class

The New York class numbered two ships, both built on the east coast. The New York class were the first U.S. Navy battleships armed with 14-inch guns, and the last to be built with intermediate weight side armor, coal-fired boilers and more than four main battery turrets. Their general arrangement was based on their immediate predecessors, the Wyoming Class, with a slightly enlarged "flush-deck" hull. In the new ships, five twin turrets for the heavier, harder-hitting 14"/45 guns replaced the six twin 12"/50 gun turrets of the Wyomings. The two New Yorks also reverted to reciprocating engines due to a dispute between the Navy and the builders of steam turbines.

The BB-34 New York Class battleships, laid down in 1911, were the first US Navy battleships armed with 14-inch guns, and the last to be built with more than four main battery turrets, intermediate weight side armor and coal-fired boilers. The BB-36 Nevada Class were the last US Navy battleships to have reciprocating engines, and the last to have two propellers. At the same time they were the first of the ships to carry fourteen-inch guns, and the US Navy's first to have oil as their primary fuel.

The eight-hour law was first applied to the construction of vessels for the Navy by a provision contained in the act of June 24, 1910, by which the act of August 1, 1892, entitled "An act relating to the limitation of hours of daily service of laborers and mechanics employed upon the public works of the United States and of the District of Columbia," was applied to the construction of the two battleships (Texas and New York) and the two fleet colliers (No. 9 and No. 10) authorized therein.

The construction of the Battleship "New York" in a navy yard was authorized by the naval appropriation act approved June 24, 1910. When the bids for the battleship Texas were opened in the department, December 1, 1910, only one shipbuilding company submitted bids, and it was found that the price bid per ton of displacement was 21.5 per cent greater than the price per ton bid for the two preceding battleships, upon which there was no restriction as to hours of labor. When proposals for colliers No. 9 and No. 10 (authorized by the act above referred to) were first received, no bids were received within the limit of cost, although, the limit of cost provided a margin of about 12 per cent over preceding colliers.

It will therefore be noted that the increase in cost per ton of normal displacement over the three preceding contract-built battleships, without restrictions as to hours of labor, was 21.5 per cent, and the increased cost over the five preceding contract-built battleships, without restrictions as to hours of labor, was 13 per cent.

These estimates of the cost of construction of this battleship exceeded the limit of cost imposed by Congress in the naval appropriation art, and in accordance with an opinion of the Attorney General, the Secretary of the Navy suspended all work on the vessel. The Secretary of the Navy reported the fact to Congress and the naval appropriation act of March 4, 1911, contained the following provision: " ... and the limit of cost, exclusive of armor and armament, of the battleship authorized and directed by the naval appropriation act approved June 24, 1910, to be constructed in one of the navy yards, is hereby increased to $6,400,000, exclusive of indirect charges."

The Committee on Naval Affairs recommended that Congress give to Secretary Meyer the power to construct in a private shipyard the battleship New York, the building of which was authorized during the last session; the secretary having shown that it will cost the government at least eight millions and a half more to construct the New York in the Brooklyn Navy Yard by reason of the eight-hour law.

The naval appropriation act of March 4, 1911, contained also the following provision: "Upon the passage of the act the work of preparation for building the vessel was immediately resumed. Provided, That no part of any sum herein appropriated shall be expended for the purchase of structural steel, ship plates, armor, armament, or machinery from any persons, firms, or corporations, who have combined or conspired to monopolize the interstate or foreign commerce or trade of the United States, or the commerce or trade between the States and any Territory or the District of Columbia in any of the articles aforesaid, and no purchase of structural steel, ship plates, or machinery shall be made at a price in excess of a reasonable profit above the actual cost of manufacture."

The placing of contracts for the material of the New York was again delayed pending an opinion by the Attorney General as to the steps necessary to insure compliance with the above provision. The necessary procedure having been determined, contracts for material were placed, and the keel of the New York was laid September 11, 1911. By decision of the Department the constructional period of 36 months is considered as beginning May 1, 1911. This vessel was launched October 30, 1912. On October 1, 1913, the hull of the New York was reported as 89.9 per cent completed, and the machinery as 88.1 per cent completed. Her constructional period as set by the department expired May 1, 1914. Exclusive of armor and guns she cost about $6,000,000.

Both ships served with the Grand Fleet in the North Sea during World War I. Prior to and immediately after that conflict, they were assigned to the Atlantic Fleet and went to the Pacific in mid-1919. They were extensively modernized in 1925-27, becoming the first U.S. Navy battleships to be fitted with tripod masts to support more capable, and heavier, gunfire direction instruments. They received oil-fired boilers, a single smokestack in place of the previous two, and additional deck armor in recognition of increased probable combat ranges and the emerging threat from aircraft bombs. Some of their 5"/51 secondary battery guns were remounted higher above the waterline, and new anti-torpedo blisters increased their beam by more than ten feet, to 106'1" overall. Normal displacement went up to 28,700 tons and speed fell to below twenty knots.

In the mid-1930s, New York and Texas were transferred to the Atlantic where they were to spend most of the rest of their active service. Both participated in convoy operations during World War II and supported the North African landings in November 1942. Texas was also present for the invasions of Normandy and Southern France. They went to the Pacific in late 1944 and subsequently took part in the Iwo Jima and Okinawa operations. New York saw her final employment as a target in 1946-48, while Texas became a memorial, a mission she still performs as the last surviving U.S. World War I era battleship.



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