Episode 92

History of US Battleships from WWII to the Gulf War and a tour of the Battleship Wisconsin

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In this podcast, hosts Scott and Jenn discuss the naval history of the battleship USS Wisconsin, widely known as 'The Big WhisKey.' The ship, with a wooden deck and steel hull, was created during World War II and saw action in the Pacific. Involved in the battle of Iwo Jima, it played a vital role in shooting down kamikaze aircraft. After the war, it was used as a training ship before being decommissioned. It saw service again during the Korean War and the Gulf War and was finally made into a museum ship in Norfolk. The podcast also covers the incredible story of the ship's collision in 1956, its remarkable repair within 16 days, and its unique connection with the unfinished Kentucky.

00:00 Introduction and Welcome

02:03 Imagining the USS Wisconsin

04:03 The Battleship Wisconsin

04:28 Behind the Scenes of the YouTube Channel

05:19 History of the Battleships

07:11 The Wisconsin's Role in World War II

10:47 The Wisconsin's Role during WWII

13:02 Decommission and Recommission of the Wisconsin

18:04 The Wisconsin Battleship Operations Manager

21:29 Modernization of the Battleships

23:23 Post-Korean War Activities and the Collision with the Eaton

24:18 Why it is called the WisKy...

26:08 The Ship's Role in the Invasion of Kuwait and the Gulf War

28:39 An Early Days of Drone Usage Story

32:06 The Ship as a Museum and Its Legacy

35:20 Touring the ship if you cannot climb ladders - a service to Veterans

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Transcript
Jenn:

May of 1956 and heavy fog right off of the Virginia capes.

Jenn:

The battleship collides with the Eaton.

Jenn:

So the Wisconsin and the Eaton collide and fog.

Jenn:

Xen.

Jenn:

It's a destroyer.

Jenn:

Okay.

Jenn:

So it, if you see pictures, it basically has taken off the nose of this ship.

Jenn:

Right under the anchors.

Jenn:

And almost back to the numbers.

Jenn:

Wow.

Jenn:

So it's it's hull damage.

Jenn:

Like it probably could have sunk it.

Jenn:

If you think about it.

Jenn:

So it's, it's towed back into.

Jenn:

The shipyard here in Norfolk.

Jenn:

But remember when I talked about those Iowa class ships,

Jenn:

they didn't finish the other.

Jenn:

The other two.

Jenn:

They had the hall for the Kentucky.

Jenn:

And they were able to load the bow of the Kentucky onto a

Jenn:

barge, bring it over to Norfolk.

Jenn:

And just basically graph it onto the new bow in 16 days.

Jenn:

The Wisconsin was seaworthy again . Oh my gosh.

Jenn:

I got hit.

Jenn:

Beginning of may.

Jenn:

And it see where the, again, the end of June in 1956.

Scott:

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe Doug.

Scott:

Mentioned that fact to us once I think he did too.

Scott:

That's why it's called.

Scott:

They call it the whiskey.

Scott:

The w I S and then capital K Y, Wisconsin and Kentucky.

Jenn:

And that that's why they call it that.

Jenn:

So if you hear the big whiskey.

Jenn:

It's because it's a hybrid of the Wisconsin and the Kentucky.

Jenn:

So now you have a little bit of trivia.

Scott:

Welcome to talk with history.

Scott:

I am your host Scott here with my wife and historian, Jen.

Scott:

Hello.

Scott:

On this podcast, we give you insights to our history.

Scott:

Inspired will travels.

Scott:

YouTube channel journey and examine history through deeper conversations

Scott:

with the curious, the explorers and the history levers out there.

Scott:

As we step back in time.

Scott:

Picture the mighty USS Wisconsin.

Scott:

A silent giant in the inky abyss of the wide open.

Scott:

See its silhouette cutting through the waves with a purpose

Scott:

that transcends the ordinary.

Scott:

Born in the crucible of world war two, this battleship has

Scott:

weathered the storms of history.

Scott:

Only to be resurrected for a role that would edge its name.

Scott:

In the annals of Naval legend.

Scott:

It's 1991.

Scott:

And the air is charged with anticipation as the Wisconsin in you, its crew

Scott:

embark on a journey that will test your metal in the crucible of conflict.

Scott:

It isn't merely a ship.

Scott:

It's a symbol of American maritime prowess, a guardian of

Scott:

freedom, poised to make history.

Scott:

Once again.

Scott:

Operation desert storm unfolds on the horizon and the Wisconsin resplendent

Scott:

in its coat of battleship gray sails into the heart of uncertainty.

Scott:

And you look onto the horizon.

Scott:

As a silent witness to an unfolding drama that would soon grip.

Scott:

The Gulf.

Scott:

The Wisconsin's mighty guns as if awakening from a slumber stand ready

Scott:

for a dance with destiny, you can almost hear the echoes of a bygone era.

Scott:

Whispers of battles, fought and victories earned.

Scott:

Resonating within the steel hole humming in anticipation.

Scott:

In the stillness of the night, you observed the faces of your fellow

Scott:

sailors, their eyes, reflecting a blend of determination and camaraderie.

Scott:

These are the warriors of the sea guardians of freedom.

Scott:

Entrusted with a mission that will echo through the quarters of history.

Scott:

And so dear listeners.

Scott:

Please join me on this voyage tonight.

Scott:

Through time as we unveil the story of the battleship Wisconsin and the Gulf

Scott:

war it's tale of bravery sacrifice and a brave spirit of those who sailed

Scott:

into the unknown set, sail with us.

Scott:

As we navigate the waters of war and honor the legacy of the battleship Wisconsin.

Scott:

All right, Jen.

Scott:

I think I laid it out there.

Scott:

We're going to talk about the Wisconsin today.

Jenn:

Yes, it's so awesome.

Jenn:

For two sailors to talk about

Scott:

the Navy, this is right up my

Jenn:

alley.

Jenn:

I know, I love talking about the U S Navy.

Jenn:

So.

