The USS North Carolina

The USS North Carolina was the first of a new class of fast battleships commissioned in 1941. She participated in every major naval offensive in the pacific during World War II and had a crew of 2,300 men. She was to be scrapped in 1958 and thus the people of North Carolina decided to enquire her and turn her into a museum. I have visited other battleship museums, although not in quite awhile. Kudos to the USS North Carolina. She seems to be very intact and the self guided tour provides a very complete glimpse into the life and systems of a battle ship from engines to navigation to quarters to guns. I’ll tell the rest in pictures.

Baby it was cold and windy outside (and chilly inside) so I did not want to walk around the far side of the ship to get a full pic for you. There are plenty on the web if you need to see one.
“Jim, why do they have an airplane on the battleship? It’s not an aircraft carrier.” To our surprise, these battleships carried two Kingfisher sea planes. They were launched by catapult, land on the water and hoisted back onboard. They were used primarily for scouting activities, support of shore bombardment and for air-sea rescue.

The Big Guns

Even though I used to be a member of the NRA as a child (a very different organization then) and have shot many different guns (on target ranges), I don’t tend to be terribly drawn to museums info on guns. However, the displays and info on how these guns are set up and fired was fascinating. This is 3 of the16-inch, 45 caliber guns.
The 45 caliber guns have a range of 23 miles! 23 miles! That is amazing. Like a baby rocket. The smaller 38 caliber 5-inch guns “only” have a range of 8 miles. I had no idea.
The aiming of the guns was typically done in the bowels of the ship in a heavily armored area using the fire control system. This is one of the computers used to do the calculations for aiming. Quite amazing to see a parallel systems here. But then again Enigma, used for code decryption by the British was also a parallel system.
Lots of gyros, synchronizers, early radar and other gadgets tanking into account wind, direction, speed and roll in firing the guns. This was the earliest of the computer controlled firing systems, quickly refined in later battleships. This was in the bowels of the ship but there were secondary systems in the gun turrets as well. Lots more information is available on the later systems on the web, but here is a short article on this particular system –
The shells for the 16-inch guns. This is a big rotating device that brought a shell around where it could then be loaded into the barrel.
The shell needed a charge. 6 of the 90 pound silk covered powder cylinders were then loaded into the barrel. They were conveyed from the powder room, but then hand lifted into the hopper to load into the barrel.
The layout sans barrel of a 16-inch and 8-inch load. It took 79 men to operate each 16-inch gun turret of 3 guns. Each man had an amazingly small, but important step in the process.

Living Accommodations

Many of the men lived in communal rooms with many beds. They were typically close to their duty station and you did not often leave your area of the ship. The little double locker? Each sailor got one. That was it! Not a lot of frills.
Not a lot of potty privacy. This bathroom had about 10 heads, 6 or so urinals and 4 showers that served 200 men. I can’t imagine.
There were several different kitchens and eating areas. The eating areas also served as movie and rec rooms and some men also bunked there. Of course the officers had smaller dining rooms that were more civilized. I would definitely have wanted to be an officer on these ships. No lingering. Eat and get out for the next guy. This is the ships meat supply for 3 months provisioning.
I’m always interested in the pharmacy as my Dad was and sister is a pharmacist. My Dad knew about compounding, where they used to mix up many of your drugs as opposed to having the pills delivered to the pharmacy for dispensing to you. there are very few compounding pharmacies any longer and only for specialty medicines. My sister tells me she is not sure they even teach compounding any longer.
The main control panel for 1 of the 4 engines. Very scary. Deep in the ship. Nothing was done by one person. The informational sign here says, “Orders to increase or reduce speed were sent from the bridge to the engine rooms using the engine-order telegraph. A bell sounded when the indicator moved. Dials monitored steam pressure, temperature, shaft rpm, rudder position and other vital information. Ventilation controls and telephone jacks are to the left of the main panel. The small handwheel is attached to the high pressure and low pressure turbines to move the ship forward. the large hand wheel is attached only to the low pressure turbine for reverse motion.” This station was maned by 4 people. There are 4 engines and two rudders. These guys did not control the rudders, only a single engine forward or backwards.

We spend a whole day on the boat and did not have time to read all the signs. A thoroughly interesting visit where we learned so much about what it might have been (is?) like on one of these big ships.