Arkansas Vessels

In it’s nearly two hundred years of being a state, Arkansas has been the name of only five naval vessels, four named in the United States Navy and one in the Confederate States Navy. Each vessel was vastly different from the others, each made with a particular task within the navy.

The first of the vessels was CSS Arkansas, an ironclad ship used by the Confederates. This Arkansas had the shortest life, serving less than a month before it was scuttled in Louisiana.
Type:Ironclad Warship
Keel Laid:October 1861
Displacement:Approximately 800 tons
Length:165 ft.
Beam:35 ft.
Speed:8 knots
Complement:232 Officers and Men

CSS Arkansas was constructed for the Confederate States Navy. Construction started in October of 1861; Arkansas was in a dry dock at Memphis, Tennessee next to the sister ship, CSS Tennessee. In April 1862, Arkansas was removed from the dock unfinished to prevent capture when Memphis fell. Arkansas was put back into dry dock at Greenwood, Mississippi, and finished in June of 1862.

Arkansas’s first battle was at Vicksburg. July 15, 1862, Arkansas came across three Union vessels, the ironclad Carondelet, the wooden gunboat Tyler, and the ram Queen of the WestArkansas quickly disabled Carondelet with a shot through its steering mechanism. The other two vessels went back to the Union Fleet. Following the vessels, Arkansas went in close to the fleet and started to exchange fire with them. Arkansas passed them without taking a hit and arrived at Vicksburg. That night the Union Fleet ran past the batteries at Vicksburg and attempted to destroy Arkansas. Although unsuccessful, one shot did land on Arkansas killing two men and wounding three.

With the appearance of Arkansas at Vicksburg, and the need for the army to take the town, the commander of the Union Fleet, Flag Officer David G. Farragut, got orders to retreat back to New Orleans. Arkansas went to dock at Grenada, Mississippi, where the captain could repair the engines. However before they could start the repairs, they were ordered to go to Baton Rouge, where Arkansas would support an attack on the Union position there. On the way to Baton Rouge the engines broke several times showing how unreliable they were. On the morning of August 6, Arkansas caught sight of USS Essex and moved to engage the ship when both engines failed. With nothing they could do, the Captain abandoned ship after rigging it to explode. At about noon on the same day, with the Union fleet watching at a distance, Arkansas was scuttled, coming to rest ten miles north of Baton Rouge.

The steamer ship USS Arkansas was built in Pennsylvania and bought by the Union during the Civil War in 1863, two months before the Union occupation of Arkansas.

The steamer was used as a tender and supply ship for the Union blockade of the Confederate Gulf coast. It was decommissioned after the war and sold.

Keel Laid:Early 1863
Displacement:752 tons
Length:191 ft.
Beam:30 ft.
Speed:15 knots
Complement:88 Officers and Men

USS Arkansas was a screw steamer built at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1863 during the United States’ Civil War. Purchased by the Union Navy on June 27; Arkansas was commissioned on June 29. Assigned to the West Gulf Blockading Squadron, Arkansas reported for duty on October 10. Arkansas resupplied the Squadron to keep up the blockade, which took her as far south as Brownsville, Texas. After the fall of the Confederacy, Arkansas was taken to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where she was decommissioned on June 30, 1865. Sold to Mr. George S. Leach, Arkansas was redocumented as Tonawanda on August 1 and served as a coastal merchantman. Tonawanda was stranded on the Elbow, a reef near Key Largo, Florida, and was lost on March 28, 1866.

The Monitor USS Arkansas was one of the last monitors built for the United States Navy. Launched in 1900 and commissioned in 1902, it served many different roles while in the navy. It was in the Washington D.C. Naval Militia and then refitted as a submarine tender. It served in the Gulf of Mexico and with the Atlantic fleet up until it was decommissioned in 1919 and sold for scrap in 1922.
Class:Arkansas- class monitor
Keel Laid:November 14, 1899
Displacement:3,225 long tons
Length:255 feet, 1 inch
Beam:50 feet
Speed:12.5 knots
Complement:220 Officers and Men

Being the second USS Arkansas, this single-turreted monitor was one of the last monitors built for the United States Navy. Laid down in November of 1899, it took little less than a year to build Arkansas, but was not commissioned until October 28, 1902. One of Arkansas’s first duties was as an instruction and cruise ship for midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy. Afterwords, Arkansas was assigned to the Coast Squadron, North Atlantic Fleet, cruising around the east coast, in the Gulf of Mexico, and in the Caribbean.

