Back in October, we took a day trip down to Wilmington, NC and the surrounding area. My main goal was to finally catch some ships, which I did. The first ship I caught was the veteran USS 'North Carolina', which is one of the state's greatest attractions, at least in my opinion. I had visited before as a kid, but this time photos were my mission objective. The area has been significantly developed since my earlier visit, with a very nice visitor center, and a boardwalk around the entire ship. This time, I didn't go into the visitor center or aboard the ship, due to various constraints. Maybe next time!
I'll give a fairly brief rundown of specifications and history.
USS 'North Carolina' (BB-55) is the first ship (of 2. the other 'Washington') of the North Carolina class of fast battleships, being laid down at the New York Naval Shipyard in 1937 and completed in April of 1941. Note the dates - this was before the US was involved in WW2, so the ship was limited in armament and displacement by the limits imposed under the Washington Treaty system, a treaty enacted after WW1 to limit naval construction among the signatories. This was modified over the ensuing years, via the London Naval Treaty and the Second London Naval Treaty, which allowed the 'North Carolina' to be equipped with 9 16-inch guns, as opposed to the 12 14-inch guns allowed under the original treaty; this was accomplished by invoking the escalator clause, which permitted the increase to 16-inch guns in the event that a member nation refused to sign the treaty, which in this case was Japan. This whole treaty deal was of course discarded by what would become the Axis Powers of WW2.
She was the first battleship designed under the Washington Naval Treaty system, at 728 feet and 9 inches long, and 45,500 tons with a full combat load. Powered by 4 GE steam turbines which were provided steam by eight oil-fired Babcox & Wilcox boilers, which put out 121,000 shaft horsepower, that in turned propelled her to a top speed of 28 knots, or 32 mph. For crew she had, during the war, 99 officers and 2,035 enlisted.
She carried 3 Vought OS2U Kingfisher floatplanes for aerial recon, which were launched by aircraft catapults on her fantail.
For armaments, she had a main battery of 9 16"/45 caliber Mark 6 guns in a trio of three gun turrets, the front two of which are set up in a superfiring pair arrangement. Secondary battery were twenty 5" dual purpose guns, with 5 twin-gun turrets per side, amidships.
In her original design, she also had sixteen 1.1" and 18 .50 cal M2 Browning machine guns for anti-aircraft use, but this was upgraded to forty 40mm Bofors guns in quad mounts and forty-six 20mm Oerlikon autocannons in single mounts. She was again upgraded with five more 40mm quads and 10 more 20mm cannons (this would be her maximum armament, and she'd lose a bit towards the end of the war). She was also equipped with various radar setups, having several upgrades during her service life.
Following Pearl Harbor, the 'NC' was dispatched to counter a possible attack by the Nazi battleship 'Tirpitz'. No attack came from that direction, so 'NC' was sent to the Pacific. She joined the Guadalcanal campaign where she screened aircraft carriers, then moved on to the Battle of the Eastern Solomons in August 1942, where she shot down several Japanese aircraft. In September of '42, she was torpedoed by a Japanese sub, but not seriously damaged, and was quickly repaired. She continued to screen carriers during many campaigns, such as the Gilberts and Marshall Islands and Mariana and Palau Islands, during which she was in action at the Battle of the Philippine Sea.
She was part of the offensive operations in support of the Battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
She didn't remain active for long after the war, being decommissioned on June 27, 1947 in New York and being put in reserve.
Various ideas were considered to get 'NC' back in service, but nothing definite materialized, and she languished until June 1, 1960 when she was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register and slated to be scrapped.
Thankfully, an NC man, James Craig, founded a campaign to save the ship and turn it into a museum. He convinced then Governor Luther H. Hodges to ask the Navy to delay scrapping the ship, which they did.
With various fundraising campaigns the rescue of the ship was successfully accomplished.
On September 6, 1961, the ship was transferred to state ownership, and on September 25 was towed from Bayonne, NJ to Wilmington, her new home (the trip took several days). A group of 9 tugboats were used, which at one point along the Cape Fear River in NC lost control of the battleship which then collided with a floating seafood restaurant, with only minor damage.
In 1964 a Kingfisher that had crashed, and then salvaged, in British Columbia during the war, was donated to the museum.
On November 10, 1982 the Battleship was declared a National Historic Landmark.
In the 2000's, the hull needed repairs, so a cofferdam was built around the ship, and the water was drained, enabling the hull repairs.
In 2018, with hull repairs still ongoing, a walkway was built to allow visitors to view the ship from all sides.