Tuesday, April 7, 2009

BB-55 Birthday at the Museum

Happy Birthday BB-55!!!

(Elizabeth City, NC) The USS North Carolina was commissioned on April 9th of 1941 as the lead ship of the two-ship North Carolina class battleship for the U.S. Navy. The Museum of the Albemarle brings the story home in the exhibit which ends, April 19th, "Showboat:The USS North Carolina (BB-55)." When the USS North Carolina was built, she attracted much attention at the time, as she was the first American battleship to be constructed in 16 years. When the impressive battleship was first seen in early trials, she received so much attention that she won the nickname "Showboat." MOA presents the story of the USS North Carolina in graphics, photos, scale models and artifacts honoring her many years in service to the country. She participated in the many battles in the Pacific theater of World War II and patrolled off the coast of Japan after the war, and was decommissioned in 1947.

If you haven't seen it yet the exhibit goes away on April 19th, so time is running out!


The Daily Press called the Mightiest Battleship a "solid, gleaming symbol of America's awakening from a sleepy naval holiday of 18 years." The New York World-Telegram proclaimed that "she will have been completed in record time—nearly half a year ahead of schedule." The Battleship turns 68 this month. She was commissioned into the U.S. Navy on April 9, 1941, at the New York (Brooklyn) Navy Yard. [It was rescheduled from April 11th, which was Good Friday in 1941.]

Ensign Clay Ross, of the USS North Carolina, while staying at Hotel St. George in Brooklyn,wrote home, "On Wednesday morning at 11:30 am Eastern Standard Time our ship is going to be put in Commission.It will be a big event and will be broadcast all over the world. We expect at least 1,000 visitors that day."

The New York Journal and American confirmed Ross' letter. It announced on April 7 that "invitations went forward today to 1,000 guests for the commissioning of the 35,000-ton battleship North Carolina at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on Wednesday morning. Due to fears of sabotage, virtually the entire list of guests has been limited to Navy officers and their families." Another article explained "the Yard virtually will be swarming with special police, marine detachments and government officials to block any attempt at sabotage as the program gets underway at 11:30 am." The concern over sabotage was echoed in other papers.

"The North Carolina is one of a new line of ships that will give the United States unchallenged supremacy on the high seas... We will have sea power strong enough to be a determining influence on every sea in the world."

Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, April 9, 1941 Special birthday cake for the battleship, 1944.

-- Frequently Asked Questions about the Battleship:

Who Owns the Battleship? The U.S. Navy transferred the Battleship NORTH CAROLINA to the State of North Carolina in 1961, but the Navy retains proprietary interest in the ship in perpetuity, thus establishing the Battleship as a U.S. Navy heritage asset. Among other provisions of the contract, it requires the State of North Carolina to maintain the Battleship in a proper material (conserved) and safe condition for visitors (exhibited). To that end, the Battleship is inspected annually by the U.S. Navy for compliance. The Battleship is part of the state's Department of Cultural Resources.

Who Governs the Battleship? The Battleship is governed by an 18-member Commission appointed by the governor. The commission sets our policy, approves the annual budget, and determines short and long range goals.

What about the items inside the Battleship? Remaining within the ship upon her transfer to the State of North Carolina was an extensive array of original equipment, materiel, documents, etc. and these objects are also considered U.S. Navy heritage assets and are treated as loans. Also, by provision of the contract, the Battleship Commission shall not dispose of the vessel or any part of it without the permission of the Navy through its agent, the Naval Sea Systems Command. All other items in the Battleship's collections that have been or continue to be donated or purchased belong to the Battleship Commission.

Who Financially Supports the Battleship? Our guests! The Battleship does not receive any state or federal tax dollars or funding. They rely upon ticket and gift shop sales, space rentals, events, donations and sponsors for operating expenses.

How long has the Battleship been in Wilmington? "Save our Ship" campaign brought the Battleship to Wilmington in October 1961.

Thomas Spagnol
Communication Specialist
Museum of the Albemarle
501 South Water Street
Elizabeth City, NC 27909

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