Built at the New York Navy Yard and commissioned in April 1941, the USS North Carolina (BB-55) was the first of her class, the first battleship to join the US Fleet in almost 20 years, and the first of the fast American battleships. And a formidable ship she was. Displacing 37,484 tons and 44,377 tons fully loaded, she had a top rated speed of 27 knots made possible by a powerful power plant of eight boilers and four steam turbines driving four propellers. The battleship’s main armament had nine 16-inch guns mounted in three 3-gun turrets — two forward and one aft. She carried 20 5-inch guns mounted in ten 2-gun turrets, 16 1.1-inch guns in four 4-gun mounts, and twelve 0.5-inch guns. Sixty quad-mounted 40-mm guns and 20 single and 8 twin-mounted 20-mm guns replaced the 1.1-inch and .50-caliber guns during the war. She could carry a crew of 1,880 men.
After her shakedown and training cruises that occurred over a one-year period, she joined the Pacific Fleet in June 1942. The North Carolina was part of Vadm. Jack Fletcher’s Task Force providing air support for the invasion of Guadalcanal on August 7. She took part in the Battle of the Eastern Solomons. While escorting the carrier Wasp (CV-7), torpedoes from a Japanese submarine sank the carrier and damaged the North Carolina. She did return to Solomons a few months later after undergoing repairs.
The battleship served during the Gilbert Islands campaign during 1943 and was part of the fleet during the Battle of the Philippine Sea in June 1944. She protected the carriers that launched air attacks against Japanese targets in the Western Pacific in November and December of that year.
The North Carolina continued serving with the Pacific Fleet in 1945 in the Iwo Jima and Okinawa campaigns. Her station was off the Japanese Home Islands when the Japanese surrendered on September 2, 1945. She returned to the United States in October 1945 and then served in the Atlantic. The Navy decommissioned her in 1947 and took her off the Navy’s list of serving ships in June 1960. One year later, the Navy transferred her to the state of North Carolina. She became a memorial in Wilmington, NC where she remains to this day.