Just over an hour northeast of Myrtle Beach is anchored a piece of history, the famous World War II battleship USS North Carolina. Now a museum and memorial, the ship is anchored at the seaport of Wilmington, North Carolina and is a popular tourist draw.
History buffs will love a visit to this impressive piece of history. The USS North Carolina was the lead ship in the North Carolina class battleships during WWII, and it was the first newly-made American battleship to enter service during the war.
When construction began in 1937, the USS North Carolina was the first American battleship to be constructed in sixteen years, according to the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. When the ship was commissioned on April 9, 1941, she was considered the world’s greatest sea weapon. Fast and strong, the ship had a full modern armament and her wartime crew included 144 commissioned officers and 2,195 enlisted men, including about 100 Marines.
The USS North Carolina took part in every major naval offensive in the Pacific Theater during the war and earned 15 battle stars, making it the most decorated American battleship of World War II. The ship conducted nine shore bombardments, sank an enemy troop ship, destroyed at least 24 enemy aircraft and assisted in shooting down many more, according to historical accounts. Her anti-aircraft guns foiled many attacks on aircraft carriers. Japanese radio announcements claimed six times that the ship had been sunk, but although it survived many close calls (including a hit by a Japanese torpedo), the ship survived the war and lost just ten men in action, with 67 wounded.
The North Carolina was decommissioned in New York on June 27, 1947 and transferred to the state of North Carolina in 1961 after school children and other citizens of North Carolina raised $330,000 to purchase it from the U.S. Navy. The battleship was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1986.
Today, the Battleship North Carolina is operated by the North Carolina Battleship Commission.
If you decide to visit the battleship, you won't be disappointed. Visitors can see behind the scenes tours, in-depth programs of how the ship worked, reenactments and even fireworks on the Fourth of July. Tour the ship's main deck, many interior compartments and two of three 16-inch gun turrets. Self-guided tours take about two hours. See the calendar of events for a listing of what’s happening at the USS North Carolina.
In addition, the memorial includes one of the nine surviving OS2U Kingfisher aircraft, displayed near the stern of the ship. The memorial is accessible by car or a short water taxi ride from downtown Wilmington. A gift shop and picnic area are on site as well.
The Battleship North Carolina is open every day of the year, including holidays. Winter hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $12 for adults and children 12 and older, $10 for seniors and active or retired military members, $6 for children age 6-11 and free for children 5 and younger.
Some facts about the USS North Carolina:
- Hull Number: BB 55
- Keel laid: October 27, 1937
- Launched: June 13, 1940
- Commissioned: April 9, 1941
- Decommissioned: June 27, 1947
- Length: 728 feet
- Extreme beam width: 108 feet, 3 inches
- Mean draught: 31 feet 7 inches normal, 35 feet 6 inches maximum
- Displacement: 36,600 tons standard, 44,800 tons full load
- Complement: 2,339 (144 officers and 2,195 enlisted)
- Speed: 28 knots
- 9: 16-inch/45 caliber guns
- 20: 5-inch/38 caliber guns
- 60: 40mm/56 caliber guns
- 48: 20mm/70 caliber guns