More on The Big Guns
The "Big Guns"
The 16 inch guns comprise NORTH CAROLINA's "Main Battery," her most destructive weapon. These big guns provided impressive fire power. They could accurately fire at a target 21-23 miles away, depending on the type of projectile used.
The "Big Guns"
The 16 inch guns fulfilled two important purposes:
The 16 inch guns are housed in three turrets. Turrets I and II are located on the bow while Turret III is on the stern.
A turret is a massive circular structure that is supported and rotated on a ring of heavy rollers. Each rotating turret structure consists of three 16 inch guns and all the equipment required to aim, load, and fire the three guns. Unique to a 16 inch turret is that each gun barrel may be elevated independently of the other two in comparison to NORTH CAROLINA's five inch guns in which both barrels must be raised and lowered together.
The turret has six levels. The top one can be seen from the Main Deck while the remaining five levels extend down through the Ship. The lowest level is located just above the Ship's bottom.
During World War II, approximately three officers and 177 enlisted men worked in each turret and could fire one round from each gun every 30 seconds.
The Gun House
The top level of the turret is called the gun house. You may enter the gun house through the hatch, the only entrance to the turret from the Main Deck. The hatch opens into the turret officer's booth which is in the back of the gun house.
The booth contains systems which could aim and fire the guns, communications circuits, and power equipment for the rammer. Even though the guns could be aimed and fired from the turret, the usual arrangement was for "fire control" to be handled from the Main Battery Plotting Room. Located three levels below the Main Deck, the men in "Plot" controlled the aim and fire of all three turrets using analog computers, radar, and a large control switchboard.
The gun house also has three compartments called "gun rooms," one for each gun. The five men in each gun room received a projectile and six powder bags, rammed them into the gun, and fired the round.
The Pan Floor and Electric Deck
The second level down from the gun house is the pan floor. It contains operating machinery and hollow spaces into which each gun breech is lowered when the gun is elevated.
Below the pan floor is the electric deck where a gun layer for each gun and a turret trainer were stationed. The gun layer operated the machinery that raised and lowered the guns. The turret trainer's equipment controlled turret rotation.
Upper and Lower Projectile Stowage and Handling Decks
The two levels below the electric deck provided storage and handling areas for 16 inch projectiles. There is also an elevator-type hoist for each gun which lifted the projectiles up to the gun rooms. (The lower of these two levels is open for touring.)
The Powder Handling Room
At the bottom level of the turret is the powder handling room where each gun has a large elevator-type hoist into which men loaded six 90 pound powder bags. The bags came from a ring of powder magazines surrounding the room. (A powder handling room and three magazines are open for touring.)
© 1999 The Battleship USS North Carolina