Tuesday, April 26, 2011

U.S.S. North Carolina Battleship Memorial

When I was working on my "Banner Elk" post, I forgot to add a couple of pictures.  We missed our turn in Boone, North Carolina, and ended up climbing a mountain to Banner Elk.  We saw barns with quilt patterns painted on the side.  

And this little house for sale

I wanted to share those pics before moving on to the U.S.S. North Carolina.

Our grandson Dalton was out of school for Spring Break and our daughter Alissa was on vacation.  So, we decided to go on an adventure -- to Wilmington to visit the U.S.S. North Carolina and the aquarium at Kure Beach, so off we went.  

Wilmington, North Carolina, is approximately 140 miles due South of where we are parked in Nashville, North Carolina.  We were up and out the door at eight o'clock Thursday morning.  On our drive, we saw these beautiful wildflowers along the highway.

We arrived at the USS North Carolina Battleship Memorial shortly before eleven o'clock.

This Coast Guard ship was parked across the water from the USS Carolina.

Entrance fees vary, depending on ages.  Adults are $12; active duty and retired military, along with those 65 and older, are $10; children 6 -- 11 are $6 and children 5 and under are free.  

Dalton immediately found a friend

The USS North Carolina is 729 feet -- that's the size of 2  1/2 football fields.  It made its own electrical power, producing 8.4 megawatts of electricity -- enough to power a small town of 6500 people. 
The bow
The stern

When building began in 1937, North Carolina was the first American battleship to be built in 16 years.  North Carolina and her sister ship, Washington, comprised the North Carolina class.  They were the first of ten fast battleships to join the American fleet in World War II.  Commissioned on April 9, 1941, North Carolina participated in every  major naval offensive in the Pacific during World War II, earning 15 battle stars.  She established the role of battleships as protectors of aircraft carriers when she defended the carrier Enterprise against air attacks during the Battle of the Eastern Solomons on August 24, 1942.   The North Carolina carried out nine shore bombardments, sank an enemy troopship, destroyed at least 24 enemy aircraft and assisted in shooting down many more.  Her anti-aircraft guns helped halt scores of attacks on aircraft carriers.  One of her pilots performed heroically during the strike on Truk when he rescued ten downed Navy aviators.  She steamed over 300,000 miles during wartime.  Although Japanese radio announced  six separate times that the North Carolina had been sunk, it wasn't true.  However, she did sustain a hit when a Japanese torpedo slammed into the battleship's hull, creating an 18x32 foot hole.  By war's end, she had lost only 10 men in action and had 67 wounded, which I find amazing.  After the war, the ship served as a training vessel for midshipmen but was decommissioned in June 1947 and placed in the Inactive Reserve Fleet in New Jersey.  In 1960 when the US Navy reported the battleship would be scrapped, the State's citizens mounted a campaign to bring it to North Carolina to preserve her as the State's war memorial to the 10,000 North Carolinians who lost their lives during World War II.

We were amazed at what we found on this historic battleship.

The battleship is armed with nine 16-inch 45 caliber guns in three turrets...

 ...thirty-six to fifty-three 20 millimeter, 70 caliber...

twenty 5-inch, 38 caliber and forty to sixty 40 millimeter, 56 caliber guns.

The Kingfisher plane sits proudly on the USS North Carolina and was used on battleships for shore bombardments and air-to-sea rescues.

We ventured to the next level -- very carefully...talk about steep and narrow!

The second deck featured daily life spaces, which made the ship feel like a floating city.  The first area we encountered was the Chapel.  Church services were usually held in the mess hall but could also be in any available area or the main deck.  
  The altar ares is now surrounded by glass.

Seating in the Mess Hall.

A bugler sounded the church call and a quartet or choir performed.  The battleship's chaplain held weekly services, oversaw the crew's spiritual welfare and served as a morale builder.  He also held weekly Bible studies and he managed the ship's library.

Across the room was the cafeteria-style serving line...

 ...along with the many serving trays waiting to be used by the crew members.

Have you ever seen a potato peeler like this?

Water ran through the machine and there was an abrasive substance like sandpaper inside the peeler that cleaned and peeled the potatoes.   So what happened to all those military folks you see in old movies that were peeling all the potatoes by hand?

