The Battleship North Carolina Memorial in Wilmington, NC was founded to pay homage to all North Carolinians who died in the line of service during World War II. The memorial was dedicated in 1962 and the ship became a National Historic Landmark in 1986. Administered by the USS North Carolina Battleship Commission, which was established by statutes of the State of North Carolina in 1960, the upkeep of the memorial relies largely on donations by visitors.
The USS North Carolina began its life as a battleship of the U.S. Navy. It was the first new battleship to enter the war after the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. She was the lead ship of the two-ship North Carolina class of battleships (her sister ship was the USS Washington) and the fourth Navy ship named for this southern state. She was officially launched in June 1940 and commissioned in April 1941. The USS North Carolina headed to the Pacific in June 1942, just after the Battle of Midway. She would eventually go on to participate in every major offensive in the Pacific theater of World War II.
The ship was decommissioned in 1947 and transferred to the ownership of the people of North Carolina in 1961. A year later, a fleet of tug boats pulled her to the site where she now sits in honor of the war dead of North Carolina. Visitors to the ship can view the Roll of Honor, which includes the names of more than 10,000 North Carolinians from all branches of the armed forces. The names are listed by county and all counties are represented.
In its function as a museum, the Battleship North Carolina entertains and educates visitors with a large collection of artifacts. The artifacts are either original items that were found aboard the ship or items that were donated from personal collections. Many were left intact after the ship was decommissioned and are an important part of the ship tours. Additional artifacts are from other ships named North Carolina, including an Ironclad, a Ship-of-the-Line, and an Armored Cruiser, all predecessors of the battleship that is on display.
The USS North Carolina Battleship Commission continues to collect artifacts and to embark upon restoration projects that will restore the ship to its original condition. The members of the commission are all volunteers from the area, selected by the governor of North Carolina, and include former military personnel.
The ship is open for tours all year long with shorter hours during the months between Labor Day and Memorial Day. The tour is self-guided and it generally takes about 2 hours to complete the tour. Guests may begin their tour in the Visitors Center, where they can view an orientation film about the history of the ship and her current status as a memorial. The remainder of the tour includes access to nine decks of the battleship featuring numerous rooms and compartments to explore. Admission discounts are available for groups of 10 or more and children under 5 are admitted free of charge.