Honoring Our Past

Source: http://digital.lib.ecu.edu/293.1 Postcard of the U.S.S. North Carolina. Title from historical note on verso. “U.S.S. North Carolina Battleship Commission.” Numbered P57112. Date approximated. Identifier: 318.2.c.317

Staff Person: Ken Harbit

Description:

A North Carolina treasure is Moored in Willmington. In quiet dignity and majesty is the fourth ship of the line to be called NORTH CAROLINA. She quietly beckons visitors to walk her decks and envision the daily life and fierce combat her crew faced in the Pacific during World War II. She was the most decorated US Battleship of WWII with 15 Battle Stars; Seeing action from Guadalcanal to Tokyo Bay, earning Battle Stars at Iwo Jima and Okinawa in between. She was dedicated on 29 April 1962 as the State’s memorial to its World War II veterans and the 10,000 North Carolinians who died during the war.

The USS North Carolina was launched at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, on June 13, 1940. During WWII the Japanese claimed to have sunk her 6 times, but she in fact lived on. She saw action at every major naval offensive in the Pacific theater, including the Battles of Guadalcanal, Marshall Islands, Luzon (considered by historians as the greatest naval battle in history), Iwo Jima and Okinawa.  In the Battle of the Eastern Solomon’s in August of 1942, the Battleship’s anti-aircraft barrage helped save the carrier ENTERPRISE, thereby establishing the primary role of the fast battleship as protector of aircraft carriers. By war’s end, she had become the most highly decorated American battleship of World War II, accumulating 15 battle stars. and she only lost 10 men!

From all across our Nation they came, young men who had grown up in the crucible of the Great Depression and now determined to serve their Country in its time of need. Most combat veterans remember their first firefight, their first shot. The first combat action of the USS North Carolina was about 8 minutes long. On 7 August 1942, she was the only battleship in the South Pacific, escorting the aircraft carriers Saratoga, Enterprise, and Wasp. The Americans struck first, sinking the Japanese carrier Ryujo. The Japanese counterattack came in the form of dive bombers and torpedo bombers, covered by fighters, striking at the Enterprise and the North Carolina. In an action eight-minutes long, the North Carolina shot down 14 enemy aircraft, with her antiaircraft gunners remaining at their posts despite the jarring detonations of seven near misses. One sailor was killed by strafing, but the North Carolina was undamaged. Her sheer volume of antiaircraft fire was so heavy it caused the officers of the Enterprise to ask, “Are you afire?”

USS North Carolina’s second engagement and first major battle occurred on August 24, 1942 when she spotted the Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft carriers. That battle was called the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, an unquestionable victory for America.

Affectionately known as “The Showboat”, without her brave, valiant and honorable souls, the “Showboat” would just be another ship; A footnote in the vast pages of history. It is because of their deeds and service to our nation, that “The Showboat”, USS North Carolina is more than just a ship. She is a living monument to their accomplishments and the ideals they represent. She is truly a shrine for a grateful nation to honor.

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