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School Children Brought Battleship Home

Against the resounding vibrations of school bells, it's the perfect time to celebrate the achievements of North Carolina students. One massive achievement involves the most decorated US battleship of World War II , Battleship USS North Carolina. Kids around the state donated their dimes in 1961 to help pay for Battleship USS North Carolina, a living memorial to the 10,000 North Carolinians who died in the war. Once again in 1998, children helped fund Operation Shipshape, the effort to complete restoration of the battleship.

Berthed on Eagle Island across the street from downtown Wilmington, the 35,000 ton Battleship USS North Carolina is today one of the top tourist attractions in the state.

USS North Carolina went to sea in 1941, protected by 18-inch armor plating and bristling with nine 16-inch turreted guns. Despite taking a direct torpedo hit in 1942, the ship kept floating and fighting throughout the war.

In 1960, the Navy announced plans to scrap the famous ship, but two North Carolinians – Hugh Morton and James Craig – began a drive to save the ship from the scrap heap.

Elementary school children across the state participated in the fundraiser, breaking into their piggy banks to help raise the $330,000 needed to buy her from the Navy.

Towed from New Jersey to Wilmington, the most dangerous part of the journey was up the narrow river channel toward Eagle Island. Tugboats maneuvered the behemoth through the 500-foot wide river toward its berth and grounded it in the mud.

Finally, the tugs pulled the 728-foot ship free, and it careened into Fergus' Ark, a floating restaurant near downtown. The restaurant, no match for the armor-plated warrior, did not keep Battleship USS North Carolina from her berth.

Time was tougher on the ship than was her wartime service. Teak decks were deteriorating; fuel tanks held remnants of oil, and many interior spaces had never been restored to their original condition. Restoration costs were too high to fund from operating budgets, so a capital campaign was begun in 1998.

Once again, kids dug deep into their reserves and helped raise $6.3 million to complete the project.

Battleship USS North Carolina is open for self-guided tours every day and is the perfect place for field trips. Visitors can tour the crew quarters, galley, sick bay, gun turrets and a number of exhibits that unveil the secret life of a battleship. Visit for more information, and don't miss the fun activities for kids featured on the site!

September 2006


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