Commissioned in April 1941, the USS North Carolina was the first new battleship to join the fleet of U.S. Navy ships in almost twenty years. She was the lead of a class of 35,000-ton battleships built with Fiscal Year 1937 appropriation funds at the New York Navy Yard. The Navy put the ship through over a year’s worth of extensive shakedowns and test, training cruises in the Atlantic before her commissioning.
Action in World War II
In 1941, North Carolina journeyed to the Pacific Ocean. For the rest of that year and on into 1943 she took part in the Guadalcanal Campaign. The ship spent that time covering initial landings there and joined in the Battle of the Eastern Solomons in 1942, as well. On September 15, in the Solomons, she received damage from a Japanese submarine torpedo. The USS Wasp suffered mortal destruction during the same attack, but the USS North Carolina took off for a few months of mending and restoration. Then, she resumed her combat zone position in the Solomons.
November 1943 found the USS North Carolina in the Gilbert Islands assisting with the capture of enemy locations. This was her pattern until the end of World War II. She served in the anti-aircraft shielding of aircraft carrier task forces. Intermittently, the ship launched bombardment assaults on islands held by the Japanese.
Fulfilling these duties, she joined in the Marshalls operation in the first two months of 1944. Then, she followed through with attacks on Central Pacific targets into the spring. She participated in both the Marinas invasion and the Battle of Philippine Sea in June of 1944, and then joined in carrier strikes in the Western Pacific in November and December of that year. In February of 1945, the North Carolina took part in the invasions of Iwo Jima. In March and April, it was the Okinawa invasion. For September and August, during the weeks before and after the island nation surrendered, she was in position off Japan itself.
After the War
The USS North Carolina then departed for the United States. She operated in the Atlantic Ocean until her inactivation in 1946. Following the decommissioning in June 1947, the ship entered the “mothball” fleet. Finally, the Navy deleted her from its list in June 1960. A year later, in 1961, the Navy handed her over to the state of North Carolina. She docks there as a memorial museum.
Asbestos in Navy Ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet throughout conflicts during the last century, battleships also posed a lasting health risk to soldiers who served on them. Unfortunately, products containing asbestos were common on these ships because of the material’s high resistance to heat and fire. Despite its value as an insulator, asbestos fiber intake can lead to several serious health consequences, including mesothelioma, a devastating cancer without cure. Current and former military personnel who came into contact with these ships should seek immediate medical attention in order to detect possible health consequences associated with asbestos exposure.