After serving as Arkansas for nearly seven years, in March of 1909, the vessel was renamed USS Ozark. At that point, Ozark was assigned to the District of Columbia Naval Militia from 1910 to 1913. Later that year Ozark was refitted in Norfolk, Virginia, as a submarine tender. Transferring to the Atlantic Fleet in 1915, Ozark operated in the Chesapeake Bay area. During World War I Ozark was attached to Submarine Division 6, and patrolled in the Gulf of Mexico. After the war, Ozark stayed in the Gulf of Mexico. Ozark went back to dry dock in June of 1919. After which Ozark was decommissioned in Philadelphia in August. Three years later, Ozark was sold.

The fourth vessel, and the longest serving vessel, was USS Arkansas (BB 33). It was a dreadnought battleship and second member of the Wyoming class in the United States Navy. It was commissioned in 1912 and served in both World Wars in the twentieth century and was a part of Operation Magic Carpet, returning many service men back home. The battleship came to rest at Bikini Atoll during Operation Crossroads where it was used as a target in 1946.
Class:Wyoming-class battleship
Keel:January 25, 1910
Commissioned:January 14, 1911
Displacement:26,000 tons
Length:562 feet
Beam:93 feet
Speed:20.5 knots
Complement:1,063 Officers and Men

The fourth “Arkansas” named vessel, the USS Arkansas (BB 33) had the longest, most illustrious service history compared to the other vessels of the same name. A Wyoming-class dreadnought battleship, Arkansas served before the Great War, during both worlds wars, and two operations after World War II. Winning many awards during its service, including the American Campaign medal and the World War II Victory medal, Arkansas served with distinction. Arkansas’s end was one to be remembered, being a target for BAKER.

Pre-World War I:

Right after commissioning, Arkansas participated in a fleet review in October of 1912, for President William Howard Taft. After President Taft came aboard Arkansas, it transported him to the Panama Canal, which was under inspection. Then Arkansas went on its shakedown cruise. Completing the cruise Arkansas was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet and participated in fleet maneuvers off the east coast of the United States.

In early 1914, there was an international incident with Mexico which ended up in the American occupation of Veracruz. Arkansas was used in the occupation and contributed four companies of naval infantry. Two of the crewmen were killed in the fighting while John Grady and Jonas H. Ingram, officers aboard Arkansas, received the Medal of Honor for their actions during the occupation.

After the Occupation of Veracruz, Arkansas returned to its normal duties with the Atlantic Fleet patrolling off the east coast and participating in maneuvers with the fleet. Arkansas next big assignment did not come until 1917.

World War I:

It was on April 6, 1917, that the United States declared war on Germany and entered into the First World War. At that point Arkansas was assigned to Battleship Division 7 stationed in Virginia. After training the crew for fourteen months, Arkansas was sent to Britain to relieve USS Delaware (BB 28) which was assigned to operate with the Grand Fleet in the 6th Battle Squadron. Taking Delaware’s place, Arkansas saw no action as both the British and German fleets had given up direct confrontations. When the Armistice with Germany was sign on November 11, 1918, The Grand Fleet, a combination of British, French, and American ships, including Arkansas, took part of escorting the High Seas Fleet, the German Fleet, to Scapa Flow, a bay north east of Scotland, where it was scuttled.

Inter-War Period:

Returning from the war on December 26, 1918, Arkansas and the rest of the fleet underwent a Naval Review for the Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels. After which Arkansas was attached to the Atlantic Fleet, where it patrolled off the east coast, underwent trainings and cruises, and went on goodwill missions to other countries, having many high level delegates aboard, like President Arturo Alessandri Palma of Chile and King Christian X of Denmark. In August 1921, Arkansas became the flagship of the Commander, Battleship Force, in the Atlantic fleet. Arkansas also participated in Midshipmen cruises, taking Navy Cadets out for training. Arkansas continued to do these operations throughout the inter-war period in the Atlantic Ocean.

World War II:

With the entry into the Second World War, the United States and Arkansas prepared for battle. During the attack on Pearl Harbor, Arkansas was station at Cisco, Main patrolling in the North Atlantic. Throughout most of the war, Arkansas stayed with the Atlantic Fleet and patrolled of the east coast as well as England. Arkansas first battle during the war was on D-Day, where it brought support fire to the army forces landing at Omaha Beach. In January of 1945, Arkansas was transferred to the Pacific Fleet, where it helped the Marine forces on both Iwo Jima in February, and Okinawa in April. After giving support to troops on Okinawa, Arkansas remained in the area, staying in the Philippines until August when it got word that Japan had surrendered.

Post World War II Operations:

After the war, Arkansas participated in Operation Magic Carpet bringing around 3,200 men back to the continental United States from the Pacific. In April of 1946, Arkansas got orders to go to Bikini Atoll to be used for Operation Crossroads. On July 25, 1946, during the operation Arkansas was sunk by the underwater nuclear test BAKER, completing its final mission.

For more information, as well as to see items from the USS Arkansas (BB-33) and a video of Operation Crossroads, please come visit the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum.