Water Fountain "Scuttlebutt"

Each section in the kitchen had its own area -- such as dishwashing, vegetable preparation, et cetera.  And the crew members who worked in each area also slept in that area.

Not far from the kitchen area was the "Chief Master at Arms."  This section served as the ship's police force.  They had authority over all enlisted, patrolling the ship to ensure Navy directives and policies were strictly followed.   Their duties included, but not limited to: 
  • make sure there was no gambling, fighting, profanity,      littering or making, keeping, selling or drinking alcohol;
  • ensure the crew obeyed the designated smoking times and places.  
Being an old, retired civilian court reporter for the United States Air Force, I wanted to know where the courtroom and the jail were.  Apparently, the brig is in the very bottom of this battleship -- where no one was allowed to go.  However, those in the brig were probably held until they returned to their home port before any court-martial was convened.  Of course, I'm just guessing here -- I really don't have any idea.  As far as the above responsibilities of the Master of Arms -- well, just let me say, there has been considerable change in our military since World War II -- and I'll leave it at that!

Moving right along -- some individual sections were behind what looked like a cage, which made picture-taking difficult.  The "Gebunk" was the ship's soda fountain.  As you will see in the next picture, "Gebunk" is Navy slang for ice cream, sweets or snacks.

The ship could carry 120 days of food supplies, including:  7800 eggs, 16,800 lbs of butter, 94,200 lbs of sugar, 214,000 lbs of fresh meat, 466,000 lbs of fresh vegetables and 135,000 lbs of fresh fruit.  WOW, that's a lot of food!

The Ship's Barbershop 

OH NO, more steps downward -- more steep and narrow than ever!

Dig the phone booth
Engine Room
A complete printing shop

The print shop published such things as a newspaper, liberty cards, plans for the day, letterhead and maps.

Lost and Found was known as the "Lucky Bag."  Check out what it meant to have a personal article found and placed in the Lucky Bag.

The Lucky Bag

If I had to do extra duty in order to reclaim a lost item, I'd  more than likely watch as it was auctioned off...LOL!

Pics of the laundry facilities aren't that good, but how's this for washers:
Or a dryer:
We were surprised the washer wasn't a wringer-type and there actually was a dryer -- not just an open-air clothesline. 

It cost to have uniforms, pressed and officers, mess cooks, bakers, galley cooks and chief petty officers were the only ones allowed to pay the "finished service" fee for pressed uniforms.  Enlisted member's uniforms were not pressed.  Sometimes enlisted personnel could got their uniforms pressed if they knew someone who worked in the ironing room.  Otherwise, pressing meant using your own iron on a makeshift ironing board, such as pea coat lockers, or placing it underneath your mattress and sleeping on it.  How that could be acceptable pressing of a uniform is beyond me...LOL! 

Tailor Shop

Post Office

How does one get mail on a battleship you ask? Mail was delivered by destroyers.  The destroyers went into port, picked up mail and delivered it when they came alongside to refuel.  For a crew of over 2300, the volume of mail could be overwhelming.  It sometimes took months to reach its destination.  To help reduce the bulk, a new mail procedure called "V-Mail" (V for Victory) was launched.  Using a special form, the letter was photographed and reduced to microfilm.  This allowed the entire ship's mail to be handled in just one small bag.  Before delivery, the microfilmed letter was reprinted at half-size, folded and placed in an envelope for delivery.  V-Mail was free to servicemen oversees and only cost the sender three cents a letter.   
Guess what?  I have one of these V-Mail letters -- a letter from my dad to my mother.  I have often wondered why the letter appeared on small paper with "V-Mail" on the bottom and looked like it had been copied -- now I know.  I  got so  excited when I realized I had one of these letters -- how cool is that?

A store where one could purchase Prince Albert in a can and Barbasol -- among other items.

Did you ever call someone and ask them if they had Prince Albert in a can?  If so, let him out -- I have to admit I have:)

Have you ever wondered what they did with all the garbage -- they had a "garbage grinder."  Pic is taken thru a "cloudy" -- for lack of a better word -- window."

Paper trash was burned in an incinerator.
 The "Wishing Well" this is one of several 16" ammunition loading trunks.

A trunk is a series of openings for transporting supplies or ammunition.  The bottom is 4 levels down -- or 35 feet.  So, there are four more levels to this ship -- WOW!
Can you see the bottom?

