Relive World War II Aboard the Battleship North Carolina

Jerry Blackwelder

In 1958, Navy officials announced that the Battleship North Carolina, considered during World War II as the world’s greatest sea weapon, would be scrapped. State leaders launched a campaign to save the ship and bring it home. School students played a huge role in the effort. Each of the State’s students were asked to contribute ten cents to save the Battleship.

Now the Battleship, permanently anchored in its Wilmington harbor, is one of North Carolina’s premier field trip destinations. In 2016 nearly a quarter million visitors walked the decks that saw fierce action during the second World War.

The Battleship, which serves as North Carolina’s official World War II memorial, is undergoing a major expansion program to offer educational programs focusing on science, math, technology and math.

An example of the programming is the Ship Speak tour which gives students a glimpse of shipboard communications. In the Marine Compartment of the ship they get to experiment with semaphore flags, Morse code keys, manual typewriters, dial telephones and even try on sailors’ uniforms.

The Battleship North Carolina first sailed in April, 1941, armed with nine sixteen-inch guns and twenty 38-caliber guns on deck. The first battleship constructed by the US Navy in 16 years, it was the first of 10 new fast battleships to join the fleet. A full complement aboard the ship consisted of over 2,500 officers, enlisted men and Marines.

During World War II the Battleship North Carolina saw action in every major naval offensive in the Pacific, earning 15 battle stars in the process. Her brave personnel sank an enemy troopship and brought down at least two dozen enemy aircraft. She logged more than 300,000 sea miles and survived a Japanese torpedo attack that punctured the hull in 1942.

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