Click to see photos of the USS North Carolina
The USS North Carolina is pemanently on display in Wilmington, North
Carolina. She is open every day of the year.
for visitor information
Our thanks to Steve Belanger for the use of his outstanding USS
North Carolina photos. Steve has two sites chock full of battleship photos.
Check them out
Commissioned April 9, 1941
Length: 713'5" wl, 728'9" oa
Extreme Beam: 108'4"
Mean Draught: 31'7 normal, 35'6" maximum
Displacement: 36,600 tons standard, 44,800 tons full load
Complement: 2,500 men
Speed: 28 knots
- The Ship
The basic structural arrangement of the two NORTH CAROLINA class battleships was
partly pre-ordained by the decision that the main battery would be mounted in three
turrets, two forward and one aft. This, alone, practically dictated the relative positions
of the main battery magazines, machinery spaces and the superstructure. Nevertheless, the
designers of the NORTH CAROLINA and WASHINGTON were able to incorporate into these
ships many radical improvements over the designs of earlier United States battleships.
A sweeping flush deck, unbroken from bow to stern, made these ships more graceful in
appearance that their predecessors.
USS Washington BB-56
- The tripods and cage masts of earlier ships were replaced by a streamlined
superstructure, surmounting the hull amidships like a medieval castle. A massive
tower, resembling a keep, dominated this structure forward. The tower loomed to a height
of 120 feet above the waterline, providing superb platforms as several different levels
for fire control stations and equipment; for yardarms and halyards on which to run up
signal flags; for battle lookouts, searchlights, automatic antiaircraft weapons, and a
secondary conning station; and for radio and (later) radar antennae.
- The two main battery fire control directors and four secondary battery directors were
ideally positioned aloft, with commanding fields of vision for their purposes. The 5-inch
gun mounts of the secondary battery, instead of occupying the old-style casemates with
their limited arcs of fire to each side, were clustered around the superstructure,
positioned for the widest possible fields of fire, and obviously intended to endow the
ship with a superior antiaircraft gunnery capability.
- The hull shape featured a vertical stem below the waterline, with a bulbous bow designed
to reduce resistance and increase hull efficiency by as much as five percent at high
speed. There were four propellers and two rudders. The rudders were about ten feet off
centerline, positioned abaft of the inboard propellers. The latter were housed in twin
skegs which formed a tunnel and increased propeller efficiency. The skegs also helped
support the ship when in drydock.
- The two 85-foot stacks with their raked caps conveyed an impression of superior engine
power, which these ships certainly had, with a top speed of six knots faster than any of
- Overall, the effect of these innovations was to give the NORTH CAROLINA and
WASHINGTON a modern, formidable bearing that served warning to any potential enemy of
their advanced capabilities as fighting ships.
- In the two classes of new battleships which followed, design was similar in many
respects, but with important added improvements. First came four 35,000-ton
ships: SOUTH DAKOTA (BB-57), INDIANA (BB-58),
MASSACHUSETTS (BB-59), and ALABAMA (BB-60). Next were four 45,000-tonners;
IOWA (BB-61), NEW JERSEY (BB-62), MISSOURI (BB-63), and
- The SOUTH DAKOTA class ships were marvels of design for the fact that even
though they were about 50 feet shorter than the NORTH CAROLINA class, they
packed the same fire power and were slightly faster. The four IOWA class monsters,
built without the constraints imposed by naval arms limitation treaties, were superior not
only in armament, but also in speed and armor. However, during World War II it fell to the
NORTH CAROLINA and WASHINGTON, as forerunners of the fast battleship breed, to
cope first with most of the innovations, write the book, and set the pace for all the