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Battleship North Carolina Restoration Plans


Purpose

The purpose of this notice is to provide information concerning the restoration program onboard the Battleship and specific information about the first major restoration project, the replacement of the teak decking.


Background

In 1961 the Battleship NORTH CAROLINA was saved from scrapping and brought to Wilmington, North Carolina through the contributions of the citizens of the State, including nickels and dimes of lunch money from 700,000 school children. Established as the State's memorial to her W.W.II veterans, the USS North Carolina Battleship Memorial is also a leading tourist attraction, and growing museum.

From that very beginning 35 years ago the Battleship NORTH CAROLINA has remained totally self-sufficient, having never received any appropriated funds, tax dollars or grants from either the State of North Carolina or the Federal Government. Instead the Battleship has relied solely on revenue from the sale of tickets to tour the ship, sales in the gift shop, proceeds from investments and donations to cover all expenses to operate and maintain the ship, including capital improvements.

While the Battleship has been in Wilmington since 1961, the basis for the material condition of the Battleship dates back to the 1930's since the ship started construction in 1936 and was commissioned and completed fitting out in 1941. The Battleship's last major maintenance period was back in 1947 as the Navy prepared to place the ship in the Reserve Fleet. As examples, elements such as the teak decking can be traced back to 1939 or 1940, but the reality is that the teak deck has received no regular maintenance since the ship was places in the Reserve Fleet in 1947. Exacerbating the problem with the teak is that during the war, when repairs were needed, and no supply of teak material available, the damaged teak was removed, and castable boiler material (like concrete) poured into the area. The hull itself has had no preservation below the waterline since 1946. Even some of those spaces that had had work done to prepare it to be included on the tour route early in the post 1961 period after arriving in Wilmington now need to be properly restored to the authentic World War II condition. The current Wardroom is a classic example of a non-authentic refurbishment of a space.

With respect to restoration of NORTH CAROLINA, Captain David R. Scheu, USN(Ret.), continues the basic tenet that his predecessor had which was that any restoration be done as close as possible to the that which was prevalent during the Battleship's active service from 1941 through 1947, while at the same time recognizing the need to meet current safety standards. Up through 1994 all funding requirements for this philosophy of authentic restoration on the Battleship had been met by allocating a portion of the annual operating funds for the accomplishment since none of the projects were of significantly large dollar amounts.

In 1994, an unparalleled opportunity for the Battleship occurred as a result of a visit to the ship by the Minister of Forestry and a delegation from the Government of Myanmar (formerly Burma) who were on a tour of the United States. Their itinerary included a visit to Wilmington to one of the larger exotic wood importers in the United States., Dean Hardwoods. As part of their itinerary, Dean Hardwoods planned and setup a luncheon onboard the Battleship North Carolina. Following up on a suggestion from the president of a Washington DC based organization, the Government of Myanmar officially offered to donate 40 tons of teak decking and margin material and offered the Commission an option to purchase the remaining 137 tons at a deeply discounted cost. Conservatively, this generous contribution from Myanmar exceeds $500,000.

Even with that level of donation, the costs of shipping, drying, milling and installing the new teak deck exceed our normal operating budgets. For this reason, we are establishing a endowment funded by fully tax-deductible contributions to meet these needs.

Discussion

This teak deck restoration provides a unique opportunity to embark upon a new fundraising campaign to pay for the extraordinary costs associated with needed restoration projects intended to help keep the Battleship NORTH CAROLINA viable well into the 21st century.

The removal of the current teak decking to make way for its replacement provides us with a supply of original teak which can be used to a potential advantage. By careful removal, an estimated 80,000 linear feet of teak boards and margin material will be cut up into various sizes and used a piece of memorabilia in conjunction with the fundraising campaign.

 


1999 The Battleship USS North Carolina Commission
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Last updated: July 18, 1999.