Haze Gray Photo Feature

North Carolina (BB 55)

"The Showboat"

USS North Carolina (BB 55) was the first US battleship constructed after the long between-wars construction holiday. Built on a nominal 35,000 ton standard displacement required under the London Treaty, she set the basic pattern for all subsequent US Navy battleships. North Carolina was designed to carry 14" main guns, but was built with nine 16 inch, 45-caliber guns after foreign nations did not agree to a 14" limit. North Carolina was the first fast battleship in the US Navy, reaching 28 knot speeds.

North Carolina was laid down at New York Navy Yard on 27 October 1937, launched 13 June 1940, and commissioned 9 April 1941. She operated in the Atlantic for the first part of her career, then transferred to the Pacific in 1942. There she operated mainly as an escort for aircraft carriers. She was torpedoed 15 September 1942, suffering 5 fatalities. After lengthy wartime service, North Carolina was overhauled for postwar service, and made a training cruise for Naval Academy midshipmen. She was decommissioned and laid up 27 June 1947.

After years in reserve, she was stricken 1 June 1960, donated 6 September 1961, and preserved at a museum in Wilmington, North Carolina, where she remains today.

-- The Ship --

 [THUMBNAIL] A port quarter view of North Carolina from shore. The ship wears her wartime blue-gray camoflage paint, a welcome change from the peacetime gray of most museum ships.

 [THUMBNAIL] (left) A broadside closeup of the midship superstructure, port side. This view captures four of the 5"/38cal dual mounts on the port side, along with their gun director, some light AA guns, and the two funnels.

(right) A view along the port side, looking forward from midships. The complete port-side 5"/38cal battery is shown.


 [THUMBNAIL] (left) Looking up towards the main superstructure through the port-side 5" and 40mm gun batteries.

(right) Broadside view of the forward superstructure, including the bridges and armored conning tower.


 [THUMBNAIL] (left) A closeup of the bridges and port bridge wing, showing the ship's various kill markings and decorations.

(right) View looking forward along the port side, from the bridge towards the forward 16" turrets.


 [THUMBNAIL] (left) At the bow looking aft towards the forward turrets and superstructure.

(right) The corresponding view from the stern, showing #3 main turret and the aft superstructure.


 [THUMBNAIL] A close view looking up at the forward superstructure and bridges from beside #1 main turret.

 [THUMBNAIL] A view looking past #3 main turret, up the aft superstructure towards the bridge.

-- The Guns --

 [THUMBNAIL] (Left) A 16" shell and single powder bag displayed on deck. Each shell was fired with up to 6 powder bags, each weighing 98 pounds.

(Right) A comparison of 16" and 12" shells and a 24 pound cannonball, shown with their powder charges.


 [THUMBNAIL] Two views looking in opposite directions across the rangefinder section of #3 main turret. This area housed the rangefinder operators, turret captain, and others responsible for operation of the entire turret.  [THUMBNAIL]

 [THUMBNAIL] The rangefinder "mechanical integrator" in #3 turret. This device, and others in the fire control system, were complex mechanical computers.

 [THUMBNAIL] Powder loading operation in #3 turret. The powder bags roll down from the hoist at left, three at a time, onto the rammer tray before being rammed home into the barrel.

 [THUMBNAIL] Two views of 16" shells stored in the shell flats in the lower levels of the turret structure.  [THUMBNAIL]

 [THUMBNAIL] Two views of powder charges stored in cannisters in the powder magazines, at the lowest level of the turret structure.  [THUMBNAIL]

 [THUMBNAIL] One of the ship's dual 5"/38cal mounts. 10 of these dual-purpose mounts were carried - the standard for US WWII-era battleships.

 [THUMBNAIL] Two views of quad 40mm antiaircraft mounts. The ship's intermediate antiaircraft battery was composed of 15 such installations, replacing four quad 1.1" mounts originally installed. The mount shown at right has its original shields in place, while the other does not.  [THUMBNAIL]

 [THUMBNAIL] (Left) A close view of a 40mm mount, gun breech and loading mechanisms.

(Right) View through the sights on a 40mm mount.


 [THUMBNAIL] Two views of a 20mm antiaircraft mount. Up to 20 single and 8 twin 20mm mounts were eventually carried, replacing the handful of .50cal machine guns initially installed. These guns formed a last-ditch defense against incoming aircraft.  [THUMBNAIL]

-- Machinery Spaces --

 [THUMBNAIL] (Left) An air compressor in one of the ship's machinery spaces.

(Right) An engine control space in Machinery Room #4.


 [THUMBNAIL] (Left) View in a machinery space showing the densely packed cableways.

(Right) Legend explaining the color coding system used on shipboard piping systems.


 [THUMBNAIL] The steering gear for the port rudder. The gear is placed in a small armored box for protection against enemy fire.

-- Living Spaces --

 [THUMBNAIL] The ship's barber shop. Like all large warships, she was fully equipped with barbers, dentists, and medical facilities.

 [THUMBNAIL] The dentist's chair.

 [THUMBNAIL] The operating table in sick bay.

 [THUMBNAIL] Sick bay bunks - these are only two-high; all others were three levels high.

-- Other Views --

 [THUMBNAIL] Two views inside the ship's bridge. This is a relatively spacious bridge, from which the ship could be easily operated. The armored conning tower was much smaller and more crowded, and would not see much use outside battle.  [THUMBNAIL]

 [THUMBNAIL] North Carolina's wooden decks are being replaced. These views show the contrast of new and old decking.  [THUMBNAIL]

 [THUMBNAIL] Two views of the ship's Vought OS2U Kingfisher. Two catapults and aircraft were carried for gunfire spotting purposes.  [THUMBNAIL]

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This section of the HG&UW site created and maintained by Andrew Toppan.
Copyright © 2002, Andrew Toppan. All Rights Reserved.
Photos Copyright © 2003, David S. Speaks. All Rights Reserved.
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