We recently visited the USS North Carolina on a trip to Wilmington.
(Yes, during a pandemic. Don’t send me hate mail.)
Due to COVID, we were unable to go below the decks to see the whole ship. However, we were able to see the upper decks and were just glad to get out of the house!
We were also able to mark it off of our Fort Bragg Bucket List!
There weren’t many people there that day, so we could take our time at each display. I learned so much about this battleship and thought I would share that with you here.
The USS North Carolina is a Whole City
I mean…it’s not technically a city. I guess it’s a whole military post crammed onto one giant boat.
We’re an Army family, so I hadn’t really thought much about everything that must be included on a Navy ship that is out to sea for months at a time. But they need pretty much everything….obviously!
The sleeping quarters and mess hall came as no surprise – we all eat and sleep. I wasn’t even surprised by the sick bay. However, I was shocked to find out there were operating rooms!
It makes perfect sense, especially since these ships are used specifically for war. But I just never thought about having to be operated on….AT SEA!
There are also dentist offices, barbershops, a print shop, and even a separate ice cream area in the mess hall!
She Packed Major Fire Power
When the USS North Carolina was commissioned in 1941, it was thought to be one of the most formidable weapons at sea!
NINE 16-inch/45 caliber guns stick out at the front and back of the ship. TWENTY 5-inch/38 caliber guns line either side of her decks. SIXTY 40 mm/56 caliber guns and FORTY-EIGHT 20 mm/70 While more than 2300 trained men served aboard this vessel.
During World War II, the USS North Carolina earned 15 Battle Stars and was in every major naval offensive in the Pacific. She is credited with 9 shore bombardments, the sinking of an enemy troopship, and the destruction of at least 24 enemy aircraft.
At the end of the war, the USS North Carolina had only lost 10 men. A remarkable feat for a ship that traveled more than 300,000 miles in the Pacific theater during wartime.
She was Saved From a Mothball Fleet
Among many of the informative plaques on the USS North Carolina was one that explained how she came to rest on the Cape Fear River.
After being decommissioned in 1947, the USS North Carolina sat in a reserve fleet in New Jersey for 14 years. These reserve fleets are often referred to as ‘mothball fleets’. When ships become too old, obsolete, and rusty beyond repair, they are sold for scrap or sank to create artificial reefs.
The citizens of North Carolina couldn’t bear the thought of their namesake ship being sold overseas as scrap. So, they began the SOS (Save Our Ship) Campaign to bring her home!
Thus, the USS North Carolina was saved, in part, by school children. Part of the campaign asked that every child donate a dime to the campaign and they did….gladly! (If they brought a dime, they also received a free admission pass.) The state raised $70,000 in dimes alone!
In total, the campaign raised nearly $300,000 (equivalent to about $2.4 million today). Which was more than enough to bring her back home!
Our visit to the USS North Carolina was much needed! We thoroughly enjoyed walking around the ship, pretending to shoot the guns, and learn some history while doing it. It was also good to just get out of the house after months of quarantine!
I highly recommend checking her out if you’re ever in Wilmington!
Also, when in Wilmington, you should take the time to find some wild Venus Flytraps!