North Carolina-class battleship
The North Carolina-class battleship consisted of two warships which saw extensive action during World War II.
The two battleships of the North Carolina class, the first U.S. Navy big-gun warships authorized in nearly two decades, were built with Fiscal Year 1937 appropriations. Their 35,000-ton standard displacement was the maximum allowed under the Naval Limitations treaties then in effect, as were the ships' main batteries of twelve 14-inch guns in three quadruple turrets. However, when the treaty collapsed after Japan's withdrawal in 1936, the design was revised to take nine 16"/45 guns in triple turrets instead, though armor remained at a level intended to protect against 14-inch shellfire at expected battle ranges.
The North Carolina's were completed in 1941 and underwent extensive shakedowns to control initial teething problems and to prepare ships and crews for combat. They served throughout World War II, mainly in the Pacific, where they were valuable members of the surface battle force and the aircraft carrier task groups. Their 27-knot maximum speeds allowed them to keep station with the fast carriers under most circumstances, and their heavy anti-aircraft batteries were effective in reducing the threat of Japanese air attacks on the "new queens' of the sea", the aircraft carriers.
The new battleships' big guns were mainly used to bombard targets ashore. They were in action against enemy capital ships just once, on 15 November 1942, when Washington fatally disabled the old Japanese battleship Kirishima off Guadalcanal. Their armor was never seriously challenged by hostile gunfire, but a September 1942 Japanese submarine torpedo hit gave North Carolina's underwater protection system a severe test.
Both ships were placed in reserve shortly after the end of World War II, and stayed in "mothballs" until the early 1960s, when the Navy decided they were no longer needed for possible active duty. North Carolina then became a memorial and museum, while Washington was scrapped.
- Displacement: 35,000 tons (standard)
- Dimensions: 729' (length overall); 108' 4" (maximum beam)
- Powerplant: 115,000 horsepower steam turbines, producing a 27 knot maximum speed
- Armament (Main Battery): Nine 16"/45 guns in three triple turrets
- Armament (Secondary Battery): Twenty 5"/38 guns in ten twin mountings (ten guns on each side of the ship)
USS North Carolina (BB 55)
USS North Carolina was built at the New York Navy Yard. When commissioned in April 1941, she was the first new battleship to join the fleet in nearly two decades. Following over a year of prolonged shakedown and training cruises in the Atlantic area, North Carolina went to the Pacific in June 1942. She took part in the Solomons campaign during the rest of that year and some of 1943, covering the initial landings on Guadalcanal and participating in the Battle of the Eastern Solomons in August 1942. She was damaged by a Japanese submarine torpedo on 15 September, in an attack that also fatally damaged USS Wasp (CV-7), but returned to the Solomons combat zone after a few months' repairs.
In November 1943, North Carolina assisted in capturing enemy positions in the Gilbert Islands. This began a pattern of operations for her that lasted for the rest of World War II: serving in the anti-aircraft screen of aircraft carrier task forces and occasionally using her heavy guns to bombard Japanese-held islands. In these roles, during 1944 she was involved in the Marshalls operation in January-February, attacks on Central Pacific targets through the late winter and spring, the Marianas invasion and Battle of the Philippine Sea in June, and Western Pacific carrier strikes in November and December.
North Carolina continued her Western Pacific activities in 1945, participating in the invasions of Iwo Jima in February and Okinawa in March and April. The battleship also screened carriers on raids throughout the combat zone, including attacks on the Japanese home islands. She was off Japan in August and September, during the weeks just before and after that nation's surrender. North Carolina returned to the United States in October 1945 and operated in the Atlantic until she was inactivated in 1946. Decommissioned in June 1947, she was part of the "mothball" fleet until stricken from the navy list in June 1960. The following year, North Carolina was transferred to the State of North Carolina to become a memorial and museum at Wilmington, where she remains to this day.
USS Washington (BB 56)
USS Washington was built at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania. She commissioned in May 1941 and was in the Atlantic during "close to war" and wartime operations for more than a year. From April into July 1942 Washington worked with the British Home Fleet in the North Atlantic. She was then overhauled and sent to the South Pacific, where, in September, she joined U.S. forces engaged in the Guadalcanal Campaign. On 14-15 November 1942, she was flagship of Rear Admiral Willis A. Lee in the last part of the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. During that night action, her sixteen-inch guns fatally damaged the Japanese battleship Kirishima.
Washington worked in the South and Central Pacific into 1944. She took part in the invasions of the Gilbert Islands in November 1943 and the Marshalls early in the new year. On 1 February 1944, during the latter operation, she crushed her bow in a collision with the battleship USS Indiana (BB-58). Following repairs, Washington rejoined the fleet in time to participate in the Marianas invasion in June 1944, and in the resulting Battle of the Philippine Sea.
During the next year, Washington took part in operations to capture the Palaus, Leyte, Luzon, Iwo Jima and Okinawa, as well as supporting the fast carriers on their raids throughout the Western Pacific. She was undergoing overhaul during the last two months of the Pacific War and, in October 1945, steamed through the Panama Canal to the Atlantic. Her final active duty was to transport veteran servicemen home from Europe. Washington was placed out of commission in June 1947 and was in "mothballs" from then until May 1961, when she was sold for scrapping.
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