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"SHOWBOAT"
By Sue Gamache
From The Memoirs of Francis E. Tellier
EM 3/C-E Div.

The year was 1941 and the mood of the country was pro-military. It was in this spirit that the USS North Carolina and the USS Washington were commissioned. It hardly seemed fair to those aboard the USS Washington that in a very short time the North Carolina had received a lion's share of publicity while the Washington hadn't received as much as an honorable mention. . The sailors of the USS Washington were aware of all the press about the North Carolina as well as the good looking sailor featured in the Chesterfield cigarette ads posing proudly with the USS North Carolina in the background. As chance would have it, these two ships found themselves together in the Chesapeake Bay in the autumn of the year.

One Sunday, the message was sent from the North Carolina to the Washington- we shall pass you at 13,00 hours and we expect you to render full honors. The Chaplain of the Washington was in charge of the band. Being human, he seemed to carry some animosity in his heart about all the publicity the North Carolina was receiving and instructed the band to play "Here Comes That Showboat" when the North Carolina passed by. At the appointed time, the North Carolina began to sail into full view. She was a magnificent sight with all men in whites and kerchiefs and their band played "Anchors Away." As she approached the Washington, the band began to play "Here Comes That Showboat!"

Now, the entire matter would have been dropped if it were not for the Cougar Scream- a weekly publication circulated on the Washington. The next issue featuring the story of how the North Carolina was nicknamed "the Showboat" was distributed before Captain Benson had a chance to proof-read it. Upon reading the paper, Captain Benson ordered all copies to be picked up immediately. Most were retrieved however some copies managed to stay stashed in some of the sailors' lockers.

Another week or two went by before the Cougar Scream came out again. This time, it was proof-read by Captain Benson and ok'd for distribution. Upon receiving the revised edition, an immediate comparison was made between the old and the new issue and it was noted by several shipmates that the article about "The Showboat" was missing. This spread throughout the fleet and the nickname stuck. It's fair to comment that Captain Benson, in his effort to squelch the story of "The Showboat", did more to nickname the North Carolina than any other person!

 

1999 The Battleship USS North Carolina Commission
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Last updated: July 14, 1999.