The last of the vessels, USS Arkansas (CGN 41), was a Virginia-class nuclear-propelled guided-missile cruiser. Its primary mission was defending aircraft carrier task forces from both the air and from below. Cruiser was decommissioned in 1998 and entered the Navy’s recycling program.
Class:Virginia- class Cruiser
Keel Laid:January 17, 1977
Commissioned:October 18, 1980
Displacement:9,473 tons
Length:585 feet
Beam:63 feet
Speed:30+ Knots
Complement:473 Officers and Men

USS Arkansas (CGN 41), a Virginia-class nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser, was the most recent vessel to bear the name “Arkansas”. For the first few months after her commissioning, Arkansas had several deficiencies from construction corrected. Her shakedown cruise was postponed until February of 1981 with the rest of that year mostly taken up with other practice and test missions. It was not until mid-October in 1982 that Arkansas was assigned to the sixth fleet in the Mediterranean Sea. Her duties were in support of a multinational peacekeeping force off the coast of Lebanon. While there Arkansas also participated in maneuvers off the coast of Libya. Arkansas ended the tour on station near Lebanon in May 1983.

Afterwards, Arkansas was moved to Alameda, California, where she continued normal operation until 1984. In June of 1984, Arkansas went on a deployment that became a circumnavigation of the globe. Going from California, Arkansas went first to the Hawaiian Islands, then to the Philippines and Hong Kong and stopped in the Indian Ocean. The missile cruiser stayed in the area of the Arabian Sea for three months due to a conflict in the Middle East. From there, Arkansas entered the Red Sea and went through the Suez Canal and headed towards France. After stopping in France, Arkansas went through the Strait of Gibraltar and across the Atlantic Ocean. Proceeding through the Panama Canal in December, Arkansas returned to Alameda on December 17, 1984 ending the circumnavigation.

After the long voyage, Arkansas stayed in Alameda, getting upgrades and going through testing which took a little under a year. Arkansas received new orders for overseas movement; during which she nearly circumnavigated the earth once more; she made it as far as Italy before returning the way she came. Arkansas returned to port in August 1986, where it resumed local operation on the west coast.

In the 1990’s Arkansas served on the west coast for most of her duties. In 1991 Arkansas joined the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) carrier battle group bound for the Persian Gulf. In 1996, Arkansas was part of the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) carrier battle group off the coast of Iraq. After her stint with the Vinson group, Arkansas returned to Alameda for the rest of her career.

Arkansas was decommissioned in July 1998 and entered the Navy’s Nuclear-Powered Ships Recycling Program. Her anchor, helm station, stern plate, captain’s chair, and bell are currently on display at the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum along with other exhibits featuring various historical memorabilia related to Arkansas’ service.

Along with these these, fifty-nine other vessels have had names associated with the state. Two of the vessels are named after the capital Little Rock while the others are named after important Arkansas as well as places and natural wildlife.

Two of the vessels are named after the capital Little Rock.

USS Little Rock (CL 92/CLG 4/CG 4)

 Cleveland Cruiser/Galveston Guided Missile Cruiser Class: 
Keel Laid:March 6, 1943
Commissioned:June 17, 1945
Displacement:10,670 tons
Length:610 feet
Beam:66 feet 4 inches
Speed:33 knots
Complement:1,395 Officers and Men

The first USS Little Rock (CL 92), named after Little Rock, Arkansas, was a light cruiser changed into a guided missile cruiser. Commissioned in June of 1945, Little Rock was unable to be involved in the Second World War. Between 1945 and 1949, Little Rock served off of the east coast of the United States and the Caribbean. Little Rock was reassigned to be a part of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet due to post-war defense cutbacks.

Little Rock was upgraded to a guided missile cruiser in the late 1950’s, getting major upgrades to its systems and superstructure, to accommodate the missile system. Little Rock was recommissioned in 1960 as Cruiser Light Guided (CLG 4) but was redesignated in 1975 to Cruiser Guided (CG 4). After being recommissioned, Little Rock served extensively in the Mediterranean and was the Flagship of the Sixth Fleet towards the end of its career. Little Rock was decommissioned for the last time in 1976 and was donated to Buffalo, New York.

USS Little Rock (CL 92/CLG 4/CG 4) is on display at Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park in Buffalo, New York.

USS Little Rock (LCS 9)

Class:Freedom-Class Littoral Combat Ship
Keel Laid:June 27, 2013
Commissioned:December 16, 2017
Displacement:3400 Metric Tons
Length:389 Feet
Beam:57 Feet
Speed:40 Knots
Complement:76 Officers and Men

The second USS Little Rock is a Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ship, one of the newest ships in the navy. The keel was laid on June 2013 and was commissioned in December of 2017. The Littoral Combat ships are known for being versatile in its missions, able to change the ship with different modules depending on the type of mission. During the months leading up to its commissioning, the Officers and crew came to the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum and spent a few days in the ships name sake, Little Rock, Arkansas. Thanks to the builder, Lockheed Martin, the museum was able to put together an exhibit on Little Rock for the public to enjoy.

