USS North Carolina
The USS North Carolina, presently stationed in Wilmington, NC, and labeled a Historic Site, was the lead ship of all North Carolina-class battleships and earned 15 battle stars, making it the most decorated American battleship of WWII. It was used in battle situations between 1941 and 1947 and screened aircraft carriers from air attack and supported troops ashore using close air support in the Pacific theater. Today, the USS North Carolina is a self-guided museum that is available to all including seniors, students, teachers and military personnel, offering educational programs, behind the scenes tours and personal events. The history behind this battleship, and the men who served aboard, are what make it an official NC Historic Site.
Backstory and Context
During World War II, the USS North Carolina participated in every major naval offensive in the Pacific area of operations and earned 15 battle stars. In the Battle of the Eastern Solomon’s in August of 1942, the Battleship’s anti-aircraft barrage helped save the carrier Enterprise, thereby establishing the primary role of the fast battleship as protector of aircraft carriers. One of her Kingfisher pilots performed heroically during the strike on Truk when he rescued ten downed Navy aviators on 30 April 1944. In all, the USS North Carolina carried out nine shore bombardments, sank an enemy troopship, destroyed at least 24 enemy aircraft, and assisted in shooting down many more. Her anti-aircraft guns helped halt or frustrate scores of attacks on aircraft carriers. She steamed over 300,000 miles. Although Japanese radio announcements claimed six times that the boat had been sunk, she survived many close calls and near misses with one hit when a Japanese torpedo slammed into the Battleship’s hull on 15 September 1942. A quick response on the part of the crew allowed the mighty ship to keep up with the fleet. By war’s end, the Ship lost only ten men in action and had 67 wounded.
After serving as a training vessel for midshipmen, the USS North Carolina was decommissioned 27 June 1947 and placed in the Inactive Reserve Fleet in Bayonne, New Jersey, for the next 14 years. In 1958, the announcement of her impending scrapping led to a statewide campaign by citizens of North Carolina to save the ship from the scrappers torches and bring her back to her home state. The Save Our Ship (SOS) campaign was successful and the Battleship arrived in her current berth on October 1961. She was dedicated on 29 April 1962 as the State's memorial to its World War II veterans and the 10,000 North Carolinians who died during the war.
Created on August 1, 1937 and officially launched on June 13, 1940 the USS North Carolina, the first newly constructed American battleship to fight in WWII, has found its home in Wilmington, NC. This war veteran is labeled an official Historic Site and has become a self-guided tour museum, equipped and exhibited as the original warship that served in the US Navy between 1941 and 1947. It is open to the public and serves as a historic beacon of North Carolina’s rich heritage.
The USS North Carolina was one of the U.S. military’s strongest assets during WWII, specifically in the Pacific theater. It joined the Pacific fleet in the summer of 1942, being the first new battleship to join the battle in the Pacific against the Japanese since the beginning of the war.1 The USS North Carolina was responsible for screening, or shielding, aircraft carriers from any Japanese air attack during pre-invasions. It was also responsible for supporting troops ashore during the U.S.’s island-hopping campaign. It supported U.S. Marines landing on the islands of Guadalcanal and Tulagi on August 7, 1942, fought in the Battle of the Eastern Solomons on August 24-25, 1942, shooting down between 7 and 14 enemy aircraft, and helped destroy the Japanese war facilities on the island of Nauru on December 8, 1943. Serving as the only battleship for the naval force in the South Pacific, the USS North Carolina was a key component to the U.S.’s success in the Pacific, and in turn, WWII.2
Today, the USS North Carolina is located in Wilmington, NC, across from the city’s downtown area, and is labeled a Historic Site. The warship that held 2,339 sailors, 3 airplanes, and dozens of anti-aircraft canons, is now a museum, open to the public and available to rent for private occasions.3 For the public, when visiting the Battleship, all 9 levels are open and accessible, to the willing and abled. For those that are troubled by stairs, programs are available that still show the rich history of the USS North Carolina by 3D videos and access to a museum attached to the main lobby. The warship has been kept to the conditioned it arrived in, but curators have added exhibits inside to mimic what life was and looked like during WWII. For additional educational benefits, behind the scenes tours, in-depth programs of how the battleship worked and reenactments are available. Also, the battleship can be rented out for private events, such as birthdays, weddings, corporate meetings, concerts and festivals.4
The USS North Carolina is the most visited site in Wilmington. Visitors can see a tribute to the men who served aboard the ship on the entrance gallery and they can also write letters to current members of the Navy.
2. "History of BB 55," Battleship of North Carolina, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_North_Carolina_(BB-55)#cite_note-5, (June 17, 2017)
3. "U.S. Navy Battleships - USS North Carolina (BB 55)," United States Navy, https://web.archive.org/web/20091208021209/http://www.chinfo.navy.mil/navpalib/ships/battleships/nca..., (June 18, 2017)
4. "School Children Brought Battleship Home," NC Coast,https://web.archive.org/web/20061102233226/http://www.visitnc.com/region_article.asp?r=3&articleid=1..., (June 19, 2017)
5. Additional information added from a Clio entry created after this entry by Jerry Shouse. That entry was deleted because this entry had already been created and there should only be one Clio entry for each museum or historical site.