Saving the Maine’s Mark 3
Ordered 3 August 1886, the one of a kind armored cruiser USS Maine was fitted with two twin 10″/30 caliber Mark 2 guns as her main battery and another half dozen 6″/30 caliber Mark 3 singles equipped with gun shields as a secondary while her near-sister USS Texas was given 12-inchers and thicker armor among other improvements, but had the same Mark 3s.
The 6-inchers were mounted in casemates in the hull, two each at the bow and stern and the last two amidships.
Commissioned 17 September 1895, less than three years later the mighty Maine took 252 of her crew with her when more than 5 tons of powder charges for the cruiser’s 6 and 10-inch guns detonated, obliterating the forward third of the ship.
As she was sitting in Havana harbor at the time, this soon led to war although most agree that her loss was a tragic accident.
Now, one of those Mark 3s that survived the blast and subsequent sinking, and has been on public display at the Washington Navy Yard for generations, is getting a makeover to preserve it for future generations. (It should be remembered that in August 1886 Secretary of the Navy William C. Whitney signed General Order 354, establishing the Naval Gun Factory at the Washington Navy Yard, and it was the heart of Navy gunnery until the early 1960s when the manufacturing of guns was phased out and the buildings turned into office spaces, making the Yard the perfect place to put Maine‘s gun.)
Conservators from the Warren Lash Conservation Center (WLCC) in Charleston, South Carolina, worked with the Naval History and Heritage Command to remove the gun for conservation.
“I think cultural heritage is like bringing history to the next generation,” said Stephanie Crette, director of WLCC in a statement, “and conserving it is kind of like bringing an object to life for the next generation. I hope this is a full success and we continue on with other conservation processes with the Navy.”
Now that it’s gone, the WLCC team will start arresting its condition issues. They’ll start off by removing existing paint, as much rust as is prudent, and inhibiting the extant corrosion.
The whole process is expected to take 4-6 months.