The USS North Carolina recently celebrated 60 years in North Carolina. On Oct. 2, 1961, the North Carolina came home to her permanent berth in Wilmington. She was dedicated on April 29, 1962, as the state’s memorial to the 10,000 North Carolinians who died during World War II and all of the state’s World War II veterans.
Construction on the battleship began in October 1937 and she was the first battleship built since the early 1920s. She was also the first of 10 fast battleships that the Navy used during World War II. The North Carolina was considered to be the best sea weapon in the world when she was commissioned on April 9, 1941. She was equipped with nine 16-inch/45 caliber guns, and 20 5-inch/38 caliber guns, 60 40mm/56 caliber guns and 48 20mm/70 caliber guns. She had a crew of 144 commissioned officers and 2,195 enlisted men, including about 100 Marines.
During World War II, the North Carolina took part in every major sea offensive in the Pacific Theater and earned 15 battle stars. In August 1942, the North Carolina established the role of fast battleships as protectors of aircraft carriers when her anti-aircraft guns helped save the USS Enterprise during the Battle of the Eastern Solomon Islands.
The North Carolina was damaged during the war and at least six times Japanese radio announced that the North Carolina had been sunk, but thanks to the quick actions of her crew, she survived. By the end of the war in August 1945, 10 of her sailors were killed and 67 were wounded.
The North Carolina was decommissioned in June 1947 and sent to the Inactive Reserve Fleet in Bayonne, N.J. In 1958, the Department of the Navy announced that the North Carolina would be sold for scrap. The residents of North Carolina began a fundraising drive that included school children giving pennies to bring the North Carolina to the state. The campaign raised $345,000, about $3.2 million today, enough to bring the ship to the state.