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NORTH CAROLINA Meets with Cheers at Pearl Harbor

Early in 1942, NORTH CAROLINA was scheduled to head to Pearl Harbor. However, she remained in the Atlantic a few more months so she would be available to take on the powerful new German battleship, TIRPITZ, should that ship begin to attack Atlantic convoys shipping goods from America to England. NORTH CAROLINA finally left for the Pacific in the summer of 1942.

From the Men at Pearl

"July 11, 1942, I was stationed aboard a fleet tug when NORTH CAROLINA arrived at the entrance to the channel of Pearl Harbor. We were to meet her along with four other tugs. I was 19 years old and this was the first major man of war we had seen. After the devastation of Pearl Harbor and Coral Sea to Midway, NORTH CAROLINA was a Godsend. As I stood there on that small tug with sixteen other members watching NORTH CAROLINA come down the channel - this beautiful ship and the hundreds of men aboard her brought a ray of hope that we were going to come back. As NORTH CAROLINA sailors and officers on the bridge looked at us they saw devastation they never expected, as pictures had been very limited in the news as to what had happened in Pearl. But as we looked at them, we saw hope."

- Kenneth Dews, Vice Chairman of the Battleship Commission

"I’d like to turn back the clock now and tell you about the first time I ever saw the USS.NORTH CAROLINA. I was serving in the heavy cruiser PENSACOLA in the Pacific fleet. Morale in the Pacific fleet was just about at the lowest ebb that I think it was at any time during the war. We had, as you know, already lost the entire battle force of the Pacific fleet to the Japanese on December 7th. In the months that followed, we lost a number of other ships, including two carriers. The Japanese kept coming back for more, they were advancing all the way across the Pacific. The few battle-scarred ships that were left with their exhausted crews were really hard pressed to hold the line. We desperately needed help, but the days and weeks and months went by and nothing ever seemed to come out to help. Finally came July 11th and one of the most memorable, one of the most stirring things that I have seen, occurred on that date at Pearl Harbor. I remember that my ship was then moored with two other old rusty cruisers. We had just come in from sea. We were moored in what they then called the Cast Berths in Pearl Harbor.

Well, it was late afternoon when word came down from our signal bridge that something really interesting and something really big was standing in the channel from sea. All hands scrambled topside to see what the commotion was all about. I went to the Signal Bridge and we looked out across Ford Island toward the sea, toward the channel entrance. All we could see above the tops of the hangers and the palm trees was an immense tower foremast. I watched as this tower foremast moved slowly across from left to right and finally the great and the immense ship, the battleship NORTH CAROLINA suddenly came into view as she cleared the north side of Ford Island, and believe you me, it was just about the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my life, and certainly in those circumstances one of the most thrilling and inspiring things I have ever seen. Her crew was at quarters, flags flying, and the ship just looked like she was in perfect condition and she came toward us and crossed the stern of us at perhaps the distance of a hundred or two hundred yards. I remember that as one of the most thrilling things I ever saw in my life and I think back on it as love at first sight. That’s the way I felt about the NORTH CAROLINA."

- Captain Ben W. Blee, USN (Ret), later an officer aboard NORTH CAROLINA and years later, twice chairman of the Battleship Commission


"The thing I remember most distinctly was the day we arrived at Pearl Harbor. Even with all the movies and pictures you saw, you couldn’t appreciate the devastation that had taken place there. As we arrived and I looked at the oil-covered harbor and the broken rows of ships I choked up. There were all the sailors who had seen nothing but the desolation that the Japanese caused here, who had gotten a very sharp kick in the teeth at Pearl Harbor and who had, in the months that followed, lost other ships in battle. And these crews, they cheered and cheered us. I couldn’t help say to myself, ‘They are cheering for us for nothing.’ We hadn’t done anything. We had not fired a shot yet. But to them, we were the symbol of help finally arriving in force. It broke me up. I admit to being a misty eyed 18 year old."

-Larry Resen


"We arrived at Pearl Harbor and this was the first time Pearl Harbor saw a capital ship of our size and our armament from the States...all that time those boys were waiting for help from the States. It was a fantastic sight. They began to cheer. All the people were lined up along the docks. The yardmen stopped working. Everybody saw this magnificent ship coming into Pearl Harbor. All the carnage was still there. The ships were still in these sunken positions. Believe it or not, even as late as July, bodies were still popping out of the water, which was fearful for the people even to work in the water. A lot of time they had a whole lot of trouble getting people to go down below and see what was going on in the bay itself, in the harbor. This is what we saw. This is what we felt and we couldn’t believe how everybody began to cheer when we came into that port. It was magnificent. It was a tremendous, unexpected, and a thrill. Never forgotten by any of us who were there."

-Leo Neumann


1999 The Battleship USS North Carolina Commission
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Last updated: July 15, 1999.