The U.S.S North Carolina (BB-55) was the first U.S. Navy battleship built in over 20 years. Her keel was laid in 1937; she was launched in 1940, and commissioned on April 9, 1941. During her shakedown cruises out of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, she earned the nickname "The Showboat".
After sea trials ending in June, 1942, she was the first American battleship to enter Pearl Harbor after the devastating attack of December 7, 1941. In action in the Pacific against the forces of the Japanese Empire, she earned 15 battle stars, more than any other American battleship during WWII. As the role of the battleship changed from ship to ship engagement to escorting aircraft carriers and invasion support, the North Carolina shot down 24 enemy aircraft, conducted 9 shore bombardments, and sank 1 enemy merchant ship. During the battle of the Eastern Solomons, on September 15, 1942, she took a torpedo from a Japanese submarine port side forward and suffered 5 killed and 20 wounded. The crew managed to control flooding and she was able to maintain speed with her convoy, and after repairs, returned to the thick of the action. She participated in shore bombardment, as well as carrier screening, during the battle of Okinawa and assaults on the Japanese home islands. Immediately after the surrender of the Japanese Imperial Forces in August, 1945, her crew provided part of the initial occupation forces.
Her primary armament consisted of 9 16 inch guns on 3 turrets, 2 forward, 1 aft, which could hurl a 1900 pound high explosive shell 23 miles, or a 2700 pound armor piercing shell 21 miles. 20 5 inch guns, set in 10 twin batteries in armored mounts, were used against both surface targets and enemy aircraft.
Early antiaircraft weaponry consisted of as many as 28 .50 caliber water cooled machine guns and 16 28mm guns. After 1942, however, she was fitted with as many as 60 40mm quad mount Bofors guns, and 53 20mm Oerlikons.
She also carried 3 Vought OS2U Kingfisher Seaplanes, designed initially for target spotting and scouting. These were launched from 2 catapults off the fantail with a gunpowder charge. They would land on the sea in the lee of the ship and be lifted aboard with a large crane positioned between the catapults. As the primary duties of being the ship's over the "horizon eyes" were taken over by radar, the Kingfishers found a role in rescuing downed U.S. airmen. One such daring rescue took place toward the end of the war in Tokyo Bay.
She was decommissioned in 1947, stricken from the Navy List in 1960, donated to the State of North Carolina, and dedicated as a WWII Memorial on October 3, 1961. She is moored in the Cape Fear River across from Wilmington, N.C. where she is the City's primary tourist attraction as well as a museum and memorial to all North Carolinians who served in WWII. Local legend has it that, as she was being maneuvered into her berth, her fantail struck and heavily damaged a floating restaurant known as Fergus Ark, leading to the trivia question, "What was the last ship sunk by the North Carolina"?
In 2000, the Azalea Coast Amateur Radio Club joined the Battleship Memorial as an Affiliated Organization. The Club was initially requested to assist in the repair of the Ship's internal communication system, and then to attempt to bring at least one of the Ship's original transmitters back up on the air.
After approximately 2 years, the TBM-4, placed in service by the Navy on July 15, 1941, went on the air again on January 29, 2002 and made successful Morse code contact with one of the Ship's original CW operators, W1SRR in Massachusetts, on the 40 meter band. The signal report was 579 each way.
The next project was the TDE, placed in service by the Navy on September 25, 1944. This project took quite a bit longer. The Ship itself officially remains Navy property, and when the Iowa (BB-61) and the Wisconsin (BB-64) were reactivated for the 1st Gulf War, the apocryphal evidence suggests that the Navy came aboard the North Carolina and removed much equipment for repairs/replacements/spares. However, through perseverance, skill and luck, successful CW contact was again established with W1SRR on 20 meters on May 30, 2006. The signal report for the Ship was 579, albeit with a "hum".
The Azalea Coast Amateur Radio Club takes great pride in having revived these radios, dormant for more than 50 and 60 years, and having restored authentic WWII communications ability for the Memorial and Museum.
The Club puts these original transmitters on the air for amateur radio special events such as Pearl Harbor Remembrance day and Museum Ships Weekend. For other amateur events, the Club brings its own modern radio gear aboard and connects to the Ship s original cabling and antennas. On these occasions, the Club uses the vanity call sign NI4BK, NIBK being the Ship's call sign during her WWII service.
For a more detailed discussion of the restoration project, click the Battleship link in the menu on the Clubs website.