Tag Archives: 1941

Commission Day

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New Battleship – A Symbol of Might

Worldwide press

On April 9, 1941, the “world’s fightingest ship” was commissioned at 11:30 a.m., in the New York Navy Yard. The event received tremendous media attention.

Ship's Company on April 9, 1941

“The 35,000-ton battleship NORTH CAROLINA, solid, gleaming symbol of America’s awakening from a sleep naval holiday of 18 years…. 29 minutes of ceremony in dazzling sunshine formally placed in service the $70,000,000 battleship it had taken nearly four years to build.” The commissioning was four months ahead of schedule.

“As bugles blared and white-capped officers and bluejackets saluted, a pennant was run slowly up the flagstaff to show that the ship was in commission. Millions listened over the radio as the mightiest battleship afloat was put into service.”

The Young Catholic Messenger, April 25, 1941

Colors raised April 9 1941

Battleship by artist Henry Billings, April 1941

“May the NORTH CAROLINA be a symbol of progress through strength,” wrote President Roosevelt.

Commision Day Menu Navy Yard

Commission Day Graphic

Following the ceremony a buffet luncheon in the Wardroom included “NORTH CAROLINA APPLE PIE.”

Invitation to Commission

Souvenir program April 1941

April 10, 1941

“Dear Husty: It was with great pride that I sat down to my bacon and eggs this A.M. after seeing your beaming countenance griming at me from the pages of the L.A. Times. There you were aboard the new battle wagon North Carolina. I pray that your ship will never be called upon to hurl her salvos against an enemy. But, if destiny rules otherwise, I know she will more than give an excellent account of herself in upholding the glorious traditions of our Country and the Navy for which all of us who are real Americans are prepared to battle and, if needs be, die for.”

Edward Sedgwick, MGM Pictures, letter to Captain Olaf Hustvedt, commanding officer USS NORTH CAROLINA

On the cover of Newsweek April 1941

 

The New Yorker magazine April 1941

“The commissioning was a great day of excitement. All the dignitaries around and high ranking admirals. Every sailor had to be on his toes and everything was ship shape the best way it could be on board. We were all dressed in blues for photos and the commissioning. It was a great day.”

Paul Charles Wenck, Seaman 1/c

 

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Knox, Hustvedt and Broughton

“I think that the ovation that ended the celebration in New York when the ship was commissioned was a tribute to a bunch of hard working people that our shipyards were. Our sailors and men were ready to go out and do whatever had to be done to win this war. And they did it. They really did it.”

Admiral Alfred Ward, USN (Ret.)

Raising the colors April 9, 1941

Raising the colors April 9, 1941

The Ship’s Birthday over the Years

April 9 1942

 

April 1942 field day

April 1942 jamboree

1942 – Casco Bay, Maine

“The good ship U.S.S. North Carolina celebrated her first birthday anniversary in a most enjoyable manner with a big party. The day dawned bright and fair, with sufficient snap in the air to add zest to the Field Day events. The afternoon jamboree completed the day’s festivities and as the curtain fell the entire ship’s company expressed in words or actions their thanks to all. Thus was another link forged our chain of important events. When our baptismal fire is upon us, we feel certain that by such displayed unity of action our anchor of faith in our purpose will find all tried and true.”

Tarheel, April 11, 1942

1943 – Pearl Harbor

“0700 Following message was addressed to all hands – Happy Birthday NORTH CAROLINA. May we serve you as well during the coming years as you have served us during your first two years of life.”

LT(jg) Ed Gallagher, USN, in the Ship’s Deck Log

1944 – Anchored in Majuro Atoll. Mr. Howard Norton, war correspondent for The Baltimore Sun, reported aboard. In honor of the anniversary the ship’s company dined on mixed olives, sweet pickles, cream of tomato soup, croutons, roast young tom turkey, oyster dressing, baked Virginia [ham], pineapple sauce, cranberry sauce, giblet gravy, candied sweet potatoes, whipped potatoes, buttered asparagus, French peas, cardinal salad, parker house rolls, bread, butter, apple pie ala mode, coffee, oranges, apples. Cigarettes, cigars.

1945 booklet

1945 – Steaming with Task Group 58.2 operating east of Okinawa

The Ship issued a booklet highlighting bombardments, air attacks and campaigns to date with a list of the commanding and executive officers. “It is our wish that all who have contributed to our cruise be honored by this anniversary publication.”

April 10 1945

Stormy Weather

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BB55 Crashing into swell during December December 1944 typhoon

BB55 Crashing into swell during December December 1944 typhoon

“It rains at least 10 times a day down here [Ulithi] but you soon get used to it. The sea is pretty rough and all hands were warned to keep clear of the main deck. We hit the edge of a typhoon and it’s plenty rough. I sure feel sorry for the destroyers. The storm has done considerable damage to our lighting system. The planes are all grounded and our 20mm gun shields on the bow are bent like pretzels. Wind reached 100 mph velocity. The task force has lost 10 men overboard in the last two days.”

