USS North Carolina, NC

     On October 14th, 2019; Becky (my wife) and I were traveling near Wilmington, North Carolina when we decided at the spur of the moment to visit the USS North Carolina.

The South Carolina/North Carolina border area map

      The U.S.S. North Carolina is a decommissioned World War II battleship, permanently moored as a memorial and historic site in Wilmington on the Cape Fear River.

Public Domain image of the USS North Carolina Battleship

     The ship weights 36,000 tons and is 728 feet in length. The retired battleship serves as commemoration of the heroism of U.S. sailors and soldiers from North Carolina in World War II.

The USS North Carolina in Wilmington, North Carolina

     The U.S.S. North Carolina was decommissioned in 1947 after her participation in every major operation in the Pacific theater in World War II and after earning 15 battle stars.

I’m on the deck of the USS North Carolina

     The ship was laid down in 1937 and completed in April 1941, while the United States was still neutral during World War II. During this period, she operated off the eastern coast of the United States.

The bridge of the USS North Carolina

     USS North Carolina (BB-55) is the first vessel of the type built for the United States Navy.  Its design was limited in displacement and armament, though the United States used a clause in the Second London Naval Treaty to increase the main battery from the original armament of twelve 14-inch (356 mm) guns to nine 16 in (406 mm) guns.

The 16 in Turrets of the USS North Carolina

     Picture below, is a circular platform called the Mezzanine.  I provided storage for 121 projectiles.  Turret II, the only turret with a mezzanine, is located one deck above the main deck while the other turrets sat directly on the main deck. The extra height allowed room for additional storage.

The Mezzanine of the USS North Carolina

     The USS North Carolina was armed with a main battery of nine 16 in /45 caliber Mark 6 guns in a trio of three-gun turrets on the centerline, two of which were placed in a super-firing pair forward, with the third aft. The secondary battery consisted of twenty 5 in (127 mm) /38 caliber dual purpose guns mounted in twin turrets clustered amidships, five turrets on either side. As designed, the ship was equipped with an anti-aircraft battery of sixteen 1.1 in (28 mm) guns and eighteen .50-caliber (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns, but her anti-aircraft battery was expanded greatly during her career.

Powder Handling Room on the USS North Carolina

     Called the powder flats by the men, the area pictured above,  houses the three powder hoists which lifted powder bags up five levels to the turrets’ three gun barrels.  Note that the bags pictured above were filled the black powder.

Engine Room of the USS North Carolina, (note the controls of two of the turbines)

     The USS North Carolina was powered by four General Electric steam turbines, each driving one propeller shaft, using steam provided by eight oil-fired Babcock & Wilcox boilers. Rated at 121,000 shaft horsepower (90,000 kW), the turbines were intended to give a top speed of 28 knots (52 km/h; 32 mph). The ship had a cruising range of 17,450 nautical miles (32,320 km; 20,080 mi) at a speed of 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph).

Five levels of Bunk beds for the enlisted on the USS North Carolina
Officer quarters on the USS North Carolina

     USS North Carolina’s  peace time crew numbered 1,800 officers and enlisted men, but during WWII the crew swelled to 99 officers and 2,035 enlisted.

Dining area next to the Galley on the USS North Carolina

     Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December, the USS North Carolina mobilized for war and was initially sent to Iceland to counter a possible sortie by the German battleship Tirpitz, though this did not materialize. Then USS North Carolina was promptly transferred to the Pacific to strengthen Allied forces during the Guadalcanal campaign.  There, she screened aircraft carriers engaged in the campaign and took part in the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, where she shot down several Japanese aircraft.

Medical Operating Room on the USS North Carolina

     Later, the USS North Carolina was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine but was not seriously damaged. After repairs, she returned to the campaign and continued to screen carriers during the campaigns across the central Pacific in 1943 and 1944, including the Gilberts and Marshall Islands and the Mariana and Palau Islands, where she saw action during the Battle of the Philippine Sea.    

Medical Science Lab on the USS North Carolina

     Throughout her many battles during World War II, the USS North Carolina earned 15 battle stars and lost only 10 men in action, (with 67 men wounded), which was a tremendous feat in the Pacific region.

Radio Central on the USS North Carolina

     Pictured above, each type of radio covered different ranges of frequencies.  Low frequencies, such as the Honolulu Station, traveled long distances and were used for communicating with shore stations.  High frequencies were essentially line-of-sight frequencies and, as a result, were used for shorter-range communications such as between ship and airplanes in the fleet.  A small record player was used to help supervisors copy messages when they were busy doing other things, such as when the Ship was in combat.  Radio Central was not the only radio room on board the Battleship.  The Ship had four other auxiliary radio rooms, located throughout the Ship.  If one radio room was damaged in battle, other radio rooms would be available to maintain critical communications with other units of the fleet.

Damage Control Central on the USS North Carolina

     Pictured above, the men in this space directed specially trained repair teams to correct flooding, fight fires, evacuated wounded crew or reconnect damaged electrical and communication lines in combat.  Normally, five enlisted men and an officer that worked in this compartment.  During an emergency, the men would use the prints of the Ship on the bulkhead (wall) keeps track of damage and the actions taken to correct it.  This allowed the officer in charge to maintain a complete overview of the condition of the Ship and keep the Captain informed during combat situations.

Interior Communications Central on the USS North Carolina

     Pictured above, this compartment is called the Interior Communcations Central.  It was manned by Electrician’s Mates of the Ship’s E Division.  These men were responsible for monitoring, repairing, and connecting the Ship’s internal communications.   In addition, (pictured above) the men were responsible for operating the gyro-compass, located in the middle of the compartment.  The Electrician’s Mates that worked in this compartment would use the switch boards, seen here, to inter-connect signaling equipment with machines in other parts of the Ship, such as the Engine Rooms and the Pilot House.  The switch boards also transmitted navigational information, such as wind speed, direction, Ship’s speed and course, to other parts of the Ship.

Master Gyro Compass on the USS North Carolina

     The large gray object, pictured above, is the Ship’s master gyro compass.  The Ship’s master gyro compass was used to keep track of the course that the Ship was heading at any point in time.  A gyro compass resembles a to top, except that the gyro compass spins constantly at a very high rate of speed making it very stable.  When oriented to true north, id could determine accurately any other changes the Ship would steer.  The operator in charge of the gyro compass was responsible for spinning up the gyro at least four hours before the ship was set to get underway to ensure that it was stable.

     As the Ship moved through the water and turned, the spinning gyro compass would resist any changes in the ship’s course.  The gyro compass would remain constant in tis measurements and, thereby, keep an accurate track of the Ship’s course changes.  The gyro compass is located in the exact center of the Ship in order to lessen the amount of centrifugal force directed against the gyro compass as a result of the Ship’s roll and pitch in the water.

The 1942 Store on the USS North Carolina

     The Battleship North Carolina was  worthy of exploration for Becky and I. It brought a sense of adventure, a love of history, and an appreciation of fantastic waterfront views of the city of Wilmington.   I can see why this “Showboat” is still one of coastal North Carolina’s most beloved historical landmarks.

An interesting price list that I found on the USS North Carolina

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