Jenn:

It's the best service and we get to talk about true.

Scott:

Battleship.

Scott:

Yeah.

Scott:

And, and to kind of set the stage, we were trying to make

Scott:

this video for quite some time.

Scott:

So we do talk a little bit about behind the scenes for the YouTube channel.

Scott:

And so we knew w we had a, for our friend, Doug McClafferty, who is a

Scott:

listener of the podcast and reached out, and we were trying to coordinate time

Scott:

to come out and film on the Wisconsin.

Scott:

He connected us with some of the folks who kind of run operations for the.

Scott:

Nauticus in the battleship.

Scott:

Catherine over there, Katherine, over there and Keith Nitka.

Scott:

And so eventually, eventually we got things set up.

Scott:

We got out to the battleship what's constant cause.

Scott:

We only live a couple miles away.

Scott:

Yes.

Scott:

And we got to kind of one-on-one time with Catherine and Keith.

Scott:

And Keith gave us the whole grand tour, but before we get into our

Scott:

discussions with Keith in his time as a sailor on board, the Wisconsin, Let's

Scott:

talk a little bit about the history.

Scott:

Of the

Jenn:

battleships.

Jenn:

Sure.

Jenn:

So I want you to picture.

Jenn:

A true.

Jenn:

Naval battleship.

Jenn:

And this is what the Wisconsin looks like.

Jenn:

These Iowa class battleships.

Jenn:

I had three sets of 16 inch turret guns, and these are huge three barrel guns.

Jenn:

They're they're set in three three barrel increments.

Jenn:

So there's nine of them across the ship.

Jenn:

And it's something you can picture.

Jenn:

There are numbered one.

Jenn:

Two and three and three is behind.

Jenn:

The superstructure.

Jenn:

But the first two are right in front of the superstructure.

Jenn:

So these big three.

Jenn:

16 inch guns, that kind of move in unison.

Jenn:

It's very awe inspiring when you see, this is what this ship did.

Jenn:

It was

Scott:

it's very classic world war two.

Scott:

If you've had a toy battleship in your hand, like that's what, that's

Scott:

what you would most likely have.

Scott:

It was a gunner.

Jenn:

Yeah, it was this what's the, this ship was designed to

Jenn:

take down ships and aircraft.

Jenn:

And actually then for desert storm, it's going to bomb

Scott:

land targets, provide Naval surface

Jenn:

fire support.

Jenn:

Yes.

Jenn:

And the very tip of the bow, which is the front of the ship Naval terms here.

Jenn:

You'll see the anchors.

Jenn:

So the anchors are very tip of the bow and their chains are laid out on the very top.

Jenn:

Of the, of the deck of the deck.

Jenn:

Yeah.

Jenn:

And then you see 64.

Jenn:

That's its number.

Jenn:

It's the highest number.

Jenn:

Last number of the battleships it's painted right there

Jenn:

on the bow of the hull.

Jenn:

And then on the very back of the ship, fantail stern, all these Naval terms I

Jenn:

want you guys to know is the helo deck.

Jenn:

So that's where they would land their aircraft.

Jenn:

During desert storm, it's helicopters.

Jenn:

They do have drones on board.

Jenn:

During world war two, they were able to launch sea planes and then they

Jenn:

would have to get them from the ocean and they had a crane on the back.

Jenn:

I don't think I realized that, pick them up out of the ocean because you couldn't

Jenn:

really land it back onto the deck.

Jenn:

They could launch it off because it had a catapult.

Jenn:

But you couldn't land it.

Jenn:

So that's kind of how CR.

Jenn:

Air operations worked on a battleship.

Jenn:

And what were two.

Jenn:

And

Scott:

to end to put it into, USS battleship kind of to compare it

Scott:

to the, the ships of today, to what's now a guided missile cruiser,

Scott:

guided missile destroyers frigates.

Scott:

There's really no more frigates that are operating right now.

Scott:

But when I was on a cruiser, We had about 300 or 350 sailors.

Scott:

There's destroyers today, they run about 250 sailors.

Scott:

And then there's ships kind of, smaller, And then from the cruisers,

Scott:

you jump up to the big ones, right?

Scott:

You.

Scott:

The aircraft carriers, the amphibious ships.

Scott:

That are running.

Scott:

We were on the Tarawa.

Scott:

We added about a 1200 person crew.

Scott:

This battleship.

Scott:

Right there, the Wisconsin, the, I have a class.

Scott:

I mean, they had 1500 sailors.

Scott:

Onboard that's how large and, and, and.

Scott:

Okay, how much they had on board.

Scott:

It was really interesting to me to see.

Scott:

A ship.

Scott:

That was used for almost 50 years.

Scott:

And now obviously it was decommission and recommission, but over 50 years, starting

Scott:

in world war two and eventually in.

Scott:

In the Gulf launching tomahawks?

Scott:

Yes.

Scott:

That's

Jenn:

wild.

Jenn:

Well, I think the ship to me when I was on it.

Jenn:

It was very reminiscent of what you would find on an aircraft carrier.

Jenn:

Because it was where men lived.

Jenn:

Yeah.

Jenn:

We did today.

Jenn:

Do men do sailors and women live on ships sometimes.

Jenn:

And up until Before, and then they go into the barracks.

Jenn:

But during the war war two times when this ship was built, you lived on the ship.

Jenn:

And so there's a post office.

Jenn:

There's an ice cream place.

Jenn:

There's a barbershop.

Jenn:

Now you have, you will find those things on other ships, smaller in detailed,

Jenn:

but they were bigger on this ship.

Jenn:

And.

Jenn:

Again, it reminded me of what an aircraft carrier looks like.

Jenn:

It's that scale.

Jenn:

It's that scale.

Jenn:

Now I will say as an aviator, a Naval aviator.

Jenn:

I don't know a lot about ships until I did my disassociated tour, which was the

Jenn:

tour you do when you become an officer of the deck and you learn about Navy ships.

Jenn:

Like when you talk about the bulls-eye.

Jenn:

On the ship.

Jenn:

And we'll talk more about what that is.

Jenn:

I had.

Jenn:

My first couple years in the Navy until I did my Tarawa cruise.

Jenn:

I had no idea what a bullseye was saying.

Jenn:

It was like it's it's.

Jenn:

Sailor mumbo jumbo.

Jenn:

I don't know what they do.

Jenn:

I had no idea how it was shipped.

Jenn:

Worked.

Jenn:

I had no idea how you pulled

Scott:

those in.

Scott:

And if you're wondering what a bullseye is, if you ever, if you

Scott:

ever watched a movie or if you go watch our video, we, till we talk

Scott:

about what it is, But it's the.

Scott:

For lack of a better word.

Scott:

Kind of these, these plaques around the ship, right?

Scott:

It's not even really a plaques, more of a sticker.

Scott:

In every space, in every single space.

Scott:

And that's how you know where you are.

Scott:

You can orient yourself.

Scott:

Where you are in the ship based off of these ships bull's eyes, right?

Scott:

So there's certain numbers followed by dashes and you kind of learn,

Scott:

where you are based on how far forward or how far back you are.

Scott:

Where you are from central line.

Scott:

If you're either port or starboard.

Scott:

And, and.

Scott:

And then what kind of, of space it is?

Scott:

Yes.

Scott:

But let's, let's rewind because we're, we're digging into this stuff.

Scott:

We want to talk about, we're two sailors.

Scott:

Excited to talk about Navy stuff, but let's kind of rewind.

Scott:

So what were the Genesis of what was the Genesis of, of the battleships?

Scott:

They came out of world war

Jenn:

II came out of world war two.

Jenn:

So these, so again, this is Naval warfare and that's why I was getting.

Jenn:

I was talking about how I didn't really appreciate what it takes to be a Navy

Jenn:

sailor, because as the aviator, you don't really get that full grasp until you are.

Jenn:

Doing a disassociated tour, which is you're disassociated from flying.

Jenn:

But.

Jenn:

Being a sailor, an actual.

Jenn:

Maybe warfighter that's what these ships were made for.

Jenn:

And it was constant.

Jenn:

I was.

Jenn:

It was called up and made during world war two.

Jenn:

When America was on this mass production of warfare fighting.

Jenn:

Making planes making guns, making ships.

Jenn:

And so it was laid down in 1941 and completed in 1944.

Jenn:

And then it went right out to the Pacific.

Jenn:

So it was in the battle of Iwo Jima.

Jenn:

It actually shot down a kamikaze.

Jenn:

More than one.

Jenn:

And during a time when kamikazes were taking out.

Jenn:

Ships, like there are three shifts that were sunk by kamikaze and the Wisconsin

Jenn:

prevented that from happening was able to shoot them down before to getting to them.

Jenn:

So this ship was vital during world war II.

Jenn:

Went out there towards the end of the war, but really sealed the deal and some of

Jenn:

these last campaigns against the Japanese.

Jenn:

And again, It's a war fighter.

Jenn:

It's a, it's a, it's a gunship and we don't really make those today.

Jenn:

We have them to some degree, but really we're dropping bombs from aircraft.

Jenn:

That's usually gets more accurate.

Jenn:

It can do a lot more of it.

Jenn:

Well,

Scott:

and, and we've, we've mentioned briefly in podcasts

Scott:

of the past that world war two.

Scott:

I really saw the ship from true Naval power to air power.

Scott:

That really was kind of the shift towards the end of world war II.

Scott:

Yes.

Scott:

We saw that in the Pacific, right with aircraft carriers.

Scott:

We saw that too after Pearl Harbor.

Scott:

Yes.

Scott:

That we were kind of forced into that shift.

Scott:

And so, so there was that shift, but we still had both essentially.

Scott:

And then operationally.

Scott:

When we were out in the Pacific.

Scott:

It was much more about that.

Scott:

And then obviously in the European front, we were just kind of doing

Scott:

air power, all hold to all day long.

Scott:

Yes.

Jenn:

It's commissioned in April of 1944, it gets right out to the Pacific.

Jenn:

It does its job.

Jenn:

It's very successful.

Jenn:

It's a powerful ship.

Jenn:

Sees America through the surrender of Japan comes back and it does this great.

Jenn:

Operation, I think it's called operation Homefront where it gets all the.

Jenn:

Sailors and Marines and troops after world war two and picks them

Jenn:

up from all the random islands.

Jenn:

Oh, cool.

Jenn:

And the Philippines and in the Pacific and starts to bring them home.

Jenn:

And so you can imagine it.

Jenn:

With as big as crew is it has it could, it has more space.

Jenn:

And so it hits Hawaii and then it brings everyone back home to California.

Jenn:

So it's one of those ships, too, that it had a really great homecoming.

Jenn:

Because it's bringing everyone back after world war II, which was a very big deal.

Jenn:

Then after world war two, it comes back here to Norfolk where we are, and

Jenn:

it becomes the basically based here.

Jenn:

And it does a lot of midshipman, cruises and training.

Jenn:

It's really like a, becomes a training ship and it's taking mids.

Jenn:

From the Naval academy, like you were Scott and it takes him to

Jenn:

like Scotland and it takes them over so they can kind of learn.

Jenn:

What excites me on a Navy

Scott:

ship.

Scott:

It's a similar things that I did, as it as Naval academy midshipmen, I did

Scott:

time on how to just destroyer operation

Jenn:

magic carpet, magic carpet, but I loved it so much.

Jenn:

It was a degrade name.

Jenn:

That's

Scott:

cool.

Scott:

Yeah, that's cool.

Scott:

But yes.

Scott:

Doing those types of trainings.

Scott:

The Navy's always thinking about training up the next generation.

Scott:

And so when you have these battleships there's still pretty new by, by Navy

Scott:

standards, by military standards, right?

Scott:

They're going to take it.

Scott:

Hey, was successful in the Pacific.

Scott:

I guarantee you, everybody was studying everything that happened, that

Scott:

everything they could get their hands on.

Scott:

Through of what just happened during world war II.

Scott:

And so of course the Navy is going to send midshipman out to it.

Jenn:

And they, and so they use it for a couple more years after that three

Jenn:

more years, but it's decommissioned in 1948, which I think in July of 48,

Jenn:

which I think probably because of the sizable crew, it needs to maintain.

Jenn:

And it's peace time.

Jenn:

And we're recovering from a war.

Jenn:

And so we're downsizing as a country.

Jenn:

But then Korea happens.

Jenn:

So when North Korea invades, South Korea, it's recommissioned in 1951 and

Jenn:

March and it heads right out to Korea.

Jenn:

And it's part of.

Jenn:

A.

Jenn:

Bombardment of the Republic of Korea, but it also fires artillery rounds.

Jenn:

There it's also the flagship for the Admiral.

Jenn:

So it's used and the Iowa classes are used for that.

Jenn:

So it's relieved by the Iowa.

Jenn:

So they're kind of on a rotation.

Jenn:

Yeah.

Jenn:

Similar to aircraft carriers.

Jenn:

The aircraft carriers today.

Jenn:

We always say what ha when a major conflict happens in America, the

Jenn:

president for a thing goes where my carriers, I imagine at the time it

Jenn:

might've been more where my battleships.

Jenn:

Sure.

Jenn:

And I'm sure the carrier starting to replace that idea.

Jenn:

It's starting to kind of overshadowed, but I think it's still at the time.

Jenn:

Where am I battleships?

Jenn:

Because really those are the the operation of destruction,

Jenn:

really, they are the ones that are carrying the big guns at the time.

Jenn:

And we were moving into aircraft that are doing.

Jenn:

Bigger jobs, but not being launched from carriers.

Jenn:

So we're moving into trying to find that perfect aircraft that can lodge

Jenn:

from a carrier and carry the bombs

Scott:

well, and if you, if you go and watch her video we don't.

Scott:

We do a good job of kind of showing certain parts of the ship.

Scott:

We didn't get that kind of tour for the video as much as we want to.

Scott:

We went back and tour a whole lot later.

Scott:

But the, the, the ship is so massive that ships like, that are actually designed

Scott:

to handle essentially like a staff.

Scott:

Yes.

Scott:

It's the Saint was same thing on the Tarawa.

Scott:

There was a flag bridge.

Scott:

Yeah, flag bridge is literally just for the Admiral and

Scott:

his staff to go hang out on.

Scott:

Yeah.

Scott:

It's.

Scott:

It

Jenn:

was right below the regular bridge.

Jenn:

Right below the regular really serve.

Scott:

No, it served no purpose other than for people to go for the Admiral to have a

Scott:

spot, to have his, have his bridge in, in.

Scott:

So in similar on these Iowa class battleships, They had the CO, right?

Scott:

The commanding officer had kind of multiple state rooms throughout the ship.

Scott:

I imagine if there was an Admiral on board, the Admiral, one of those probably

Scott:

the larger one belongs to the Admiral.

Scott:

Absolutely.

Jenn:

So.

Jenn:

We had talked to Keith about.

Jenn:

Restroom.

Jenn:

Heads are on the ship and why.

Jenn:

And why are they call ahead?

Jenn:

It's because in old Navy, The 16 hundreds, 17 hundreds think John Paul Jones Navy.

Jenn:

The restroom was at the front of the ship.

Jenn:

You went to the bathroom on the bow because you could

Jenn:

lean over the battleground.

Jenn:

And so when you would go to the bathroom and say, I'm going to the

Jenn:

head, I'm going to the head of the ship.

Jenn:

So that term is still used on Navy ships today for the restroom.

Scott:

And Keith was, he was a sailor.

Jenn:

Yes.

Scott:

He was a QM two.

Scott:

So he worked and he was a quartermaster.

Scott:

And he's a quartermaster.

Scott:

He was part of the navigation team.

Scott:

He did all the operations.

Scott:

He actually and go and watch our video.

Scott:

And I think what I may do is add the full on cut.

Scott:

Interview we have with him kind of as a link in the video description of

Scott:

people want to see the full interview.

Scott:

Um, But, but go watch that.

Scott:

Cause he was a QM two.

Scott:

He talks about kind of a little bit of his Navy time and then as time

Scott:

on board and actually like he was there when the call for kicked off.

Scott:

And he went with the ship to the Gulf and he was there during the war.

Jenn:

It was, it's amazing to hear that story and we're going to get into the

Jenn:

Gulf war, but I wanted to say, I had asked them, of course there was no women on

Jenn:

board during the whole time because women didn't come on to combatants till 1993.

Jenn:

It's the commission in 91.

Jenn:

But there was two female heads, two female restrooms.

Jenn:

And I'm like, why?

Jenn:

And he said for the helicopter pilots, which I was a helicopter pilot in

Jenn:

the Navy, but I thought to myself, I went into the, any bathroom.

Jenn:

I went to the closest bathroom from the hanger because you

Jenn:

have to go, it doesn't matter.

Jenn:

And what does it matter?

Jenn:

But but.

Jenn:

I can attest to when we were on the Tarawa together and we would

Jenn:

have dignitaries come on board or other heads of state and wives.

Jenn:

We did have restrooms.

Jenn:

Specifically for dignitaries because we kept those extremely clean.

Jenn:

No one was allowed to use them.

Jenn:

So I did find in 1952 in January, they did have the president of South

Jenn:

Korea and his wife come on board.

Jenn:

And the couple was he full military honors and they came on board and

Jenn:

they were entertained on the ship.

Jenn:

So that would be a purpose for why they had a female head on an

Scott:

all male shop.

Scott:

Yeah.

Scott:

And I actually do show some like a brief clip that they got of the four

Scott:

battleships actually sailing together.

Scott:

And it was, I think it was in 52.

Scott:

Yes.