Diary of PFC George W. Kietzman, November 1944

“December 1944, we were caught in a typhoon while we were steaming through the Philippine Sea. I remember the winds got up to 100 mph and the Ship was tossed around like a cork. I was in Spot I on watch at the time and believe me, I got the ride of my life! The waves were at least 50 to 60 feet high and the bow would go under one and over two. Most of the time we couldn’t see because of the spray and solid sheets of water. The Ship was rolling 30 degrees and we thought she was going over. We could see the ocean coming up to meet Spot I and we were holding on for dear life. I was sure that would capsize but she would just shudder a bit and then roll the other way. I guess Spot I was the worst place to be during a typhoon.”

Jim Masie, Fire Controlman 3/c

USS LANGLEY rolls in heavy seas with USS WASHINGTON nearby, December 1944. The LANGLEY rolled consistently to 35 degrees on both sides.

USS LANGLEY rolls in heavy seas with USS WASHINGTON nearby, December 1944. The LANGLEY rolled consistently to 35 degrees on both sides.

“We started into that typhoon and in just a little bit it had all those mess tables unhooked, sliding across the deck and coffee and cups and it was a real mess. [Some] tables were tied with a rope to the poles. You had sandwiches and nothing hot. There were four or five of us that got the bright idea to climb up in the mast up to the crow’s nest. We went up there and of course it was blowing and we got all sopping wet. The Ship was rolling…35 degrees. We found out later that if she had gone 39 degrees she would have gone on over. We had ammunition boxes [250-300 pounds welded to the deck] and everything all over the main deck, which were torn loose.”

Anonymous

A destroyer almost disappears from view in the trough of heavy seas before or after the peak of the storm, December 1944.

A destroyer almost disappears from view in the trough of heavy seas before or after the peak of the storm, December 1944.

“I went out onto the deck on the morning of December 18th, near my 40mm shop. I walked over to portside of the deck to view the storm. The rain and seawater blowing so much you could hardly see the other ships, even close ones. I saw small carriers and destroyers rolling and pitching quite a bit. As I started back the ship started rolling so I took several steps and put myself into a slide on the wet deck. I crashed into the lifeline around the deck and grabbed a hold to keep from going overboard as the water was lapping close to the deck. We were supposed to stay inside below.”

C.J. Baker, Fire Controlman 3/c

“You can imagine winds up to 100mph beating around in an open sea. We are talking about a 45,000 ton ship. It bobbed us around just like a cork in the water. At one time we went 30+ degrees…actually laying us on our side. The maximum rule of this vessel was 36 plus degrees before it would capsize. [Note: The Damage Control chart indicates that at 18 degrees the edge of the main deck would have been at the waterline.]

I was stationed in Spot II. It is about 65 feet above the water line. I opened the hatch at the top of the director to take a look out to see how bad it was. I got splashed in the face with salt water. That is 60 feet of waves come up over the Ship, which is a tremendous amount of height and pressure. I just almost lost my breath.”

Stan Shefveland, Fire Controlman 3/c

Bob Wayne Noble, Boatswain’s Mate 2/c

“Coy Adams and I worked our way through the Ship up into the conning tower above the bridge where we had a bird’s eye view of the storm and could feel the force. I watched the destroyers bob around like corks. Half the time you would lose sight of them. The large carriers were taking green water over their flight deck. It has been said that this typhoon did more damage to the fleet than the Japanese Navy.”

Bill Fleishman, Water Tender 2/c

“I can remember being out on deck at signal bridge [03] level. You wouldn’t see very far because of the spray in the air and the rain. The seas were positively mountainous. I remember quite vividly that the tops of the seas were often higher than I was. I went into CIC and watched the eye of the typhoon on the radar scope. The eye passed right over us. On voice radio…the carriers were telling of the aircraft that had broken loose on their hanger decks and flying around. I have a rather vague memory of watching at least one blip [destroyer] disappear as the ship went under.”

Captain Ben Blee, USN (Ret.)

BB-55 plows through heavy swells while escorting the USS ESSEX, December 1944.

BB-55 plows through heavy swells while escorting the USS ESSEX, December 1944.

“Today we postponed fueling because of real rough weather. Some tin-can men were washed overboard and most of them were picked up. Sea was even rougher today and we had to postpone fueling again. Three cans [destroyers] ran dry and are now dead in the water. The wind reached 72 knots and some of the swells were at least 100 feet high. All day today we’ve been traversing debris filled waters. We lost 100 crates of potatoes and I’m not the least bit sorry, either! We only missed the center of the typhoon by 19 miles. Ship is rolling to about a 30 degree angle. Nobody seems to know what we’re doing out here right now.”

Diary of PFC George W. Kietzman, December 1944

Read more about it: Typhoon: The Other Enemy/The Third Fleet and the Pacific Storm of December 1944, by Capt. C. Raymond Calhoun, USN (Ret). Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1981.

