U.S. Navy Battleships - USS Alabama (BB 8)
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Displacement: 11,565 tons
Speed: 16 knots
Armament: Four 13" guns; fourteen 6" guns; sixteen 6-pounders; four 1-pounders; four .30-cal machine guns; four 18" torpedo tubes
Text from The Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships published by the Naval Historical Center
The second Alabama (Battleship No. 8) was laid down on 1
December 1896 at Philadelphia. Pa., by the William Cramp and
Sons Ship and Engine Building Co.; launched on 18 May 1898;
sponsored by Miss Mary Morgan, daughter of the Honorable John T.
Morgan, United States Senator from Georgia and commissioned on 16
October 1900, Capt. Willard H. Brownson in command.
Though assigned to the North Atlantic Station, Alabama did not
begin operations with that unit until early the following year.
The warship remained at Philadelphia until l3 December when she
got underway for the brief trip to New York. She stayed at New
York through the New Year and until the latter part of January
1901. Finally, on 27 January, the battleship headed south for
winter exercises with the Fleet at the drill grounds in the Gulf
of Mexico near Pensacola, Fla.
Alabama's Navy career began in earnest with her arrival in the
gulf early in February. With a single exception in 1904, each
year from 1901 to 1907, she conducted Fleet exercises and
gunnery drills in the Gulf of Mexico and the West Indies in the
wintertime before returning north for repairs and operations off
the northeastern coast during the summer and autumn.
exception came in the spring of 1904 after the conclusion of
winter maneuvers when she departed Pensacola in company with
USS Kearsarge (Battleship No. 5), USS Maine (Battleship No. 10), USS Iowa
(Battleship No. 4), USS Olympia (Cruiser No. 6), USS Baltimore (Cruiser
No. 3), and USS Cleveland (Cruiser No. 19) on a voyage to Portugal
and the Mediterranean. After a ceremonial visit to Lisbon
honoring the entrance of the Infante into the Portuguese naval
school, Alabama and the other three battleships cruised the
Mediterranean until mid-August. Returning by way of the Azores,
she and her traveling companions arrived in Newport, RI, on
29August. Late in September the warship entered the League
Island Navy Yard for repairs. Early in December, Alabama left
the yard and resumed cruising with the North Atlantic Fleet.
Near the end of 1907, the battleship set out upon a special
mission. On 16 December 1907, she stood out of Hampton Roads in
company with what became known as the Great White Fleet. Alabama
accompanied the Fleet on its voyage around the South American
continent as far as San Francisco. On 18 May 1908 when the bulk
of the Fleet headed north to visit the Pacific northwest, she
remained at San Francisco for repairs at the Mare Island Navy
Yard. As a consequence, the warship did not participate in the
celebrated visit to Japan. Instead, Alabama and USS Maine departed
San Francisco on June to complete their own, more direct,
circumnavigation of the globe.
Steaming by way of Honolulu and Guam, the two battleships
arrived at Manila in the Philippines on 20 July. In August, they
visited Singapore and Colombo on the island of Ceylon. From
Colombo, the two battleships made their way, via Aden on the
Arabian Peninsula to the Suez Canal. Through the canal early in
September. Alabama and Maine made an expeditious transit of the
Mediterranean Sea, pausing only at Naples at mid-month.
Following a port call at Gibraltar, they embarked upon the
Atlantic passage on 4 October. They made one stop, in the
Azores, on their way across the Atlantic. On 19 October, as they
neared the end of their long voyage, the two battleships parted
company. Maine headed for Portsmouth, N.H.; and Alabama steered
for New York. Both reached their destinations on the 20th.
Alabama was placed in reserve at New York on 3 November 1908.
Though she remained inactive at New York, the battleship was not
decommissioned until 17 August 1909. The warship underwent an extensive overhaul that lasted until the early part of 1912. On
17 April 1912, she was placed in commission, second reserve, at
New York, Cmdr. Charles F. Preston in command. At that point,
she became an element of the newly established Atlantic Reserve
According to that concept, the Navy organized a unit that
comprised nine of the older battleships as well as USS Brooklyn
(Armored Cruiser No. 3), USS Columbia (Cruiser No. 12), and
USS Minneapolis (Cruiser No. 13) for the purpose of keeping those
ships constantly ready for active service using the fiscal
expedient of severely reduced complements that could be filled
out rapidly by naval militiamen and volunteers in an emergency.
The unit as a whole possessed enough officers and men to take
two or three of the ships to sea on a rotating basis to test
their material readiness and to exercise the sailors at drill.
Alabama was placed in full commission on 25 July 1912 and
operated with the Atlantic Fleet off the New England coast
through the summer. She was returned to reserve status — in
commission, first reserve — at New York on 10 September 1912.
Late in the spring of 1913, the Navy added a new dimension to
the concept a the Atlantic Reserve Fleet by having the warships
of that unit embark detachments of the various state naval
militias for training afloat in a manner similar in many
respects to the contemporary Navy's selected reserve program.
During the summer of 1913, Alabama cruised along the east coast
and made two round-trip voyages to Bermuda to train naval
militiamen from Maryland, the District of Columbia, New York,
Rhode Island, Maine, North Carolina, and Indiana. She ended her
last training cruise of the year at Philadelphia on 2 September.
The battleship was placed in ordinary on 31 October 1913 and in
reserve on 1 July 1914.
Though still in commission, she passed the next 30 months in
relative inactivity with the Reserve Force, Atlantic Fleet, at
Philadelphia. America's shift toward belligerency in World War
I, however, brought Alabama out of the doldrums of the peacetime
reserve at the beginning of 1917. On 22 January, she became
receiving ship at Philadelphia, embarking drafts of recruits for
training. In mid-March, the battleship moved south to the lower
reaches of the Chesapeake Bay and began transforming landsmen
into sailors. She took a brief respite from her rigorous
training schedule on 6 April 1917 for the announcement of the
United States' declaration of war on the Central Powers. Two
days later, Alabama became flagship of Division 1, Atlantic
For the remainder of World War I, the warship conducted recruit
training missions in the lower Chesapeake Bay and in the coastal
waters of the Atlantic seaboard, though she made one visit to
the Gulf of Mexico in late June and early July of 1918.
After the armistice on 11 November 1918, her recruit training
duties continued but began to diminish somewhat in intensity.
During February and March of 1919, the battleship steamed sooth
to the West Indies for winter maneuvers. She returned to
Philadelphia in mid-April for routine repairs before heading for
Annapolis to embark Naval Academy midshipmen for their summer
training cruise. On 28 and 29 May, Alabama made the short trip
from Philadelphia to Annapolis. She left Annapolis on 9 June
with 184 midshipmen embarked. During the first part of the
cruise, Alabama visited the West Indies and made a trip through
the Panama Canal and back. In mid July, she voyaged to New York
and the New England coast. August saw her return south for
maneuvers at the drill grounds. Alabama disembarked the
midshipmen at Annapolis at the end of August and returned to
After more than nine months at Philadelphia lingering in a sort
of naval purgatory, the battleship was finally decommissioned on
7 May 1920. On 15 September 1921, Alabama was transferred to the
War Department to be used as a target, and her name was struck
from the Navy list. Subjected to aerial bombing tests in Chesapeake Bay by planes of the Army Air Service, the former warship sank in shallow water on 27 September 1921. On 19 March 1924, her sunken hulk was sold for scrap.
Also see USS Alabama (BB 60)
Updated: 29 July 2009