|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'
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!