Did you know that Wilmington is home to World War II’s greatest sea weapon? The USS North Carolina Battleship, a massive naval vessel that saw many battles in WWII, is moored on the Cape Fear River across from downtown Wilmington. Most of the ship remains open for visitors to walk aboard, search the decks, and explore a piece of living history. All ages will enjoy touring the ship and learning about its crew and their functions. The battleship accurately depicts shipboard life of the period for visitors to experience. You will learn facts and read personal testimonials from enlisted men while seeing firsthand what the crew experienced in day-to-day life on the ship during WWII. Some highlights include: a barber shop, pharmacy, shoe repair shop, dentist and doctor’s offices, indescribably cramped sleeping quarters, and even an ice cream parlor. It is truly a unique and tangible experience of history. You will leave the battleship moved and educated; it is a definite must do in Wilmington.
You can see the battleship from downtown Wilmington; it is located at the junctions of highways 17, 76, 74, 421 on the Cape Fear River across from historic downtown. Simply drive over the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge, take an immediate right, and follow the signs for the battleship.
Visitors will also enjoy the beautiful setting and views of historic downtown from the battleship.
Commissioned on April 9 in 1941, the USS North Carolina was the first of ten fast battleships to join American fleet in World War II. The official website states: “Armed with nine 16-inch/45 caliber guns in three turrets and twenty 5-inch/38 caliber guns in ten twin mounts, North Carolina proved a formidable weapons platform. Her wartime complement consisted of 144 commissioned officers and 2,195 enlisted men, including about 100 Marines.”
During WWII, the USS North Carolina served in every major naval battle operation in the Pacific. It was one of the most decorated battleships in WWII, earning 15 battle stars. The battleship was a protector of aircraft carriers and known for its performance in the Battle of the Eastern Solomon’s in 1942, where it saved the carrier Enterprise.
The battleship was hit by a Japanese torpedo on September 15, 1942 while protecting aircraft carriers Hornet and Wasp. Despite an 18 by 32 foot hole in the side and following a short period to counter flood, the ship resumed a speed of 25 knots to regain position to protect the assigned aircraft carrier. By war’s end, the ship lost only ten men in action and had 67 wounded.
The battleship North Carolina is now a memorial for the 10,000 North Carolinians of all the armed services who gave their lives in WWII. It is also a growing museum and a major tourist attraction. The USS North Carolina is a National Historic Landmark.
Battleship Tour Info
Much of the ship is accessible and the tours are self-guided so that you may see it all at your own pace. You can roam free and hangout in any area of the ship for as long as you would like.
The self-guided tour takes you to nearly every part of the ship; the bridge, engine room, mess hall, sleeping quarters, sick bay, arsenal storage, and so much more. Along the way, you will find memories from actual sailors who served on the ship and their personal stories of victory, tragedy, and daily life aboard. The sailor’s comment on everything from the food served on board to mail call. History comes alive throughout the tour, showing all aspects of life on this great battleship of the 1940’s.
You should allow about two hours to walk through the Battleship. Also, beware that you are going down steep ladders into spaces that feel quite small. You will need to be fairly mobile to climb/descend the stairways.
- Hours of Operation: The Battleship is open every day of the year, including holidays. Summer: 8:00am-8:00pm; Winter: 8:00am- 5:00pm
- Tickets: Adults: 12 and over: $12.00; Seniors: 65 and over: $10.00; Children: 6 through 11: $6.00; Children: 5 and under: Free; *Ticket sales end 1 hour before closing.
For more information visit the official website or call 910-251-5797.