Scott:

And so that was actually pretty neat to see.

Scott:

And I kind of point out which one the Wisconsin was in the, in the video.

Scott:

But I think that was the last time that all four actually sailed

Scott:

together was in the early fifties.

Jenn:

Yes.

Jenn:

And so everyone knows there were four Iowa class battleships, of course, the Iowa

Jenn:

hoots named after you have the New Jersey, you have the Missouri and the Wisconsin.

Jenn:

And so when everyone ever asks you, what are the four Iowa class battleship

Jenn:

she'll know all named after states?

Jenn:

And if Keith said each one has a little special purpose, then we can,

Jenn:

we can get more into that as we go in.

Jenn:

But into the detail of that.

Jenn:

Podcast, but.

Jenn:

Just know that there's only four of them.

Jenn:

They had commissioned I think,

Scott:

six.

Scott:

But six, but the other two didn't never got finished.

Jenn:

I got finished, but we are going to talk about a piece of, one of them.

Jenn:

That was used.

Jenn:

So after Korea.

Jenn:

It's decommissioned again.

Jenn:

So it's like this board ship is like commission.

Jenn:

I don't know if it's ever been a ship that was commissioned three times.

Scott:

I don't know.

Scott:

I'd have to look into them.

Jenn:

Maybe all.

Jenn:

All the IRA classes where it's very possible.

Jenn:

So it's decommissioned again in March of 1958 after it.

Jenn:

So action in Korea.

Jenn:

It goes to Philadelphia and it sits in those shipyard there, and it sits there

Jenn:

with the other Iowa class battleships.

Jenn:

And this is where Reagan will come into the presidency and 1980.

Jenn:

And his part of his promise is a 600 ship Navy.

Jenn:

And to fulfill that promise, it's easier to look around and

Jenn:

say, what do we have built?

Jenn:

That we can retrofit to modernization.

Jenn:

And not have to rebuild a ship.

Scott:

And that is exactly what they did.

Jenn:

Yeah.

Jenn:

And they did all four of

Scott:

them.

Scott:

Yeah.

Scott:

So I actually found some clips again, this was the recommissioning of the New Jersey.

Scott:

This was December of 1982.

Scott:

So young Scott Benny was all of six months old at the time.

Scott:

And.

Scott:

But it's, it's Reagan standing there, giving kind of the, the, the address.

Scott:

And speaking to the crowd and obviously there's news cameras

Scott:

and everything like that.

Scott:

So I found it on YouTube.

Scott:

But he's talking about.

Scott:

And as Reagan does classic Reagan speech, and he's talking about

Scott:

how much he loves his wife and the leading, she was leading lady.

Scott:

And he's but I fell in love with another leading lady.

Scott:

And then he starts talking about she's gray.

Scott:

She got a facelift and she's now coming back into, into her own.

Scott:

And it was the New Jersey.

Scott:

So Reagan's always cracking jokes, but it was cool to see.

Scott:

Him there.

Scott:

And obviously he's kind of.

Scott:

If you watch more of a club, not in a video, you can find it on YouTube, but

Scott:

if you watch more, he, he kind of he's messaging Congress through his speech.

Scott:

Yes.

Scott:

About kind of how important this is.

Jenn:

That's when the ships are really retrofitted for modernization, they

Jenn:

removed guns that were not be effective against aircraft of the nineties.

Jenn:

They retrofitted it with better radars.

Jenn:

The CWIS.

Jenn:

Things that were going to be more effective.

Jenn:

In the Gulf war, they removed the crane from the back of the ship.

Jenn:

You're not any, you're not picking up planes anymore from the ocean.

Jenn:

And they equipped it with drones.

Jenn:

So that'll be very interesting.

Jenn:

The Gulf war.

Jenn:

I'm going

Scott:

to take key.

Scott:

We've actually talked a little bit about watching some of

Scott:

those drone feeds from the ship.

Scott:

Yeah.

Jenn:

Oh, I did want to talk about one more thing before we get into that.

Jenn:

Sure.

Jenn:

Okay.

Jenn:

So after the Korean war, Before it goes into maintenance, it

Jenn:

goes back into what it was doing.

Jenn:

With the midshipman again, comes back here to Norfolk.

Jenn:

So let's take a midshipman across the, the Atlantic ocean.

Jenn:

It's a very foggy day in.

Jenn:

1956.

Jenn:

May of 1956 and heavy fog right off of the Virginia capes.

Jenn:

The battleship collides with the Eaton.

Jenn:

So the Wisconsin and the Eaton collide and fog.

Jenn:

Xen.

Jenn:

It's a destroyer.

Jenn:

Okay.

Jenn:

So it, if you see pictures, it basically has taken off the nose of this ship.

Jenn:

Right under the anchors.

Jenn:

And almost back to the numbers.

Jenn:

Wow.

Jenn:

So it's it's hull damage.

Jenn:

Like it probably could have sunk it.

Jenn:

If you think about it.

Jenn:

So it's, it's towed back into.

Jenn:

The shipyard here in Norfolk.

Jenn:

But remember when I talked about those Iowa class ships,

Jenn:

they didn't finish the other.

Jenn:

The other two.

Jenn:

They had the hall for the Kentucky.

Jenn:

In Newport news.

Jenn:

So if you know anything about where we are in Norfolk, Newport

Jenn:

news is right across the channel.

Jenn:

And they were able to load the bow of the Kentucky onto a

Jenn:

barge, bring it over to Norfolk.

Jenn:

And just basically graph it onto the new bow in 16 days.

Jenn:

The Wisconsin was seaworthy again and the end of June.

Jenn:

Oh my gosh.

Jenn:

I got hit.

Jenn:

Beginning of may.

Jenn:

And it see where the, again, the end of June in 1956.

Jenn:

And

Scott:

to be honest, right.

Scott:

There's something to be said about the simplicity of some of those older

Jenn:

ships.

Jenn:

Exactly.

Jenn:

And how quick those people worked in the shipyards.

