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Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina
Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina
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  • Monument Name

    U.S.S. North Carolina Battleship Memorial, Wilmington

  • Type

    War Memorial

  • Subjects

    World War II

  • City

    Wilmington

  • County

    New Hanover

  • Description

    The U.S.S. North Carolina is a decommissioned World War II battleship, permanently moored as a memorial and historic site in Wilmington on the Cape Fear River. The ship weights 36,000 tons and is 728 feet in length. The retired battleship serves as commemoration of the heroism of U.S. sailors and soldiers from North Carolina in World War II. A bronze plaque on the hull of the bow bears the textual commemoration in raised lettering.

    Images: Visitors on the battleship | Battleship Memorial and setting | Battleship traveling in the Cape Fear River

  • Inscription

    IN MEMORIUM / THE U.S.S. NORTH CAROLINA / BATTLESHIP MEMORIAL COMMEMORATES / THE HEROIC PARTICIPATION OF THE / MEN AND WOMEN OF NORTH CAROLINA / IN THE PROSECUTION AND VICTORY / OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR, AND / PERPETUATES THE MEMORY OF THE / MORE THAN TEN THOUSAND NORTH / CAROLINIANS WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES / IN THAT WAR.

  • Custodian

    U.S.S. North Carolina Battleship Commission

  • Dedication Date

    April 29, 1962

  • Decade

    1960s

  • Geographic Coordinates

    34.236180 , -77.953740 View in Geobrowsemap pin

  • Supporting Sources

      "U.S.S. North Carolina Wilmington, North Carolina," in Durwood Barbour Collection of North Carolina Postcards (P077), North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, (accessed September 11, 2013) Link

      "U.S.S. North Carolina Battleship Memorial, Wilmington, North Carolina," in Durwood Barbour Collection of North Carolina Postcards (P077), North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, (accessed September 11, 2013) Link

      "U.S.S. North Carolina, Wilmington, North Carolina," in Durwood Barbour Collection of North Carolina Postcards (P077), North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, (accessed September 11, 2013) Link

      "USS North Carolina in Bayonne, NJ," in the Hugh Morton Collection of Photographs and Films (P081), North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, (accessed September 12, 2013) Link

      BattleshipNC.com. "A Brief History of the Battleship North Carolina," (accessed September 11, 2013) Link

      Garsson, Bob. “Battleship Is Dedicated To Become War Shrine,” The Wilmington Morning Star (Wilmington, NC), April 30, 1962, 3

      Garsson, Bob. “Battleship N.C. Is Dedicated,” The Wilmington Morning Star (Wilmington, NC), April 30, 1962, 1.

      Sneed, Brandon. "Saving the Battleship," Our State North Carolina, History, (accessed September 11, 2013) Link

      Stinson, Craig M. 2006. "North Carolina USS," NCPEDIA, (accessed September 12, 2013) Link

      “Memorable Occasion,” The Wilmington Morning Star (Wilmington, NC), April 29, 1962, 2-D.

  • Public Site

    Yes

  • Materials & Techniques

    Battleship, bronze plaque

  • Sponsors

    Save Our Ship Campaign

  • Monument Cost

    $330,000

  • Monument Dedication and Unveiling

    The U.S.S. North Carolina Battleship Memorial was dedicated on April 29th, 1962. Admiral Arleigh A. Burke gave the dedication speech honoring veterans of World War II and the many men and women of North Carolina who gave their lives in service during the war. Thousands of people boarded the battleship to hear the dedication while many more looked on from land. North Carolina Governor Terry Sanford spoke, as well as Secretary of Commerce Luther H. Hodges and former Governor Admiral Claude V. Ricketts. Hugh Morton was praised during the dedication for his role in bringing about the “homecoming” of the battleship. Governor Sanford summed up the momentous occasion by vowing, “I pledge to you today… that no stone will be left unturned to the end that this will be the greatest World War II memorial in the United States.”

  • Nickname

    The Showboat

  • Subject Notes

    The U.S.S. North Carolina was decommissioned in 1947 after her participation in every major operation in the Pacific theater in World War II and after earning 15 battle stars. Following purchase of the ship from the federal government after the successful raising of $330,000 for the sale, site preparation, and travel to North Carolina, the ship was handed over to the North Carolina Commission in a ceremony at Bayonne, New Jersey on September 14, 1961.

  • Controversies

    During the ship's navigation up the Cape Fear River to its final resting place, it struck the Fergus Ark Restaurant, a floating Wilmington restaurant. The Restaurant was badly damaged and had to close permanently. The battleship has also been rumored to be haunted.

  • Location

    The U.S.S. North Carolina sits in the Cape Fear River alongside the Battleship Park.

  • Landscape

    The ship sits in a prepared site on the river, with a fixed ramp for access and an interpretive building adjacent on land.

  • Death Space

    Yes

  • Former Locations

    The U.S.S. North Carolina was built in New York, with the keel being laid in 1937, and traveled to California, Japan, and the Panama Canal, as well as locations in the Caribbean and the Pacific, before coming to North Carolina. Before being relocated to Wilmington, the ship was moored in Bayonne, New Jersey where it was berthed with the U.S. Navy Reserve Fleet following its decommissioning and subsquent wait to be turned into scrap.

    Image: View from the deck of the U.S.S. North Carolina in the harbor at Bayonne, New Jersey, August 1961

  • Post Dedication Use

    The U.S.S. North Carolina now serves as a floating museum. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1986.

  • Approval Process

    The effort to save the historic battleship was begun in 1958 by James S. Craig, an Army veteran and member of American Legion Post 10 in Wilmington, after he read in the local paper that the ship would be turned into scrap, the fate of many old warships. After a resolution passed in 1959 by his local American Legion chapter and with the appointment of Hugh Morton as chairman of the Battleship Commission appointed by Governor Terry Sanford, a campaign was launched to raise funds from citizens across the state. The fundraising structure organized counties across the state into a "navy" and awarded the "rank" of "Admiral" to high contributors. A donation of $100 made the sponsor an Admiral with the award of a lifetime pass to visit the ship. Then President John F. Kennedy became the first Admiral. The effort also included a television program with appearances by Andy Griffith and other well-known public figures. The endeavor to turn the ship into a memorial was completed entirely with donations, including donations of ten cents each by 700,000 of the state's 1,000,000 public school children.

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