enter image description here

Can anyone explain the reason why a wreck of a battleship lies in the Nevada desert as it is represented in the picture above?

  • 11
    You are correct, this is a gun turret belonging to a battleship, the Space Battleship Yamato, which in its resting position is 95% buried beneath the desert floor, but when she rises, is a sight to behold. How did you manage to get this picture taken? Aug 16 '13 at 6:57
  • @EugeneSeidel: Awesome, I did not know they made of movie of it. Thank you!!! Aug 16 '13 at 8:11
  • 1
    @Eugene, I was searching for The Flying Dutchman, but suddenly I came across that battleship. Aug 16 '13 at 8:31

The reason for battleship parts lying in Nevada Desert is (from nps.gov) :

The gun barrel was taken off the Missouri during the Korean War (battleship guns were removable) when the ship was refurbished. The gun barrel was put into storage at the Naval Weapons Depot at Hawthorne, Nevada, for possible re-use aboard another battleship. But it was never remounted and lay in the Nevada desert alongside eighteen other battleship gun barrels for more then forty years

The picture above is of the gun turret converted into a sensor:

This gun turret was removed from a pre-1940s scrapped U.S. Navy Heavy Cruiser. It was developed by Lawrence Livermore Radiation Laboratory for line-of-sight diagnostics. Basically, the turret could be used on multiple atmospheric nuclear tests by rotating it and adjusting the elevation to aim at the tower cab. This eliminated the need of constructing new line-of-sight equipment for each test.

  • 6
    And why is the Nevada desert used to store battleship parts? Because it is very, very, dry, helping to prevent rust from accumulating. Aug 16 '13 at 13:03
  • The reason for this particular battleship part being in Nevada is for a completely different reason: That's where they did the nuclear testing. The bit about the gun barrel is really not directly relevant here. Aug 16 '13 at 14:08
  • 2
    But +1 for finding the bit about the turret. I did wonder why they didn't use a real gun barrel. Aug 16 '13 at 15:27
  • An actual gun barrel is massive, to contain the explosion and twist the shell it fires. Elevating one would take a massive motor and bracing. Since they don't need that, they can use a lighter tube and a smaller motor.
    – Oldcat
    Dec 5 '14 at 19:09

That's not a battleship wreck. It's a naval gun turret.

Looking at the internet it's referenced as a "clean steel sensor", and has something to do with the nuclear tests in Nevada.

Although it's claimed to be German and from WWI it doesn't look like German gun turrets, it is in fact of an American type.

US gun turrets

  • Lennart, may I ask you from were that gun turret was retrieved? And why on the earth were atomic tests conducted using such an old armament? After all there were a lot of battleship wreks from WW2 that could be more productively used, included the ones owned by Americans. Aug 15 '13 at 23:54
  • @AarãoXistoSalazar Yes, you may ask. I have no idea where it came from. There may not have been any gun turrets from modern ships available, and even if it was it would hardly make a difference. Steel is steel. Aug 16 '13 at 2:38
  • The design does not conform to any WW1 or WW2 German capital ship turret I'm familiar with (and I've made some study of German ship designs of the era). To me it looks more like a coastal defense battery, or maybe something from a border fortress (which would preclude German origin as the Germans didn't use those).
    – jwenting
    Aug 16 '13 at 5:29
  • It also clearly sits in a concrete pit and has scaffolding attached to allow easy access, making it likely it was intended to to be manned. Could indeed be a relic of nuclear testing, but if so more likely an observation post and sensor station rather than a bomb target.
    – jwenting
    Aug 16 '13 at 5:31
  • 1
    @jwenting There is no purpose of having a test-structure in a nuclear test unless it's reasonably close to an actual structure. Otherwise you can't assess what the damage would be. And how would they put in sensors like radiation meters inside, and check out the values after the blast, if they can't access the inside? So, your conjecture is incorrect. Aug 16 '13 at 8:49

The turret design is indeed USN and was used on three classes of heavy cruiser (NOT battleship), Pensacola class, Northampton class, and 2 of the Portland class. Of these 10 ships:

  • 4 were lost to enemy action in WW2 (Northampton, Chicago, Houston, and Indianapolis)

  • 2 were used in Operation Crossroads (both survived tests able and baker) and were sunk as target ships off the coast of Calif and Wash state (Pensacola and Salt Lake City) with all turrets in place

  • 4 survived the war and were scrapped on the east coast (Chester, Louisville, Portland and Augusta). Augusta was sold to a private individual (Robert Benjamin), three were scrapped in Panama City Fl.

The turret could only have come from these last 4. Further research would be required to determine which one (it took two hours using the web to find what I have posted here).

The reason for using a turret from this vintage ship was that all ships made after atomic testing are made with steel that has radioactive contamination (from the above ground tests performed between 1945 and 1963). All steel made thereafter suffers from this contamination and the scientists at the nevada test site wanted something that did not suffer from this issue.

The turret was part of several above ground tests at the NTS in the 1950's

UPDATE: It was taken off of the USS Louisville after she was damaged by two Kamikaze attacks in Jan 1945. See the technical report I developed at Lawrence Livermore National Lab: report number LLNL-TR-679776, "The Mystery of the Gun Turret in the Desert". Go to http://library.llnl.gov/uhtbin/cgisirsi/0/0/0/60/26/X and search for LLNL-TR-679776.

R. Hoffman

  • Welcome to History @rob. Great first answer! Can you support it with links to sources?
    – andy256
    Apr 4 '15 at 5:56
  • Sigh indeed man
    – Rohit
    Apr 4 '15 at 17:04

That turret appears to be from the pensacola class heavy cruisers in service until 1947. Interestingly enough, both ships of this class were used in operation Crossroads and then sunk as targets in 1948.

  • 2
    Welcome to the site! Unfortunately, this answer doesn't actually answer the question or cite a reference source which may help others to reach this answer. Mar 17 '14 at 21:48

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.