USS North Carolina (BB-55) turned 70-years young on 9 April 2011. Dubbed "the Immortal Showboat" by WWII journalist Walter Winchell, the Battleship Memorial recently held a tour-day 70th birthday celebration event in Wilmington, North Carolina.
At her commissioning on 9 April 1941 , she was the first US battleship to be constructed in 16-yrs and first new-construction ship to enter WWII. She became the first of ten fast battleships to join the United States fleet in WWII. North Carolina (BB-55) and her sister ship Washington (BB-56) comprised the North Carolina-class.
Considered the world's greatest sea weapons, BB-55 and BB-56 were armed with nine 16-in/45-cal guns in three turrets, and 20 5in/38-cal in ten twin mounts. There were 60 40mm/56-cal guns and 48 20mm/70-cal guns in addition. The new battleships both carried crews of about 2200 enlisted men and 145 officers, as well as another 100 Marines. During the Second World War, the North Carolina participated in every major Naval battle in the Pacific and earned 15 battle stars.
After decommissioning, the "Showboat" was placed in the inactive reserve fleet at Bayonne New Jersey and sat idle for almost 14-yrs. After the Navy announced plans to scrap the once proud warship, the citizens of the state of North Carolina campaigned to rescue their ship from the ship-breakers. School children joined the campaign to save and preserve their state's namesake ship by donating their nickels and dimes towards its preservation. The North Carolina arrived at its permanent berth at Eagles Island, across the Cape Fear River from Wilmington, North Carolina, on 2 October 1961 and was dedicated as a war memorial honoring the state's WWII veterans and the 10,000 North Carolinians who died during that war.
For the next half century, the Immortal Showboat served proudly once again. In April 201 1 , the city of Wilmington North Carolina held its annual Azalea Festival and the battleship held its 70th birthday celebration. Twenty-two former North Carolina crew members attended. This writer was pnvilegeó to meet some of them.
EDWIN A. BARTON, USN
Edwin Barton enlisted into the US Navy at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1944 at the age of 16. Sworn into service shortly after his 17th birthday, he received his basic training and went directly to his first ship at Norfolk, Virginia, the USS Montague (AKA-98) which was an Andromedaotess Attack Cargo Ship.
The Montague transported Barton and several others through the Panama Canal to Pearl Harbor and the Pacific Theater of Operations, where they eventually caught up with their permanent duty station, USS North Carolina.
He recalls spending 87-days at sea and the time that they took friendly fire that completely knocked out the ship's radar system. He was also a volunteer member of the landing party that left the ship after August 1945 to help secure the land bases all over Japan.
When the battleship returned to the Pacific, he received orders to the Light Cruiser USS Denver (CL-58). The Denvermaáe some Atlantic Ocean cruises training midshipmen from Annapolis in 1946 before Edwin's time in the Navy was up, and he was honorably discharged that year. He returned to his home near Pittsburgh, met and married his wife of now 63-yrs, and worked as a bricklayer, building new homes during the building boom of the 1950s and 1960s. Now retired, he is active in the Battleship North Carolina Association and serves on the auditing committee. He truly enjoys keeping up with his friends and shipmates.
Gvinmns mate zc
Chris Keenan is a Battleship North Carolina Plank Owner. He enlisted in New York City in November 1939 and took his basic training at Newport, Rhode Island. Following boot camp, he was "fortunate" to be berthed in USS Constellation which at that time was being used as a training vessel at Newport. (The wooden Sloop of War later spent part of 1 942 as the Atlantic fleet flag ship of Adm. …