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USS New Mexico: “The Queen of the Fleet”

Born: 1917 - Died: 7-19-1946

She was known as “the Queen of the Fleet,” and her story still commands our respect.  From her launch in April 1917 to the end of her service in 1946, she was the finest battleship of the Pacific fleet. Christened with champagne and the waters of the Río Grande, she carried the name of New Mexico through two world wars, fought in fierce combat, and served as a witness to peace.

One of the Navy’s newest nuclear submarines now carries the name New Mexico and, like her predecessor, she, too, is among the most advanced ships of her class. New Mexico scientists have been instrumental in the development of her nuclear technology. And although her fire power is awesome, perhaps her greatest service to us is as a silent deterrent to aggression, expressed in her motto, “Defendemos Nuestra Tierra” - We Defend Our Land.

The Queen
With the first turbo-electric motor drive, her four propellers allowed her to cruise at 21 knots. She displaced 33,400 tons.  Overall, she was 626 feet long and 106 feet wide. Her impressive strength resided in twelve, 14-inch guns, placed on four turrets. She carried 80 anti-aircraft guns as well as sea planes for search and reconnaissance.

At the end of World War I, Scott Paradise wrote to his sister from aboard the USS New Mexico returning from France after escorting President Woodrow Wilson:

 “Saturday the 15th [Feb] we were all expectation waiting for the President. Suddenly we heard a gun on shore and immediately the crew ‘manned the rail,’…while the band played ‘The Star Spangled Banner,’ and every ship in the harbor began to fire 21 guns of salute. As the firing stopped we could hear the last notes of the National Hymn floating across the water from the other ships. In the meantime the President had gone aboard the ‘George Washington…’ As a last compliment a French destroyer dashed by us with the crew standing at present arms at the rail, while our band played the ‘Marseillaise…’

“Then we set out with the ‘New Mexico’ in the lead, the ‘George Washington’ behind and two destroyers on each side.”

The battleship served as a flagship of the US Pacific Fleet and played vital roles during World War II. First sent to Pearl Harbor, the ship was deployed to protect our eastern seaboard in mid-1941, barely missing the attack on the Hawaiian port. In 1945, during the pre-landing bombardment of Luzon, the ship suffered a hit from a kamikaze plane, killing the commanding officer and 29 crewmen. After repairs at Pearl Harbor, the ship sailed to Okinawa for the invasion and, on May 11, was hit again by a kamikaze plane and a bomb. The resulting fire killed 54 men and wounded 119; the remaining crewmen continued to fight. On Sept. 2, 1945, the ship and her crew entered Tokyo Bay to witness Japan’s surrender.

The ship was decommissioned on July 19, 1946, and sold for scrap the next year. For her World War II service, the ship received six battle stars.

Today’s New Mexico

“When the Navy named one of its new fast-attack nuclear submarines after New Mexico, it bestowed a great honor upon our state,” Brown said. “USS New Mexico (SSN-779) is a tribute to all who served onboard our namesake battleship and is a salute to all New Mexicans who have served, and are serving, in our Armed Forces.”

“New Mexico” at Sea

Landlocked New Mexico has a long-standing relationship with the Navy. Since New Mexico statehood, Navy ships have carried the name of the state and many of our cities, towns and tribes:

State Cities Counties
USS New Mexico (BB-40) USS Alamogordo (ARDM-2) USS Bernalillo County (LST-306)
USS New Mexico (SSN-779) USS Albuquerque (PF-7) USS Catron (APA-71)
  USS Albuquerque (SSN-606) USS Eddy County (LST-759)
Tribes USS Gallup (PF-47) USS Hidalgo (AK-189)
USS Acoma (SP-1228) USS Los Alamos (AFDB-7) USS Sandoval (APA-194)
USS Apache (1889) USS Santa Fe (CL-60) USS Torrance (AKA-76)
USS Jicarilla (ATF-104) USS Santa Fe (SSN-763) USS Valencia (AKA-81)
USS Navajo (AT-64) USS Tucumcari (PGH-2)  
USS Zuni (ATF-95)  
 

Rivers & Regions

USS Caliente (AO-53)
USS Cimarron (AO-22)
USS Cimarron (AO-177)
USS Gila River (LSMR-504)
USNS Pecos (T-AO-197)
USS Rio Grande (AOG-3)
USS Tularosa (AOG-43)
USS White Sands (ARD-20)