Monthly Archives: March 2014

Sea Trials

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Turret 3 fires salvo in gunnery trials

Signalman Ed Konop describes gunnery target practice during sea trials.

“I’m not sure just where we were but we met with an ocean going tug boat towing a huge barge which was to be set up for the Battleship to use for target practice. The day before we met the tug a work party was put together and were to leave the ship in a 40 foot launch and go to where the tug and target barge were and rig the targets on the barge. I don’t know how I got on this work detail but I did and it turned out to be an awful deal.

The next day the tug showed up and they put a 40 foot launch over the side. There were about 20 of us sailors and this detail and we had to go over the side and down into that launch. The sea was not cooperating and was rough and getting on the launch was tough. It was up and down and up and down. We got settled in and then we headed for the tug and barge which seemed to be miles away.

The Coxswain yelled to us that we were heading for the target barge. When we came up to the barge it was leaping high in the air and the launch was doing just the opposite. It took about four or five approaches before all of us got on that barge. This was a big barge and it was empty. The targets were in big rolls lying at the bottom of poles. Our job was to get them to the top of the poles and unfurl them and tie them down tight at the bottom. All the while this barge was pitching and rolling all over the Atlantic Ocean.

When the targets were all rigged it was back onto the launch without getting tossed into the sea or mashed between the launch and the barge. We headed to the tug and once again it was worth your life getting from the launch onto the tug.

I don’t know just how far it was from the tug to the target but it seemed way too close to me. The secondary battery opened up and started to shoot at the target. We could see the rounds splinter through the targets. First the starboard side and then the port side five-inch guns went to work. It was a sight to see.

The Boatswain’s Mate in charge gave us guys the word to get back into the launch. Great! Back to the ship! Not so fast, he says. We were going back to the barge to rig new targets. That was not good news. Guys were sick and miserable but no matter. We were going back to the barge.

When we got back to the barge it was a mess. The wood was all shot up and the targets were blowing in the wind. But onto the barge we went. We had to pull down all the tattered targets and haul new ones to the top and that was not easy with the way the wood was all broken and jagged. We somehow got the new targets rigged and then it was back to the tug.

Remember now, we were miles from the Battleship…15 or so miles. Anyway, the main battery opened up and you could almost see the shells scream through the air. 2,000 pounds of steel whizzing by at the end of that tow line. I was now positive that we were way too close to that barge.

She didn’t fire that many rounds and it was quiet. OK, guys back into the launch says the Boatswain’s Mate. It wasn’t any easier this time than it was the first time. The launch was heading to the Battleship. I don’t know what month it was but it was cold and we were wet to the skin.

When we came alongside the Battleship and climbed the ladder we must have been a sight to behold. Most of us were sick and worn out and cold. They told us to get into some dry clothes and to report to Sick Bay. When I got there the guys were lined up and we all got a big belt of whiskey. I was not a drinker but that booze did make me feel better.”

“We conducted gunnery practice in Chesapeake Bay. At that time they were leery. They didn’t want to gamble and take such a valuable ship out to sea because of German submarines. We conducted most of our early gunnery practice right inside Chesapeake Bay. That wasn’t enough room for us. We finally had to go to sea. We had our destroyer escorts with us.”

John P. VanSambeek, Coxswain

“The Battleship was commissioned as we know April 9, 1941, and we had various sea trials and back and forth and engineering testing and finally the gunnery testing. We would go to Newport and Hampton Roads, to Guantanamo Bay, to Kingston, Jamaica or even Casco Bay, Maine. That lasted until about June of 1942. Therefore all this time we would go in and out of Brooklyn and in and out of these ports. Of course what happened in these times, December 7 happened and we knew the war was on. We were waiting to go where they wanted us to go, which was the Pacific eventually.”

Leo Neumann, Fireman Third Class


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Newspaper headlines across the United States proclaimed Battleship North Carolina’s impressive 19 gun salvo in the fall of 1941.

