Nicknamed “Showboat” because of all the media attention she received as she was being built and tested, the USS North Carolina was a true naval marvel at the time of her commissioning.
Three other ships had been previously named for this state, but this one was the classiest. She was the first newly constructed battleship for World War II, commissioned in New York in 1941 as a fast, heavily armed battleship. She had sixteen 400 mm guns.
Eventually, the USS North Carolina became the most decorated battleship in the entire war, having been awarded 15 battle stars.
She was ordered to the Pacific in 1942 after keeping the German battleship Tirpitz at Bay. Without her that particular enemy vessel would have wreaked havoc in the Atlantic shipping lanes.
On the way to the Pacific, the USS North Carolina made a morale boosting stop at Pearl Harbor. Her magnificence indicated to the men there the U.S. was on its way to regaining strength and overcoming the shock and humiliation of approximately six months before.
It was at Guadalcanal, the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, in August of 1942 that the USS North Carolina shone brightly. Japanese dive bombers and torpedoes viciously attacked three American aircraft carriers, and they incurred the wrath of the only American battleship in the fight.
After eight minutes, one of the American carriers, Enterprise, radioed asking if the battleship was on fire. It was not. Her guns had pounded Japanese attackers, her men staying at their stations with enemy ordnance flying all around. The Japanese lost 100 planes in this battle and, with that, any chance to reinforce their troops at Guadalcanal.
The USS North Carolina then went back to Pearl Harbor for repairs and equipment refitting. From there, she returned, engaging the Japanese in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands, and Saipan, rendering Japanese aviation totally ineffective.
Only kamikaze attacks were left as airpower options for the Japanese at that point. No effective Air Force was left to fight at Iwo Jima.
And at Okinawa, she thwarted another kamikaze attack and sank the largest battleship in the world, Yamoto.
Finally, she positioned herself in Tokyo Bay, bombarding the Japanese inland from the sea until they surrendered. Her men occupied Japan at the war’s end.
The USS North Carolina was decommissioned in June, 1947.
In April, 1962 she was brought to the port of Wilmington as a memorial to North Carolinians killed in battle in World War II.
She was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1986.
Visitors can view the main deck, parts of the interior, and the stern, which houses one of nine surviving OS2U Kingfisher aircraft, a Navy observation plane of which over one thousand five hundred were manufactured. Many events are staged there every year; a Fourth of July celebration being one of the most popular. Check this informative site for events, dates, and times.