Jenn:

Yeah.

Jenn:

That's when we talk about world war two and what these people were doing.

Jenn:

Turning out this material.

Jenn:

And making things here in America, as fast as they were.

Jenn:

Nobody could catch up with America.

Jenn:

And

Scott:

if.

Scott:

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe Doug.

Scott:

Mentioned that fact to us once I think he did too.

Scott:

That's why it's called.

Scott:

They call it the whiskey.

Scott:

The w I S and then capital K Y, Wisconsin and Kentucky.

Scott:

Yes.

Scott:

So it, because even today it is a hybrid

Jenn:

of the two.

Jenn:

Exactly.

Jenn:

And that that's why they call it that.

Jenn:

So if you hear the big whiskey.

Jenn:

It's because it's a hybrid of the Wisconsin and the Kentucky.

Scott:

That's a pretty cool fact right there.

Jenn:

So it's, recommissioned in October of 1988.

Jenn:

So I think it's the last one.

Jenn:

The Iowa class that's commission, but.

Jenn:

It's commissioned so close that.

Jenn:

This is where Keith gets his orders to the Wisconsin.

Jenn:

August 2nd, 1990 Iraq evades Kuwait.

Jenn:

And then on August 7th the Wisconsin and her battle group were ordered

Jenn:

to deploy in defense of Kuwait for operation desert shield.

Jenn:

And they arrive in the Persian Gulf August 23rd.

Jenn:

I think Keith had said he checked on board.

Jenn:

Like the fifth or 6th of August.

Scott:

What he was saying was that.

Scott:

He was talking about how the ship was supposed to go on

Scott:

next to an extended med cruise.

Scott:

Oh, that's right.

Scott:

So they were supposed to be going all around the med, doing

Scott:

all these port visits there for.

Scott:

Just go up to Scotland and do all this fun stuff.

Scott:

So he was talking about how excited he was about this deployment right here.

Scott:

You are.

Scott:

you're going to go see all over the med and do all these cool things.

Scott:

And all of a sudden, oh yeah, you.

Scott:

Iraq invaded Kuwait.

Scott:

And

Jenn:

plans change.

Jenn:

Yeah.

Jenn:

The five days later.

Jenn:

Yup.

Jenn:

It's evaded on August 2nd, five days later, you're sent to the middle east.

Jenn:

And so he talks about going through the Suez.

Jenn:

So if you know anything about again, geography.

Jenn:

The ship is coming from the east coast.

Jenn:

It has to go through the med.

Jenn:

And then it goes through the Suez, into the Persian Gulf.

Jenn:

That's different.

Jenn:

We were west coast sailors.

Jenn:

We would go across the Pacific.

Jenn:

But they got over there to the approach and golf and.

Jenn:

The whisky there, Wisconsin.

Jenn:

Really.

Jenn:

It's been now retrofitted with Tomahawk missiles.

Jenn:

It's been retrofitted with harpoon missiles.

Jenn:

It's been retrofitted with these really see the air, see the surface,

Jenn:

like these really strong weapons.

Jenn:

And so it just goes down.

Jenn:

Oh, yeah.

Scott:

When he still has a 16 inch guns too.

Scott:

That's the 16 inch guns.

Scott:

So, not only can it launch missiles, but it can provide legitimate.

Scott:

Naval surface, fire support miles inland.

Scott:

With these massive 16 inch guns.

Scott:

I mean, they are.

Scott:

It's mind boggling to me.

Scott:

How big these guns are.

Scott:

You really have to go in person.

Scott:

This is, this is one of those things.

Scott:

On the west coast.

Scott:

I think you can still do tours on the Iowa.

Scott:

Cause it's out there.

Scott:

Yeah.

Scott:

When I was recruiting out there and I was, I was stationed out there.

Scott:

We did some changes command on board.

Scott:

The.

Scott:

Which is pretty cool out here.

Scott:

You have the Wisconsin I'm not sure what the status of, of the other ships

Jenn:

are.

Jenn:

Missouri is in Hawaii.

Jenn:

Okay.

Jenn:

So you can go there and see where the surrender took place so

Jenn:

that the Missouri is known for.

Jenn:

Yep.

Jenn:

And then the New Jersey, I'm not sure if anyone knows, put in the comments.

Jenn:

Yeah.

Scott:

I'm not sure either.

Scott:

But The New Jersey and an absolute amazing visit.

Scott:

And so it kind of, it does it's time on the golf.

Jenn:

That's tied to the Gulf.

Jenn:

And then, like I said, it gets out there and it just immediately.

Jenn:

Sends 11 shells over to Kuwait and just obliterates I Iraq.

Jenn:

Artillery.

Jenn:

In the process of doing this and in the process of kind of making its

Jenn:

name, it sends drones out to kind of search and record and to verify.

Jenn:

Early days of drone use early days of And something very interesting

Jenn:

happen on one of those drone.

Jenn:

Reconnaissance missions.

Jenn:

The Iraqis heard the drone.

Jenn:

And thought it was a missile.

Jenn:

And pulled out white flags and handkerchiefs and

Jenn:

surrendered to the drone.

Jenn:

So the sick well, Or whoever was in CIC.

Jenn:

Took.

Jenn:

Those people as prisoners of war.

Jenn:

I

Scott:

even said that.

Scott:

The story went.

Scott:

Like I, it must've, I think it was probably the, the Tao.

Scott:

But it was whoever the officer was like, stood up and said, those are my prisoners.

Scott:

Those are my prisons.

Jenn:

And so you went to the commanding officer who was captain David Bell at the

Jenn:

time and said, sir, they wanted surrender.

Jenn:

What should I do with them?

Jenn:

So this surrender was Wisconsin's like it became pioneer.

Jenn:

And one of the most remembered moments of the Gulf war, because.

Scott:

This group of, of, soldiers.

Scott:

Surrendered to a drone, which essentially was surrendering to

Scott:

somebody at a ship, miles away.

Scott:

The sitting in a combat information center.

