When people think about World War II, the first thing that comes to mind are the men and women who put their lives on the line for their country, rightfully so. These heroes will forever be remembered for their sacrifice and service to this country, for without these brave souls, the landscape of the United States could look very different today.
In addition to the men and women who served, science, mathematics, and new inventions also played a pivotal role. Radar, bombs, and tanks were new, and they were heavily utilized. Although the war was largely fought on the ground, the United States had what was considered at the time, “the greatest sea weapon in the world,” The USS Carolina.
The Back Story
When I went down to Carolina Beach earlier this year, one stop that we had to make was the USS Carolina. Coming into this, I had no clue how big this ship was, where it was, what it had done, and why it was significant. When driving by, I quickly learned just how massive this ship is. By massive, I mean it looks like a cruise ship, just loaded with guns and the capability to destroy a cruise ship. Just thinking about this drifting through the ocean on its way to wreak havoc on our enemies gives a chilling feeling.
If it wasn’t for a gigantic battleship, pulling into Cape Fear River in Wilmington, North Carolina would have been extremely underwhelming. A large parking lot with a building awaiting on the water. You walk into a small-ish building where employees are selling tickets and merchandise. It’s relatively inexpensive to come visit; tickets are $14 for adults, $10 for seniors over 65, $10 for military (which is ironic), $6 for kids 6-11, and free for kids under 5.
Once you purchase your ticket, it’s pretty much free reign. You walk onto the ship and explore. Again, this ship is massive, and when you’re on it, it feels even bigger. (I would like to take a brief moment and interject that when there are hands-on activities, I’m all in. I love playing with gadgets and seeing what doors open, if something says off-limits, that to me means there’s something good behind that door. I want in!)
The Ship Itself
The ship’s length 728 feet, has a beam of 108 feet, a draft of 32 feet. It stands at roughly 150 feet tall, weighs approximately 35,000 tons, and held a crew of roughly 1,800 service men. Armed with nine 16 inch .45 caliber Mark 6 guns, three three-gun turrets, 20 five inch .38 caliber guns, five turrets on each side, sixteen 1.1 inch anti-aircraft guns, and 18 .50 caliber M2 Browning machine guns, it had the nickname Showboat”, but should’ve just been “Bad Ass”. Building for this began in 1937 and was completed in 1941 in the New York Naval Shipyard.
Once completed, the ship primarily sailed along the U.S. Eastern Coast because the U.S. was in a neutral position at the time. After Pearl Harbor, orders came in that the USS Carolina would be heading to Iceland to combat German battle ships. However, these orders quickly changed and it was sent to the Pacific to assist in the Battle of Guadalcanal. It was here that the ship got it’s first taste of battle while shooting down several Japanese aircrafts.
In the same battle, the ship was struck by a Japanese torpedo but did not receive serious damage. Returning to base to receive repairs, it returned a few months later and headed for the Philippine Sea. Shortly after, it headed to Iwo Jima and Okinawa to continue the United States’ effort of attacking Japan. After the Japanese surrendered, the ship returned with hundreds of troops aboard where it was eventually decommissioned in 1947.
To literally walk and be a part of American history, there really isn’t anything like it. If you ever have the opportunity to head to Wilmington, North Carolina, this needs to be a destination. To actually walk on a battleship and see what it was like to live on something for several months at a time, to see the kitchen that fed hundreds of soldiers daily, it is truly incredible. The next stop is to see a carrier built within the past 10 years!
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