The U.S. Navy's USS North Carolina Battleship Has a New Enemy

USS North Carolina Battleship
February 14, 2024 Topic: Security Region: Americas Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: USS North CarolinaWorld War IIMilitaryU.S. NavyBattleshipsNavy

The U.S. Navy's USS North Carolina Battleship Has a New Enemy

Among the old battlewagons fighting the elements is the former USS North Carolina (BB-55), the lead ship of the first class of fast battleships built for the United States Navy. She has been preserved as the USS Battleship North Carolina since 1961 and is located across the Cape Fear River from downtown Wilmington. The warship has been one of the Tar Heel State's most-visited tourist sites – receiving 250,000 visitors in 2022.

 

USS North Carolina: This World War II Battleship is Prepared To Fight a New Enemy - Time and tide wait for no man – but it should be added that time and tide is also the enemy for old long retired warships. That is a fact noted as the United States is home to eight battleships that have been preserved as floating museums, and each has faced the wrath of the environment. Warships may be designed to operate on the waters of the world, but time will take its toll.

Among the old battlewagons fighting the elements is the former USS North Carolina (BB-55), the lead ship of the first class of fast battleships built for the United States Navy. She has been preserved as the USS Battleship North Carolina since 1961 and is located across the Cape Fear River from downtown Wilmington. The warship has been one of the Tar Heel State's most-visited tourist sites – receiving 250,000 visitors in 2022.

 

Declared a National Historic Landmark in November 1982, and having remained in its wartime configuration, efforts to maintain the ship and improve the facility for visitors have been an ongoing effort. In addition to repairs and restoration to the ship, the facility around the retired battle wagon has been recently addressed.

This month, the USS Battleship North Carolina recently broke ground for its Living with Water project, which called for a living shoreline that included constructed wetlands and raised the elevation of the parking lot to reduce flooding. This was necessary as at high tide water and mud often covered the ground around the vessel – threatening the ability for tourists to even reach the ship.

"By reengineering the shoreline, creating a constructed wetland and elevating the parking lot, the project will reduce battleship vulnerability to river flooding. Living with Water will restore natural aquatic habitats for an array of wildlife, including shrimp and blue crabs. Native trees, shrubs, and marsh plants will support nesting and migratory birds. The living shoreline is expected to lessen wave and tidal erosion, while the created wetland will capture, hold and direct the flood waters. The living shoreline is unique but replacing a parking lot with a wetland is visionary," the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources announced this month.

For the past 60 years, the 728-foot decommissioned vessel has been a vital part of the downtown Wilmington skyline. However, as the city was transformed and today is a hub in the American film industry, the gallant warship has suffered. The elements have proven to be a vicious enemy, but the efforts to save and preserve the ship have continued.

It didn't always look good for the future of the USS North Carolina however. While Operation Ship Shape, a donation drive to secure funds was launched in 1998, the damage was so great that in 2009, the United States Navy issued two directives: either restore or scrap the ship. The former was decided upon, resulting in a multi-year Generations Campaign – which has raised $23 million in public and private funds.

History of BB-55 USS North Carolina

USS North Carolina and her sister vessel USS Washington (BB-56) were the first American capital ships to be built after the lifting of the Washington Treaty, which limited their displacement and armament, but it resulted in a vessel that could keep up with the faster-moving aircraft carriers. As part of a clause in the Second London Navy Treaty, the armament was increased from the original nine 14-inch guns to nine 16-inch guns. She also was armed with twenty 5-inch/38 caliber guns in ten twin mounts. The wartime complement compromised of 144 commissioned officers and 2,195 enlisted men, including 86 marines.

Laid down in 1937, the USS North Carolina was completed in April 1941 and at the time of her commissioning, she was considered among the world's greatest sea weapons. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor in December of that year, she was mobilized and originally sent to counter threats from German warships, notably the battleship Tirpitz, before being transferred to the Pacific where she took part in the Guadalcanal Campaign. She went on to take part in every major naval offensive in the Pacific and earned fifteen battle stars – the most of any American battleship.

USS North Carolina survived many close calls and near misses and was hit by a Japanese torpedo in September 1942. The quick response from the crew ensured the battle wagon was able to remain operational and keep up with the fleet. By war's end, she lost just ten men in action while another sixty-seven had been wounded. Despite that fact, the Japanese claimed six times the battleship had been sunk.

USS North Carolina

Decommissioned after the war in June 1947, she remained in the Inactive Reserve Fleet in Bayonne, New Jersey until it was announced she would be scrapped. However, a statewide campaign in North Carolina saved the ship and she was transferred to Wilmington, where she became the state's memorial to its World War II veterans and to those 11,000 North Carolinians who gave their lives during the Second World War.

While other majestic warships that helped ensure an Allied victory met an ignominious end as they were broken up and sold for scrap, BB-55 was saved and preserved as a museum ship and memorable to the brave sailors of the "Greatest Generation."

Author Experience and Expertise: Peter Suciu

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu. You can email the author: [email protected].

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