The others are named after important Arkansas people as well as places and natural wildlife.

There have been fifty-seven other vessels in the United States Navy that have names associated with Arkansas, one of which is still in service today.

Some of the vessels are named for native Arkansans, including an Army General. Two ships were named for Arkansans killed during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

In addition, since many naval vessels are named after plants or animals (and especially fish) there are many vessels that are named after plants and wildlife that are native to Arkansas. This group includes the first submersible ever commissioned in the United States Navy.

These vessels include:

Type of VesselNameDates of Service
Troop TransportUSS Admiral E. W. Eberle(1945-1946)
SchoonerUSS Alligator(1809-1815)
SloopUSS Alligator(1813-1814)
SchoonerUSS Alligator(1821-1822)
Submersible (Hand Powered)USS Alligator(1862-1863)
SchoonerUSS Althea(1862-1863)
Screw TugUSS Althea(1863-1866)
Screw TugUSS Azalea(1864-1865)
Lighthouse TenderUSS Azalea(1917-1919)
Motor LaunchUSS Azalea(1917-1919)
SubmarineUSS Bass (SS 164)(1925-1945)
SubmarineUSS Bass (SS 551)(1952-1957)
SubmarineUSS Bluegill (SS 242)(1943-1969)
SubmarineUSS Bowfin (SS 298)(1943-1954)
SubmarineUSS Bullhead (SS 332)(1944-1945)
SubmarineUSS Carp (SS 338)(1945-1971)
SubmarineUSS Catfish (SS 339)(1945-1971)
GunboatUSS Cimarron(1862-1865)
OilerUSS Cimarron (AO 22)(1939-1968)
Fleet OilerUSS Cimarron (AO 177)(1981-1998)
SubmarineUSS Dace (SS 247)(1943-1955)
Nuclear Powered Attack SubmarineUSS Dace (SS 607)(1964-1988)
SubmarineUSS Darter (SS 227)(1943-1944)
SubmarineUSS Darter (SS 576)(1956-1989)
SubmarineUSS Drum (SS 228)(1941-1967)
Nuclear Powered Attack SubmarineUSS Drum (SSN 677)(1972-1995)
SubmarineUSS Eel (SS 354)(1941-1959)
SubmarineUSS Flier (SS 250)(1943-1944)
Destroyer EscortUSS Foss (DE 59)(1943-1957)
SubmarineUSS Gar (SS 206)(1941-1959)
Troop TransportUSS General William O. Darby (T-AP 127)(1950-1968)
Large, Medium-Speed, Roll-On/Roll-Off Cargo VesselUSNS Gilliland (T-AKR 298)(1997-Present)
SubmarineUSS Herring (SS 233)(1942-1944)
SubmarineUSS Lamprey (SS 372)(1944-1946)
Landing Ship, TankUSS Marion County (LST 975)(1945-1956)
DestroyerUSS Moale (DD 693)(1944-1973)
MonitorUSS Ozark (BM 7)(1909-1922)
SubmarineUSS Pickerel (SS 177)(1937-1943)
SubmarineUSS Pickerel (SS 524)(1949-1972)
SubmarineUSS Pike (SS 6)(1903-1922)
SubmarineUSS Pike (SS 173)(1935-1957)
Landing Ship, TankUSS Pulaski County (LST 1088)(1945-1973)
SubmarineUSS Quillback (SS 424)(1944-1973)
Destroyer EscortUSS Riley (DE 579)(1944-1947)
Landing Ship, TankUSS Saline County (LST 1101)(1945-1960)
SubmarineUSS Sculpin (SS 191)(1939-1944)
Nuclear Powered Attack SubmarineUSS Sculpin (SSN 590)(1961-1990)
Attack TransportUSS Sevier (APA 233)(1944-1946)
SubmarineUSS Shad (SS 235)(1942-1960)
SubmarineUSS Silversides (SS 236)(1941-1969)
Landing Ship, TankUSS Stone County (LST 1141)(1945-1973)
SubmarineUSS Sturgeon (SS 187)(1938-1948)
Nuclear Powered Attack SubmarineUSS Sturgeon (SSN 187)(1967-1994)
Destroyer EscortUSS Traw (DE 350)(1944-1946)
FrigateUSS Van Buren (PF 42)(1943-1946)
Destroyer EscortUSS Weaver (DE 741)(1943-1952)
Medium Landing Ship, RocketUSS White River (LSMR 536)(1945-1970)