USS North Carolina aka "Showboat"
The battleships' final iteration.
Rows of cannon of various size
pointing in all directions.
The fantail features a crane
designed for the recovery of small seaplanes
that were primarily used to find the location
of one's enemy - another battleship or cruiser
lurking in the vastness of the Pacific.
Scouting was the primary mission
of the Kingfisher floatplane but
it also could give a bird's eye report
on the results of one's gunnery...
drop a hundred meters - and such directions
as needed in order to strike the enemy.
A dozen water-logged sailors
once crammed into that glassed-in space
behind the pilot in a daring
rescue at sea.
In 1940, when the North Carolina was completed,
most admirals thought naval power
was still all about the big guns.
barrel length: 60 feet
bore diameter: 16 inches
projectile weight: 2,700 pounds
range: 20 miles
Have your barrel replaced or relined after 400 firings.
Three turrets of 16 inch guns.
Nine guns in all.
That's a broadside of nearly
twelve tons of explosive
wrapped in armor-piercing steel
coming your way in one punch.
North Carolina's sister ship, the Washington,
sank the Japanese battleship Kirishima
in a night action off Guadalcanal in late 1942.
The Washington used its radar to close in on its target
while the Kirishima had only human eyes in darkness
Radar provides direction and distance to its target
while an analog computer inside the turret
determines windage and the effects
ocean humidity has on the shell's flight.
This is home.
Get comfortable with that thought.
You'll be called upon to keep it afloat.
If you're not up to the task
you and everyone else
are now in the drink.
Drowned or dismembered.
Take your pick.
Beneath the big gun,
along the far reaches of the ship's narrow-slung bow,
stands a grouping of machine guns
all facing skyward. The first sign
something is amiss.
Who'd a thought a few
miserably cheap planes
could sink a ship
with 2,000 souls aboard.
Things quickly got out of hand what with
Pearl Harbor now sunk up to mud at battleship row.
Your problem isn't just dispatching a pilot
intent on shooting you.
You must also dispose of three tons of machinery
headed your way at two hundred miles an hour.
Well here it is.
The Swedish made
40 mm Bofors Anti-Aircraft Gun
with convenient foot-peddle firing
and easy to use elevation crank.
Everything's disfigured with a Bofors.
Note the carbon age fuel stacks
amidst the assorted tube
purveyors of carnage.
When not used for shore bombardment
these five inch guns would provide a field
of flak, shrapnel, overhead to ward off
attacks from enemy pilots thinking of
making a quick run at the ship.
Here's the tale of the tape.
The North Carolina shot down 24 planes.
The ship bombarded 9 islands.
And it sank a troop ship.
Naval power was now 3D chess.
Battleships became an important part
of the carrier's air defense
as opposed to leading the big parade.
An example of reality once again
mocking our best-laid plans.
She was a fast battleship at 28 knots.
But carriers could go 32.
So the Iowa class battleship was born.
In one configuration after another
they survived into the 1990's,
eventually firing cruise missiles
at targets during the first Iraq war.
A cofferdam was recently used
to make the memorial an onsite drydock
so needed maintenance could be done
below the waterline.
© Tom Taylor