I wanted to take a break from my usual posts about The Gemstone Chronicles, books, and marketing, and talk about some US Navy history and the USS North Carolina (BB-55). Lana and I spent a weekend in Wilmington, NC recently (more about Wilmington in an upcoming post) and had the privilege of visiting the World War II era battleship USS North Carolina (BB-55). What an impressive ship it was, too!
According to Wikipedia, the North Carolina was the first in her class of battleships. The keel was laid in October 1937 and launched almost 3 years later in 1940. She was assigned to the Pacific Fleet and saw action in most of the major battles in the Pacific during the war. The ship had an impressive battle record and was only damaged once (by a torpedo) during her tour in the war.
USS North Carolina continued to serve through the balance of WWII before being decommissioned in 1947. Stricken from the Navy rolls in 1960, she was transferred to the state of North Carolina in 1961, the result of a campaign by North Carolina school children called “Save our Ship.”
Here are some vital stats for the ship:
- 728.8 feet long
- 108.3 foot beam
- 33 foot draft
- Ship’s complement 2339 (144 officers, 2195 enlisted)
- 15 Battle Stars
- American Defense Service Medal
- American Campaign Medal
- WWII Victory Medal
The ship has many more awards and much more history than I can do justice to in this post, so do a little research and discover all about it. But now, I want to talk about my impressions about the ship.
First, let me say that a 16 inch gun is one big pea shooter! I climbed into one of the main battery turrets and was duly impressed. The 5 inch guns seemed adequate to their tasks, and the anti-aircraft guns that lined the perimeter of the deck would have been intimidating the any aircraft that decided to challenge the might of the ship. The picture below is the forward main gun turret with the 16 inch guns.
The picture below shows the 16 inch guns and the 5 inch and AA guns. You can also see the teak decks.
Though I didn’t take pictures, the wardroom was large, the officer staterooms were spacious, and the sailor’s racks actually had lockers for storage. I mention all of this because, as a former submarine sailor who didn’t have such spacious accommodations, it seemed luxurious!
There was a group of Air Force JROTC students touring the ship while I was aboard. I imparted a small amount of Navy information to them as we stood outside the Executive Officers office (and liberty chit window). I explained to them what liberty chits were and what liberty was, in general.
Lastly, as I walked the teak decks, looked at the massive armament, the huge anchors, and the launch areas for the seaplanes at the stern of the battleship, the submariner in me came out, and all I could think was what a big, noisy target the USS North Carolina would be!
I could certainly appreciate the bravery those sailors showed as the confronted the Japanese military during WWII, and it brought me back to my own Navy days. Thanks to all who served aboard USS North Carolina (BB-55) and the current USS North Carolina (SSN-777)! Bravo Zulu!!
Have you visited any Navy ship memorials like USS North Carolina? How about USS Nautilus in Groton, CT? What about other military memorials? Leave me a comment and let me know!