By April Vickery | Downtown Wilmington is home to many wonderful sites and historic landmarks, but none quite as majestic as the Battleship North Carolina. Commissioned on April 9, 1941, the USS North Carolina was the first newly built battleship to serve during World War II. She is the most highly decorated American battleship, with 15 battle stars. Regarded at the time as the world’s greatest sea weapon, she participated in every major naval offensive in the Pacific area during WWII.
On April 9, 2016 active duty military personnel from Camp LeJeune and Living History Crew honored the 75th anniversary of the USS North Carolina by gathering at stations throughout the ship, to interact with the public.
“Our partners in this event were the 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Division, Camp LeJeune, which includes Marines and Sailors, the Battleship’s Living History Crew, and the Marine Corps Historical Company,” says Kim Robinson Sinox, Museum Services Director. “These crew members participate in the annual Memorial Day Observance at the Battleship, which starts at 5:45 on the ship’s fantail. It’s always a beautiful, moving, well-attended service with a prominent military guest speaker. My favorite part is when the band plays each branch of service’s anthem and everyone who served in that branch stands. Bring a hanky!”
In addition to the Memorial Day Observance, the 25-piece East Burke High School Jazz Band from Connelly Springs, NC, will be giving concerts throughout the day. At 1:15 the Azalea Festival Entourage and other dignitaries joined the celebrations for remarks and a cake cutting. The Anniversary activities will continue over Memorial Day when the USS North Carolina Battleship Association holds their crew reunion.
Year-round Volunteer Projects
The ship uses volunteers year round to interpret, restore and maintain the ship. One volunteer, Chuck Clary, started the Ship’s Cleaning Crew a couple of years ago and reviews are that the ship has never looked cleaner. Cecil Ard and brothers Fred and Gary Hall, bring polishing wheels to the ship to make the brass gleam. Travel time is no barrier: all three live at least 90 minutes from the ship. Bill Barnes also travels to make his contribution to the Battleship; he drives from Southport two days a week to work on polishing and painting the details of the ship. The list of individuals who make an important personal contribution toward maintaining the battleship is long: Richard Allison and Rob and Chris Stidd are restoring the ship’s bridge and medical areas; former Navy dentist Michael Zalob and Joe Duquette restore the dental office; the Wednesday Gang augments the ship’s five-man maintenance staff; and, several dozen volunteers interpret the ship and staff programs, conduct their own research and create their own presentations.
The Living History Crew consists of 40 people who come from as far away as Maryland to dress in WWII uniforms to interpret the ship and work on restoration projects. The Living History Crew is overseen by Chris Harrison, who also works on programs and restoration projects. Five members of the Azalea Coast Amateur Radio Club maintain the Ship’s WWII transmitters, conduct three annual events and the guest HAM operator program.
Active duty military personnel continue to make an important contribution to the Battleship, especially Navy medical personnel from Camp LeJeune, who come to volunteer. They help maintain the teak deck as well as clean the interior compartments.
In April, the Battleship will be filled with community members participating in Work On Wilmington, when approximately 450 volunteers will meet at the ship for a morning of projects.
Supporting the Battleship North Carolina
The Battleship depends upon contributions to maintain both the ship and programs. Monetary donations to the Generations Campaign can be made online at the Battleship North Carolina website, or by check to Friends of the Battleship NORTH CAROLINA, with “Generations Campaign” in the memo line. Mail checks to Friends of the Battleship, PO Box 480, Wilmington, NC 28402.
Interested in volunteering? Contact Kim at (910) 251-5797 extension 3006 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.