Road Trip: Battleship North Carolina
This weekend, the Battleship, which is just two hours from Raleigh, will celebrate the anniversary of its commissioning, which happened 75 years ago on April 9, 1941. Nicknamed "The Showboat," she was considered the "most powerful warship in the world."Posted — Updated
"I don't see it!," wailed my six-year-old from the back of the car.
"How can you not see it?" her older sister wondered as we pulled into the parking lot. "It's right there!"
"Wow," is the only thing her little sister could say as it all came into view.
This weekend, the Battleship, which is just two hours from Raleigh, will celebrate the anniversary of its commissioning, which happened 75 years ago on April 9, 1941. Nicknamed "The Showboat," she was considered the "most powerful warship in the world" when she launched.
A little history: During World War II, the North Carolina took part in every major naval battle in the Pacific, eventually becoming the most decorated battleship during that war. As many as 2,339 officers and enlisted men joined her crew at any one time. She lost only 10 men in action.
She was decommissioned and placed in storage after six years at sea. In 1958, a grassroots campaign in North Carolina, led, in part, by children donating their spare change, brought the ship to the Cape Fear.
It opened to the public in 1962 and has since been a major tourist draw for the region. More than 200,000 visitors explore the battleship each year. Today, it's a memorial for not just the 11,000 North Carolinians who served in World War II, but the thousands of others who have served in the military or are active duty now.
If you go, you'll get a good workout exploring the ship, which stretches 729 feet. Nine of the ship's 15 stories are on the self-guided tour route; about 75 percent is below deck.
"It's basically like a jungle gym for kids, but it's also educational," said Heather Loftin, the ship's promotions director.
Once you go below deck, signs point you in the right direction as you weave through narrow passages into big public spaces and down steep staircases. You'll see various offices and places - from the mess hall and dormitories and barber shop to the officer's cabins, hospital, printing office and other stations.
Most of what's on the ship is authentic. The dials, switches, wheels and even some of the boxes of cigarettes and "candy poles" in the ship store are original to the ship. My kids loved maneuvering through the corridors - stopping when they found something of interest or had a question. Above deck, they spent a lot of time "operating" the guns, turning wheels to make them move up and down and side to side.
"We try to keep it as authentic as possible," Loftin said.
The project will start this summer and take about 16 months to complete. Once complete, the walkway will be free for the public to walk along.
"You're going to be able to see the battleship from a different perspective," Loftin said.
This weekend, the ship will celebrate the anniversary of its commissioning with special events from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday. The Battleship’s living history crew, the U.S. Marine Corps Historical Company, sailors from the 2nd Marine Division, and Marines from the 2nd Tank Battalion will interpret the Battleship for visitors. There also will be patriotic music, a visit from the Azalea Festival's court and a birthday cake.
If you go this weekend or any other day, here are some tips to know before you go: