3 Fun Facts About the USS North Carolina

A rainy day on the USS North Carolina.

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We recently visited the USS North Carolina on a trip to Wilmington.

Due to COVID, we could not 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 Liberty Bucket List!

This is the second battleship we have visited. Our first battleship adventure was on the USS Alabama in Mobile. So, we knew what to expect.

There weren’t many people at the USS North Carolina, 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.

We visited the USS North Carolina during COVID and had a blast!
(As you can see, we almost had the whole ship to ourselves.)

The USS North Carolina is a Whole City

I mean…it’s technically not a city, but it’s a whole military post crammed onto one giant boat.

We’re an Army family, so I hadn’t thought about everything needed on a Navy ship that is out to sea for months at a time. Obviously, they need pretty much everything!

The battleship is so big you can't get the whole thing in one picture.
(The ship is so big it’s hard to get it all in one picture!)
The USS North Carolina's anchor is enormous!
(Just look at it’s enormous anchor!)

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, the operating rooms shocked me!

It makes perfect sense, seeing as these ships were made specifically for war. But I just never thought about surgery…AT SEA!

There are also dentist offices, barbershops, a print shop, and even a separate ice cream area in the mess hall!

Our favorite area was the ship's bridge.
(Our favorite area of the ship was the bridge, where the steering wheel and controls are.)
Captain Lyvi to the rescue!
(Captain Lyvi to the rescue!)

She Packed Major Fire Power

Commissioned in 1941, the USS North Carolina was one of the most formidable weapons at sea!

She carried:

  • NINE 16-inch/45 caliber guns that stick out at the front and back of the ship
  • TWENTY 5-inch/38 caliber guns that line either side of her decks
  • SIXTY 40 mm/56 caliber guns
  • FORTY-EIGHT 20 mm/70 caliber guns

And more than 2300 trained men were aboard this ship when she was on a mission.

Pretending to shoot the guns on the ship.
(The girls loved pretending to shoot the guns!)
We loved that the guns on the USS North Carolina were interactive and not just static displays.
(They could turn the guns using a hand-crank.)

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. She also survived a direct hit from a Japanese torpedo.

In fact, Japanese propaganda claimed to have sunk the USS North Carolina at least 6 times. However, she still proudly stands in the Cape Fear River today.

At the end of World War II, 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.

A rainy day on the USS North Carolina.
(Our visit was a rainy one, but still fun!)
Our visit to the battleship in Wilmington.
(Look at all the guns aboard the ship!)

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 it’s decommission 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’.

Ships that are too old, obsolete, or rusty beyond repair, are sold for scrap or sank to create artificial reefs.

The view from the bridge!
(The view from the bridge.)
The alarm system.
(It takes a big bell to be heard on a ship this size!)

The citizens of North Carolina couldn’t bear the thought of their namesake ship being sold overseas for scrap. So, they began the SOS (Save Our Ship) Campaign to bring her home!

The USS North Carolina was saved, in part, by schoolchildren. Part of the campaign asked that every child donate a dime to the campaign. Every student who brought a dime to donate to the fundraiser also received a free admission pass.

The state raised $70,000 in dimes alone!

Our visit to Wilmington, NC included a visit to the battleship.
In the gift shop at the USS North Carolina.
(I’m glad that the USS North Carolina escaped the scrapyard so that we could make these memories!)

In total, the campaign raised nearly $300,000 (the 1961 equivalent of about $2.4 million today). Which was more than enough to bring her back home!

And home the USS North Carolina will stay. In fact, she couldn’t leave even if she tried.

A bridge across the Cape Fear River built in 1967 blocks her path. This bridge is too low for such a giant ship to pass under. If she was to ever move again, it would have to be in pieces.

Our visit to the USS North Carolina was much needed. We thoroughly enjoyed walking around the ship, pretending to shoot the guns, and learning some history while doing it.

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!

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