When the keel of NORTH CAROLINA was laid in October of 1937 at the New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, New York, she was the first battleship to be constructed in sixteen years. She became the first of ten fast battleships to join the American fleet in World War II.
The battleship is over 728 feet long and weighs 44,800 tons at full load. At the time of her commissioning on 9 April 1941, she was considered the world’s greatest sea weapon. Armed with nine 16-inch/45 caliber guns in three turrets and twenty 5-inch/38 caliber guns in ten twin mounts, NORTH CAROLINA proved a formidable weapons platform. Her wartime complement consisted of 144 commissioned officers and 2,195 enlisted men, including 86 Marines.
Battleship in Action
During World War II, 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 Solomons 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 she rescued ten downed Navy aviators on 30 April 1944. In all, 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 NORTH CAROLINA 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.
In March 1945, NORTH CAROLINA was part of an attack on Iwo Jima. Logs recorded from the battle days, March 23rd and 24th, from the crew, describe their actions, “Launched strikes this morning against Okinawa but had to call them off this afternoon because of bad weather. All the battleships will bombard tomorrow. We expect to bombard from 10 o’clock in the morning until 4 o’clock in the afternoon cruising at 20 knots. The battleships will leave the carriers at midnight tonight.”
From March 24th, 1945, “Pulled into Okinawa Jima around 08:00 and started our bombardments. WISCONSIN, MISSOURI, NEW JERSEY, INDIANA, MASSACHUSETTS, SOUTH DAKOTA, WASHINGTON, AND NORTH CAROLINA all bombarded until around 16:00. We got all our targets. No shore batteries or antiaircraft fire was observed from the island. The Marines are landing tomorrow and the 10th Army around the 1st of April. I can’t understand the Japanese not fighting.”
The battle of Iwo Jima ended two days after these accounts, resulting in an American victory.
Save Our Ship!
After serving as a training vessel for midshipmen, 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 scrapper’s 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 2 October 1961. She was dedicated on 29 April 1962 as the State’s memorial to its World War II veterans and the 11,000 North Carolinians who died during the war.
The Battleship Today
Visitors can walk the decks and experience the daily life and fierce combat faced by the crew. Self-guided tours of the ship are available daily and special programs allow visitors to discover and build a personal connection through behind-the-scenes tours, in-depth programs of the ship’s inner-workings, reenactments, special programs for professional military education and more.
Many people believe the Battleship North Carolina to be haunted, so it’s no surprise that one of the most popular nearby events is the Ghost Walk of Old Wilmington, a nationally acclaimed tour of the city’s most actively haunted homes and burial grounds, complete with eerie tales and true paranormal stories.
The Battleship is Open!
The Battleship NORTH CAROLINA is open to visitors with new procedures in place to help ensure the safety of staff and visitors, including
- Reconfiguring the tour route to include only the Ship’s main deck and above, and offering only self-guided tours.
- Limiting the number of visitors allowed in the gift shop and on the Ship itself, and closing the visitors center.
- Welcoming only non-cash (credit card) payments.
- Installing hand sanitizer and handwashing stations.
- Increasing the frequency of cleaning high-touch public areas and restrooms.
- Using protective barriers at sales desks.
Adult admission is reduced to $10, with all visitors offered the group, child, military or ADA rate as applicable. Visitors will be welcomed back with a receipt within a year, after other areas of the Ship reopen.
Operating hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, last ticket sold at 4 p.m.