The Honor and the Glory
At the time of her commissioning on 9 April 1941, she was considered the worlds greatest sea weapon. Armed with nine 16-inch guns in three turrets and twenty 5-inch 38 caliber guns in ten twin mounts, NORTH CAROLINA proved a formidable weapons platform. Her wartime complement consisted of 144 commissioned officers and 2,195 enlisted men.
During World War II, NORTH CAROLINA participated in every major naval offensive in the Pacific area of operations and earned 15 battle stars, more than any other battleship during the war. In the Battle of the Eastern Solomons Islands in August of 1942, the Battleships anti-aircraft barrage helped save the carrier ENTERPRISE, thereby establishing the primary role of the fast battleship as protector of aircraft carriers. One of her Kingfisher pilots performed heroically during the strike on Truk when he rescued ten downed Navy aviators on 30 April 1944. In all, NORTH CAROLINA carried out nine shore bombardments, sank an enemy troopship, destroyed at least 24 enemy aircraft, and assisted in shooting down many more. Her anti-aircraft guns helped to halt or frustrate scores of attacks on aircraft carriers. She steamed over 300,000 miles. Although Japanese radio announcements claimed six times that NORTH CAROLINA had been sunk, she survived many close calls and near misses - such as the Japanese torpedo which slammed into the Battleships hull on 15 September 1942. A quick response on the part of the crew allowed the mighty Ship to keep up with the fleet. By wars end, the Ship lost ten men in action and had 67 wounded.
"I never did get scared at the time because we were all well trained. We knew out jobs and we did them. It was just automatic. You didnt question. You didnt have time to get scared. You were doing a job. After it was over and you could think about it a little bit, you could say, Man, what could have happened? At the time you were actually engaged in action, you didnt think about things like that. You just did what you were to do.... I knew I had good shipmates. They were trained and they knew what to do and they did it."
-Donald C. Rogers
"The fact is that you are concentrating, and the adrenaline is running like mad at that moment when you are in combat. Its exciting, and you just have to be so damned alert."
"During this campaign, it was particularly busy, shall I say scary? It got very personal. A lot of planes attacking. There were bombs, torpedoes, and anything they had being aimed at us. From the peer I sat on, there was no question in my mind who they were aiming at. Every bomb or torpedo was aimed at my precious butt. I am sure every other man aboard ship felt the same way."
-Donald R. Wickham
"Anyway, this crew sure knew their stuff and were ready for anything, no matter how tired we were. Being a member of this ship made me very proud. If any one wasnt scared, theyre crazy, I was (scared)."
-Louis M. "Frenchie" Favereaux
"The only time I ever got scared was when that torpedo hit. The air was bad with smoke coming down. The first thing you thought of was were on fire. When you are on fire, there is no place to go. You are out there in the middle of the ocean."
-Kenneth B. Zimmerman
"The way you kept track of exactly where the enemy aircraft were, if you didnt know, was that first of all the 5-inch battery would open up and youd hear all that racket and feel the ship shaking as those guns were going off. We had twenty of them, ten on each side. They would open up at a range of approximately 14,000 yards. As the aircraft drew in closer, the next battery that would open would be the 40mm guns, which made a distinctive noise that was decidedly different from the 5-inch guns. Finally, when the range was very close, the 20mm guns would open up and even if you know nothing else, you could tell from that sound essentially how close the enemy aircraft were and when to begin praying."
-Captain Ben W. Blee, USN (Ret)
"One thing I could always remember, we were way down below and the sound effects to us were a little different. I could always tell when the Japanese planes were coming. First of all you heard the 5 -inch guns go boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. After a while, you hear the 40mm cut in boom-boom, boom-boom, beside the boom, boom, boom. Then you hear the 20mms trill, trill, trill and they are going to be right overhead. All of a sudden it is quiet. Then about ten or fifteen minutes later all of it will start again - boom, boom, boom; then you got that boom-boom, boom-boom; trill, trill, trill. All of a sudden, it is quiet again. That is the way the battle went."
-Jerry S. Gonzales
"After the torpedo, I was scared to death when we were out in the war zone. I was scared to death to sleep below decks. In fact, I had a blanket that I slept on topside (outside on the decks). I would sleep down in my regular bunk."
© 1999 The Battleship USS North Carolina