Torpedo Strike

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Torpedo damage view

Torpedo damage view

“September 14, 1942: They passed the word last night that we would have early G.Q. than ordinary. So this morning all hands up ravin for action, but so far nothing has happened.

September 15, 1942: If I ever put in another day quite like today I shall put in a chit for the Recruiting Station in Des Moines, Iowa. In the first place I had the mid-watch last night. I couldn’t get any sleep to make up for [it]. I was woke up three times this afternoon then I went below to my bunk determined to get a little sleep somehow.

WASP under attack

WASP under attack

I had just dropped off when Wagner shook me and said the WASP had been bombed or torpedoed. Naturally I got topside in nothing flat just in time to see the WASP at about 290 or 300 degrees relative. I’ll never be able to completely express what I saw.

The WASP was making a port turn as we swung to starboard. A huge billowing black cloud hung above her superstructure punctuated amidships with a flame – a flame that something told me came from a burning airplane. The flame flickered and died as if in prelude to the great tongue of fire that leaped more than 100 feet into the air with the advent of a second cloud of black oily smoke.

By this time I had reached my gun but was totally captivated by the sight of what was evidently the third torpedo striking on her port beam. The water, black with oil, geysered [stet] up high above her flight deck. The flame that gutted her midship third was sickening. My stomach knotted up and I actually felt ill.

Bull Williams stood alongside of me as all of this happened and shouted, ‘Aerial Attack.’ I looked at him and past him as the USS O’BRIEN took a torpedo. I saw the black water spout up. I looked forward and saw another geyser on our port bow. I thought sure he was right after that for they looked like thousand pound bomb explosions.

Then I felt rather than heard a dull, whispered thud as I fell to the deck. I began picking myself up and as I rolled over the blue of the sky was blotted out by brown billowing gas. It was the familiar smell of fuel oil but it terrified me so much that I placed my arm over my eyes and stumbled to the ready box.”

-Diary of Arthur G. Hahn, Storekeeper 1/c

“On a quiet day, I was on a gun deck looking out at the [carrier] WASP which was quite a ways from us when I saw an explosion. Instinct told me to head to my battle station even before the alarm sounded. In a matter of seconds, there was a major explosion on the port side. The explosion was so big, I didn’t realize it was the destroyer O’BRIEN which had been hit by a torpedo. I just knew I had to get to my battle station.

The procedure when General Quarters sounded was to go forward and up on the starboard side, down and aft on the port side. I was on the port side and cheated a little. No one was around and I’d save time. All of a sudden we took our torpedo hit. I didn’t know if we had been bombed or what. There was smoke and cordite all around. I was tempted to go aft because the hit was ahead of me. I shrugged off the thought, but felt my way gingerly forward because the smoke still obscured my path. I subsequently went up the many ladders to my battle station. I could see our oil slick from there. Worse, I could see the WASP ablaze with towering clouds of black smoke. Through my binoculars I could see their crew pushing planes overboard so they wouldn’t explode and make matters worse. She was subsequently sunk during the night.

In a matter of a few weeks, we lost four cruisers off Guadalcanal. Lost one carrier with us, had two carriers damaged, and limped back to Pearl for repairs after burying our dead on an island. I was 19 at the time, and sort of matured.”

- Larry Resen, Fire Controlman 1/c and Asst. to the Air Defense Officer

“We were now operating with the WASP. We were getting very leery of Mondays. When Monday, September 14th came and went, we all had a sigh of relief. On September 15th, I was on my way to my battle station in Sky 2 when I heard an explosion. Off our port side the WASP was hit with one torpedo. When I got to the top of [5-inch] director two more torpedoes had hit the WASP which was fueling planes for their next strike. The gas lines were ruptured and flaming gasoline we flowing over the sides like a waterfall. It was then we got hit….”

- Harold Smith, Fire Controlman 1/c

Torpedo damage

Torpedo damage

Summary:

On September 15, 1942, Japanese submarine I-19 quickly fired six long-range torpedoes at the U.S. carrier WASP. Three torpedoes struck their target causing such damage that the task force commander ordered WASP to be sunk that night. The remaining three torpedoes raced on across several miles into a second carrier force. One torpedo slammed into the U.S. destroyer O’BRIEN that would break up several weeks later due to severe hull damage.

Another torpedo blasted NORTH CAROLINA on her port (left) side just forward of the thick armor belt designed to protect her from torpedoes. The enormous blast shook the Ship and crew and sent tons of oil and water skyward. Tons more water quickly flooded into the resulting 32 by 18 foot hole causing the Ship to lean, a situation the crew quickly corrected by purposefully flooding compartments on the opposite side. Five men were killed and 23 were wounded.

Killed in Action:
Albert Geary, Seaman 1/c
Ingwald Nelson, Ship Fitter 2/c
Leonard Pone, Gunner’s Mate 3/c
William Skelton, Seaman 2/c
Oscar Stone, Ship Fitter 3/c