Sunday, June 12, 2011

USS North Carolina

We visited the USS North Carolina on June 7.

"The Showboat" is in Wilmington. You can see a photo gallery here:

 USS North Carolina: BB-55 

The ship is done up in a 'dazzle' paint scheme, based loosely on Measure 32 Design 18D. The main difference is that the dark bluish gray on the vertical surfaces of hull and superstructure should be dull black, and in her 'museum' scheme, she is done up the same on both sides. She 'wore' these colors from September 1943 till sometime in 1945. She would have been in this configuration at Okinawa, where she stood off kamikaze attacks and supported the landing operations there. BB-55 was a victim of 'friendly fire', when a destroyer, shooting at a kamikaze, hit one of the ship's aerial gunfire directors, killing three sailors and wounding another 44.

Earlier, during the Guadalcanal campaign, she was struck by a torpedo from a Japanese submarine. That torpedo had actually been fired at the carrier Wasp, but missed. Six crewmen were killed.

During the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, she cranked out such a volume of anti-aircraft fire that Enterprise queried her, "Are you afire?"

Here is a YouTube video with WWII clips

She carries nine 16"/45 caliber naval rifles, 20 5"/38 caliber dual purpose (anti-aircraft/naval gunfire) guns, 60 Bofors 40mm "pompom" anti-aircraft guns, and 46 20mm Oerlikon anti-aircraft guns. Here is a ten minute USN training film from 1955: 16 inch gun turrets

She's a technological marvel, especially considering when she was built.

The aircraft is a Kingfisher OS2U, used as a scout plane. The ship actually carried three of them.

The memorial staff are friendly and helpful, particularly the maintenance crew. One maintenance man noticed Susie mopping sweat from her face - it was a really hot day - and fetched some towels for her.

The ship is very well-maintained and is a must see for any visitor to eastern North Carolina. There is stark contrast, however, between the ship and the gift shop. Here we have the state's memorial to all North Carolinians who died in World War II ... yet the gift shop is filled with trashy souvenirs made in China, almost all of Central America, Pakistan, and other Third World nations of less-than-sterling qualities. That includes ball caps for retired service members, and  t-shirts. It's actually something of an embarrassment, considering the nature of the memorial.

But she's a beautiful ship, and the staff does a fine job of keeping her up ...

Useful references:

US Battleships: An Illustrated Design History

USS North Carolina Squadron at Sea

USS North Carolina Technical Reference (this one has a nice set of drawings, but does not have nearly the number of photos as USS North Carolina Squadron at Sea)

USS North Carolina (Ship's data)