They invite you to toss a coin and make a wish...all money collected is used for the ship's restoration projects.

This is the winch used to bring up the supplies from the trunk.

Movies were an important entertainment for the crew

Open bays where the enlisted men slept
From the looks of it, these are the original mattresses...not much room -- better not sit up.

And the berths fold up

The beds came with a mattress, a mattress cover and a fireproof cover.  The Navy issued each man two blankets and two sheets.  They were expected to change their sheets weekly and had to purchase their own pillow.  Some folded their blankets and used it as a pillow.
How's this for a closet?

Each locker had a number that corresponded to a number on a berth and the ship's command determined how their locker content was to be arranged.  The lockers contained uniforms, sheets, underwear, toiletries, shoes and personal items like stationary, Bible, candy and souvenirs.  No civilian clothes, cameras or diaries were allowed.

Talk about open-bays -- how about open-bay toilets...no privacy here!
 Yes, these are toilets
And no privacy in the shower -- be sure and save the fresh water

Don't want to miss the medical aspect of this ship.  Whatever you would find in a hospital, you will find on this ship.
 Operating Room

Doctor's office where they also slept.

Dispensary -- and again the men who managed this also slept here.

As the old saying goes, RHIP -- "Rank has its privileges."  Officers had their own mess hall, separate from enlisted, where African-Americans prepared and served all the food.

Officers paid extra money each month so they could enjoy a more elaborate menu that the rest of the crew.

Back up the stairs we climbed.

This is the memorial to the 10,000 North Carolinians that lost their lives in World War II.  Each name is listed by county of residence.

Display of "kill board" and battle ribbons

The red-and-white flags (9) on the left indicate the nine times the North Carolina bombarded Japanese-held islands.  The 24 red-and-white flags on the right signify that North Carolina downed 24 enemy planes.  The single flag represents the Japanese merchant marine ship the North Carolina sunk during the occupation of the Marshall Islands.  The two different flags are both Japanese.  The red sun with the rays is the Ensign that flies from military ships and installations.  The plain red sun was and is the national flag and flies everywhere else.  

The battle ribbons are as follows:  top left to right -- American Defense Service Medal and the American Campaign Medal; middle row left to right -- Atlantic - Pacific Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal and the Navy Occupation Medal; bottom row left to right -- Philippine Presidential Unit Citation; Philippine Liberation Medal and Philippine Independence Medal.
I hope I got all those correct...if not, please let me know.

 The "Bridge" where the steering of the battleship takes place -- a popular place.

 Dalton checks out the Captain's chair

View out the Captain's window

The ship's compass

There are two alligators living in the water around the USS North Carolina -- "Charlie" and "Charlene," but we only saw Charlie.

We left the USS North Carolina with a greater appreciation for the Navy and the men who served during World War II.  If you have the opportunity to visit a World War II battleship or aircraft carrier, please do...it's well worth your time.

We have family and friends in Arkansas and Texas that are experiencing severe storms and tornado activity.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the families who have lost loved ones and we pray for the safety of everyone.  There was considerable damage to Little Rock AFB -- my old stomping grounds -- and to the town of Vilonia just North of LRAFB where many military families live.  Please pray for those who were affected by these terrible storms...thank you!

God bless and be safe wherever you are!


  1. Thanks for the superb tour! I really appreciate how you were able to weave your own knowledge and story into the history presented here. Just an outstanding post, both informative and interesting too!


  2. It is so good that North Carolina and other states, I believe, have rallied around "their" named ships to preserve them as memorials. You did a grand job of this tour. Thanks for sharing it with us!

  3. What a great tour, photos and history lesson. I love seeing these old battleships restored and on display for everyone to see. They are remarkable warships.

  4. We lived in Wilmington for 4 years and found the battleship to be a fascinating tour. The restaurants in Wilmington are great too!
    You did an outstanding job on reporting/describing the battleship. Thanks!!

  5. Thanks for the wonderful tour. Very interesting. Loved the little house for sale. Stay safe.

  6. I knew with a title of U.S.S. North Carolina Battleship Memorial this was going to be a good read. As a former Navy Reservist I absolutely love this kind of history. Hang onto that letter, what a great heirloom. Sites like this are definitely on my bucket list. Cheers! ~M