70th Anniversary of the Famed "SHOWBOAT" USS NORTH CAROLINA
Lehman, Fred, Sea Classics
Dozens of former crewmen returned to honor the veteran battleship at a gala get together filled with nostalgia and remarkable fellowship
The third Naval ship to bear the name North Carolina (BB-55) was laid down 27 October 1937 by New York Naval Shipyard. At 35,000 tons displacement, she is 728-ft 9-in long with a beam of 108ft 4-in, and a mean draft of 26-ft 8-in. Launched 13 June 1940, she was commissioned at New York 9 April 1941 .
First commissioned of the Navy's modern post- WWT battleships, North Carolina received so much attention during her fitting out and trials that she won the nickname "Showboat." North Carolina completed her shakedown in the Caribbean prior to the Pearl Harbor attack, and after intensive war exercises, entered the Pacific 10 June 1942.
North Carolina and her escorts began the long islandhopping campaign for victory over the Japanese by landing 1st Marine Division Marines on Guadalcanal and Tulagi 7 August 1942. After screening Enterprise (CV-6) in the Air Support Force for the invasion, North Carolina guarded the carrier during operations protecting supply and communication lines southeast of the Solomons. Enemy carriers were encountered 24 August, and the Battle of the Eastern Solomons erupted. The Americans struck first, quickly sinking carrier Ryujo. Japanese retaliation struck with bombers and torpedo planes, covered by fighters, roared in on Enterprise and North Carolina. In the 8-min action, North Carolina shot down 14 enemy aircraft, her gunners standing to their guns despite the jarring detonation of seven near-misses. One man was killed by a strafer, but the ship was otherwise undamaged.
Unfortunately, the protection North Carolina offered Enterprise was limited as the speedy carrier drew well ahead. Virtually alone, Enterprise took three direct hits while her air group severely damaged seaplane carrier Chitóse and hit other Japanese ships. Losing more than 100 aircraft, the Japanese also lost control of the air in this action, and the United States avoided a threatened Japanese reinforcement of Guadalcanal.
North Carolina now gave her mighty strength to protect Saratoga (CV-3). Twice during the following weeks of support to Marines ashore on Guadalcanal, North Carolina was attacked by Japanese submarines. On 6 September, she maneuvered successfully, dodging a torpedo which passed 300-yds off the port beam. Nine-days lateT, sailing with Hornet (CV-8), North Carolina took a Long Lance torpedo portside, 20-ft below her waterline, and six of her men were killed. But sldllful damage control by her crew and the excellence of her construction prevented disaster; a 5.6-deg list was righted in as many minutes, and she maintained her station in a formation at 26-kts.
After repairs at Pearl Harbor, North Carolina screened Enterprise and Saratoga and covered supply and troop movements in the Solomons for much of the next year. She returned to Pearl Harbor in March and April 1943 to receive advanced fire control and radar gear, and again in September, to prepare for the Gilbert Islands operation.
With Enterprise, in the Northern Covering Group, North Carolina sortied from Pearl Harbor 10 November for the assault on Makin, Tarawa, and Abemama. Air strikes began 19 November, and for tendays mighty air blows were struck to aid Marines ashore engaged in some of the bloodiest fighting of the Pacific War. Supporting the Gilberts campaign and preparing the assault on the Marshalls, North Carolina's highly accurate 16-in guns bombarded Nauru 8 December, destroying air facilities, beach defense revetments, and radio installations. Later that month, she protected Bunker Hill (CV-17) in strikes against shipping and airfields at Kavieng, New Ireland, and in January 1944 joined Fast Carrier Striking Force 68, R/Adm. Marc Mitscher in command, at Funafuti, Ellice Islands.
During the assault and capture of the Marshall Islands, North Carolina illustrated the classic battleship functions of WWII. …