Scott:

In a watch center and a, and the officer in there.

Scott:

It says those are my prisons.

Scott:

I just, I love that story because I can absolutely see

Jenn:

that happen.

Jenn:

Again too, because you can imagine Navy sailors want to be a part of that action.

Jenn:

And so it'd be like you took parts as a war would be such a great

Jenn:

moment for your Naval career.

Jenn:

Yeah.

Jenn:

You

Scott:

know, I would be putting that in my fitrep.

Jenn:

So one of the biggest things that come out of this, and I think it's a

Jenn:

really good nod to the battleship Navy is one of the Saudi Marine commanders

Jenn:

commented over the radio that he wished that his Navy had battleships.

Jenn:

And I think it's a really good testimony to what the Navy does

Jenn:

and Navy heritage that this ships are here to fight their war ships.

Jenn:

And what the whiskey did in the Gulf war was, was pretty

Scott:

amazing.

Scott:

Yeah, it was pretty amazing.

Jenn:

During the eight months it's been in the Persian Gulf.

Jenn:

It flew 348.

Jenn:

Drone hours.

Jenn:

It recorded 661 safe helicopter landings.

Jenn:

It fired 319 16 inch rounds.

Jenn:

And it lasts 24 Tomahawk cruise missiles.

Jenn:

And then all four remaining battleships that were

Jenn:

decommissioned after the Gulf war.

Jenn:

And this was the last time.

Jenn:

Any.

Jenn:

The United States battleship act participated in a war and

Jenn:

it was the Wisconsin who was the last ship to fire those guns.

Jenn:

And wartime

Scott:

in combat and combat one of the things that Keith told us it.

Scott:

It wasn't the last ship to fire existing 16 inch gun.

Scott:

But it was the last one to do so.

Scott:

In combat

Jenn:

combat.

Jenn:

And so it's decommissioned for good.

Jenn:

September 30th, 1990

Scott:

1, 19 91.

Scott:

So far from there,

Scott:

then it kind of spends some.

Scott:

The Wisconsin specifically.

Scott:

I remember spent some time just kind of sitting in the sit around doing nothing.

Scott:

And I believe that was right around 2006.

Scott:

And it got kind of donated or turned into a museum?

Scott:

Yes.

Jenn:

March, 2006.

Jenn:

It came over to one Waterside drive.

Jenn:

Here in Norfolk, part of the Nauticus museum and became.

Jenn:

Retrofitted.

Jenn:

A lot of things were, had been removed from it.

Jenn:

Of course Navy likes to repurpose and we use things.

Jenn:

A lot of things were removed from it, but it became a museum ship.

Jenn:

Where we see today, which you can go on today.

Jenn:

And.

Jenn:

The motto is Forward for freedom.

Jenn:

The big whiskey has six battle stars.

Jenn:

It has the wood decks.

Jenn:

I get people who ask me, why, why does the battleship have a wood deck?

Jenn:

And this is true of all four of them give you see there

Jenn:

was surrender on the Missouri.

Jenn:

You'll notice there on a wood deck.

Jenn:

And if you ever see.

Jenn:

Different museums will have pieces of the wood deck from that deck.

Jenn:

And you'd be like, oh my gosh, that's a word deck for the battleship Missouri.

Jenn:

Teak word is used for these battleship decks, because a it's

Jenn:

it's very durable and strong.

Jenn:

It was less expensive at the time now where it is kind of more expensive,

Jenn:

but at the time it's less expensive than, than a steel deck than.

Jenn:

In a steel deck.

Jenn:

But the most important thing is the insulation and the relief of heat.

Jenn:

It gives to the crew inside the ship.

Jenn:

Because when you think about where are these 1600 men.

Jenn:

They're inside the ship.

Jenn:

And since this elbow, air conditioning and world war II.

Jenn:

With a metal deck.

Jenn:

It's basically you could be baking people inside with the heat.

Jenn:

Oh yes.

Scott:

My room in the Tarawa.

Scott:

I was right below the flight deck.

Scott:

And I got all the sun.

Scott:

And we had quote unquote, air conditioning.

Scott:

It was just a nice little sauna.

Scott:

in Ensign Bennie's a state

Jenn:

room.

Jenn:

So the would provide some of that absorption of the heat

Jenn:

and insulation from the heat.

Jenn:

And that, that was the biggest purpose of it.

Jenn:

It's also lighter buoyant, all these other things.

Scott:

So, so the Wisconsin.

Scott:

The Nauticus itself right there.

Scott:

I mean, it's a full, you could spend the vast majority of a day

Scott:

there with your family doing both.

Scott:

The Nauticus side of things and the, and the battleship Wisconsin side of things.

Scott:

So it was kind of two pieces of this.

Scott:

You're, you're kind of paying a ticket to get the vast

Scott:

majority of, of, of one thing.

Scott:

But they have tours that go around the Wisconsin.

Scott:

They show you and all the tour guides were fantastic.

Scott:

I mean, Doug, we've, we kind of chatted with him for, for quite some time.

Scott:

But they all know they're all passionate about it,

Scott:

they, most of them have served in some form or fashion, whether it's army Navy.

Scott:

Whatever it, whatever it is, and you're often seeing, it's because

Scott:

it's in the Norfolk area, you're seeing retirement ceremonies there.

Scott:

You're seeing all sorts of different actually official Naval ceremonies.

Scott:

There I am MC'd.

Scott:

Our retirement ceremony there within you came as, as a guest, Two months

Jenn:

ago.

Jenn:

I will say we have been on that ship when it was blistering hot.

Jenn:

And we have been on that ship when it was freezing cold.

Jenn:

We've been, they do a fantastic Christmas where they decorate the ship with lights.

Jenn:

That's great.

Jenn:

It's pretty amazing.

Jenn:

And we brought the kids to that, but I've been on retirement

Jenn:

ceremonies with you and you're in full uniform and we're sweating it.

Jenn:

But.