“America’s Mightiest Seadog Bares Her Fangs”
“Thunder at Sea”
“The North Carolina Barks to Test Her Bite”
“Our New Navy Titan Roars”
“Our Biggest Ship Can Take It”

“The Navy, professional Navy in those days and before, had been a very conservative organization not used to the media, getting along with the press, not use to public relations. As individuals most of us were very uncomfortable with this sudden acceptance and press coverage that we were getting. The second time we went out on trial it was a four-day cruise where we fired all the guns and had a lot of tests and exercises. The Navy Department imposed [on us] a group of about 45 or 50 representatives of the media. Hanson Baldwin, USNR; Robert Trout was in there. He was a CBS news analyst at the time. Pathe and Fox news cameramen were aboard and so forth.

Well, the big thing that happened on that from a public relations point of view, was we fired 19 guns, the main battery plus ten guns of the anti-aircraft five-inch, all at the same time. And it turned out that we were able to do it at night and there was a Pathe cameraman by the name of Sammy Shulman who wanted to capture this thing. Shulman was the one who got the picture of the Hindenburg when it exploded. He was really a great photographer. And he got a picture of this thing at 7:00 in the evening when it was pitch dark of 19 guns going off at once. Two weeks later this picture was presented in the centerfold of Life magazine. It was all over the United States two weeks later what the U.S. Navy was up to.”

Rear Admiral Julian Burke, USN

“Dear Mom and Dad,

I am writing this letter while on watch (8-12 midnight) down in the plotting room. We are somewhere on the great Atlantic and heading towards New York. It’s so cold we have shifted uniforms to blues and have to wear pea coats while on deck. It’s a little rough tonight but on this ship we are not rolling much…. It’s been a great thrill on this shakedown cruise as we fired all the guns. The 16-inch really make a racket but I am working on the [first platform] and all I feel down here is the vibration which shakes the whole ship. The last salvo we fired tonight was about 8:30 was when ten of our port five-inch battery and all our 16-inch guns were fired at the same time. It really shook the ship.

I was on top side watching the after 16-inch turret fire one of its guns last night about 7:30 and the flash and flame was so big that none of us could see for 30 seconds. My hat was blown right off my head. It was quite a sensation mixed with a lot of noise. The reason for firing all the guns was to test the hull and see if it could stand the stress and shock. The concussion blew off a few like jacket lockers and etc.

We also had a great many experts aboard and many newspaper and camera men. Among them was Walter Winchell, Bob Trout (I think) and newspaper men from Washington, N.Y., PA and the Mid-West so you ought to hear, see and read about this ship.”

Ralph Swift, Electrician’s Mate First Class

Builder’s Trial

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First builder's trial run

On May 19, 1941, the Battleship NORTH CAROLINA left the New York Navy Yard for the first time and headed down the East River. The ship just left Pier C, Brooklyn Navy Yard. Stephen Hustvedt, age 15, took this photograph of the Battleship from the roof of the Towers Hotel in Brooklyn looking toward the tip of Manhattan. Stephen is the son of Captain Olaf Hustvedt, the commanding officer of BB55. The Battleship headed to Delaware Bay and back for its first trial run in the Atlantic Ocean. The tugs boats escorting the ship were owned by the Turecamo Company.

About 150 mostly civilian yard workers, engineers and other technicians were aboard for the builder’s trials in the spring of 1941. Builder’s trials were conducted to demonstrate that the power plant was capable of propelling the ship in free route at all speeds up to full power ahead (approx 199 rpm) for duration of two hours and approximately 133 rpm astern for duration of 15 minutes. The trials were also to bring to light any faults of design or installation.

New York Daily News May 1941

Joseph Smits in the boiler rooms the dock trials:
“When they would go up in RPMs the steam pressure would down and we would open more burners in the boiler to make more fire to bring their steam pressure back up to 600 psi. Our job was to making 600psi pressure at all times. It was like a game. They would try to bring it down and we would keep it up! It was a serious job. No steam at 600psi, no rpms on the screws. The tugs keeping a line on the ship during dock trials was like being underway but not moving. Like pressing the gas pedal on your car and keeping the brakes on.”

Builder's trial runs NY