There are so many new things to discover here in North Carolina and time just doesn’t seem to allow us to get around to as many as we’d like. My wife Terri and I did, along with my daughter and her husband, get to visit a remarkable piece of history that all should find time to explore.
I’m talking about the battleship USS North Carolina. This fantastic ship was christened in 1939 and immediately saw action in the early months of the second world war. We’ve all seen the old movies of guns blazing, planes swooping and bombs falling. And best of all the good guys winning and living happily ever after. I urge all to spend an afternoon on this relic of battles fought in order to understand the real story of what our soldiers did to make this country free. The USS North Carolina is berthed in Wilmington, North Carolina and is a permanent reminder of the heroics of the men and women who fought in World War Two.
The self guided tour starts as you climb down the narrowest and steepest stairways you could imagine into the belly of the ship. The ships mess hall is one of the first areas to explore, to think that seamen would work in the cramped kitchens in 120 degree temperatures truly is amazing. Travelling even deeper into the ship you can see where men slept on bunks stacked five high with barely 18 inches between them. Going deeper still there were the machine shop, infirmary, officers quarters, ship’s stores where a candy bar or shaving kit could be bought. The engine rooms have to be seen to be understood. I envisioned the men as they worked on these behemoths, crawling through the entanglements of piping and wiring as the ship fought its way through the Pacific doing there all to keep her under way.
The small office where a sailor worked to relay information from the bridge to the fire control was no more than two foot square, talk about claustrophobia! These men did this job while deep in the belly of that ship while guns were blazing, planes were trying to bomb them, submarines were firing torpedoes at them, temps approached 120 degrees…. give me a bad day at the office anytime!
Most amazing were the guns and the gun turrets. The size of the 15″ guns is truly awe inspiring and the areas the men in charge had to work in were simply unimaginable. These guns had 6 bags of gunpowder, each weighing 80 pounds, set behind the projectiles that weighed up to 2700 pounds each! The men loading and firing these behemoths were
within inches of those guns as they were fired. I can only imagine the heat and noise that they must have endured.
To think that these men, most of them still in their teens and early twenties, rose to these challenges is simply humbling to someone who never had to go through it and I urge all to take a moment on this anniversary of D-Day to remember that our sons and daughters took up our flag and walked with it into a hell and came out the other side. Truly the greatest generation.