Jenn:

Like you said, people who work there are so passionate about

Jenn:

that ship and love that ship.

Jenn:

And they love bringing any veteran who have served on that ship on board.

Jenn:

They really do a great service.

Jenn:

Even if you can't walk around the ship, they have cameras set up where

Jenn:

you can sit on the first deck and they'll take the cameras to any space.

Jenn:

You worked in a, you want to see, and they'll show you the space.

Jenn:

You can see it.

Jenn:

You can show your family, the space, even if you can't walk because a Navy ship,

Jenn:

I will tell people is a lot of stairs.

Jenn:

It's a lot of ladders.

Scott:

They don't build military ships, to be kinda handicapped compliant.

Scott:

That's just, that's just not the nature of things.

Scott:

They did a really good job.

Scott:

And I'm glad you brought that up of accommodating people who

Scott:

still want to come to the ship.

Scott:

Maybe they've served a very long time ago or whatever it was.

Scott:

And.

Scott:

So there is you can walk kind of across the gangplank.

Scott:

Right across the, across the brow.

Scott:

You can get in there.

Scott:

And if you don't, if you can't climb ladders and stuff like that,

Scott:

they have that station essentially inside the ship with all those,

Scott:

that just kind of a bank of screens.

Scott:

What are these screens?

Scott:

Will the screens go to these cameras that they set up around the ship?

Scott:

Which I thought was so cool.

Jenn:

Yeah.

Jenn:

So they can take it to the engineering space.

Jenn:

We worked in the engineering spaces.

Jenn:

I've talked about that.

Jenn:

It's so great.

Jenn:

If you want to go back and visit, but you can't do the stairs anymore,

Jenn:

but you want to show your family.

Jenn:

You can still go there and see the place that you've served your country.

Jenn:

And.

Jenn:

That's I love this ship.

Jenn:

I love the Navy, but I love the passion that people have for it.

Jenn:

I love how well they tell the story.

Jenn:

I love how well they keep up this ship.

Jenn:

It is amazing to be on it.

Jenn:

And they preserved so many things on it that even when we stepped on

Jenn:

board, It's smelled like the Navy, like the mess decks smelled like mid

Jenn:

rats, mid rats is when you can get food at midnight, midnight rations.

Jenn:

Because you've worked all day or like me, I flew and I just got

Jenn:

done flying and I missed dinner.

Jenn:

And they have little bits of lunch, leftover dinner

Jenn:

leftover even some breakfast.

Jenn:

And so you can eat.

Jenn:

Something, some something more meal.

Jenn:

Yeah, and

Scott:

it brings back so many

Jenn:

memories.

Jenn:

It really was amazing.

Jenn:

And I'm really thankful to the USS Wisconsin and their crew who provide,

Jenn:

who allowed us to come on board and tell some great CS stories.

Jenn:

And I'm really thankful that that we were able to do that.

Jenn:

But if you want to get out there and see it, we definitely recommend doing it.

Jenn:

The Nauticus tells a great story of the Navy in that area in Norfolk.

Jenn:

There's a lot of good Naval history there.

Jenn:

It's one of the oldest harbors here in America.

Jenn:

You got the battle of the ironclads you got George Washington,

Jenn:

you got some good stories.

Scott:

A little museum display inside that you can walk through.

Scott:

They were like actually doing some work.

Scott:

Some some more work.

Scott:

I'm sure by the time this, this episode comes out, like

Scott:

some of that may, may be up.

Jenn:

Yeah, they have a really good, they have some great artifacts from the battle

Jenn:

of the ironclads and they really want to showcase that even more, but it's a great.

Jenn:

Spot to visit, especially if you want to pay some homage to world war

Jenn:

two, Korea, Gulf war Navy, or you just want to see a really awesome.

Jenn:

Last battleship, it's there waiting for you.

Jenn:

Yeah.

Scott:

I just enjoyed it so much.

Scott:

And we've been there, a few times now kind of in the span of a couple months.

Scott:

Highly recommended.

Scott:

Very easy to find you don't need links in our show notes to find it.

Scott:

You can Google us the USS Wisconsin, battleship, Wisconsin.

Scott:

He'll be able to find a pretty easy.

Scott:

So as we lower the anchor on this episode, Remember that the sea of

Scott:

history is vast and we have only scratched the surface, even talking

Scott:

about the battleship Wisconsin.

Scott:

We extend our deepest gratitude to the sailors who served on board

Scott:

the Wisconsin over the years.

Scott:

And those like Keith who share their tales, those guardians of

Scott:

the sea who braved the storm.

Scott:

If you're ever in the Norfolk area, you have to visit the Wisconsin, the history,

Scott:

the guides, the grandeur of the battleship are a must see for any history fan.

Scott:

And definitely.

Scott:

For any sailor out there.

Scott:

So thank you for listening to talk with history podcast, and please

Scott:

reach out to us at our website.

Scott:

Talk with history.com, but more importantly, if you know someone

Scott:

else that might enjoy this podcast, your sailor buddies out there.

Scott:

Please share this with them.

Scott:

Shoot him a text and tell him to look us up.

Scott:

We rely on you, our community to grow, and we appreciate you all every day.

Scott:

We'll talk to you next time.

Scott:

Thank you.

About the Podcast

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Talk With History
A Historian and Navy Veteran talk about traveling to historic locations

About your hosts

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Scott B

Host of the Talk With History podcast, Producer over at Walk with History on YouTube, Editor of HistoryNewsletter.com
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Jennifer B

Former Naval Aviator turned Historian and a loyal Penn Stater. (WE ARE!) I earned my Masters in American History and graduate certificate in Museum Studies, from the University of Memphis.

The Talk with History podcast gives Scott and me a chance to go deeper into the details of our Walk with History YouTube videos and gives you a behind-the-scenes look at our history-inspired adventures.

Join us as we talk about these real-world historic locations and learn about the events that continue to impact you today!

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Thank you for the great podcasts and for sharing your passion! Love hearing about the locations you visit.