Tag Archives: Oral History

Truk Rescue

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Grigware's depiction of the Kingfisher and Tang

In April 1944, American carrier planes were assaulting Truk and NORTH CAROLINA was protecting the carriers. The Battleship’s Kingfishers were assigned rescue duty and took to the air on the morning of April 30, 1944.

John Burns

John Burns

“A number of our planes were shot down and the men had taken to rubber boats. They were close off the atoll, under Japanese guns. I was ordered to take my plane, which had pontoon floats, on a rescue mission. I was out with another plane of the same type. We had been given the position of a man who had been in the water about 22 hours. He had landed inside a reef, right under the noses of the Japanese guns. The [Japanese] had been shooting at him all day.

When darkness fell he had worked his way over the reef, and into open water, where we found him. The other [Kingfisher] plane with me landed in the water to pick him up. But a stiff gust of wind turned it upside down. Then I landed, and picked up the man in the boat, and the pilot [LT J.J. Dowdle] and radio man [Aubrey Gill] of the plane which had been with me. Three men got on the wings and I taxied five or six miles out to sea, where we came to a submarine [USS TANG] which took the three men aboard.

Rescue at Truk by Robert Sherry

Rescue at Truk by Robert Sherry

I flew back again. I had been told by radio of the position of another man, close in to the reef, and I got him on the wings. I heard of other men in the water. It took me two hours, taxiing around, to find three more men. They told me of seeing another plane crash. Other planes overhead helped direct me to the scene, and in two more hours I had located three more men. Then I had seven men on my wings.

Kingfisher taxiing men to safety

Kingfisher taxiing men to safety

Newspaper clipping

Newspaper clipping


I taxied out to sea again and found the submarine, but my plane had taken such a beating from the wind and water that we had to destroy it so my radio man and I got on the submarine, too.”

LT John Burns

John Burns on ship

John Burns on ship

Burns, a true hero, was awarded the Navy Cross. He was tragically killed the following year during a training exercise in Virginia, on February 24, 1945.

Burns killed in crash

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




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

Iwo Jima

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Aerial of Iwo

In February 1945, eight battleships, five heavy cruisers, three light cruisers and ten destroyers met near a small volcanic island just 650 miles from Tokyo. Iwo Jima was located on the bomber route between Tokyo and Saipan in the Mariana Islands. The allies needed Iwo Jima as a base for the bomber’s fighter escort planes and for refueling and repairing B-29 bombers. The 22,000 heavily fortified Japanese on Iwo Jima were willing to fight to the death from their maze of underground caves, bunkers and tunnels to stop the allies from taking Iwo Jima.

Naval bombardment

Sunrise on February 19th was greeted with the largest naval bombardment in history and the USS NORTH CAROLINA was there. The battleship pounded the island for four days then moved to her next assignment.

“Now, in the Iwo operation while we were preparing for that the old NEW YORK had a serious breakdown. [She] was deleted from the operation and arbitrarily they picked the NORTH CAROLINA to take her place, which for the first time made the NORTH CAROLINA assigned the same as the old battleships. We were, as I recall, the anchor ship of the first units and so we were really in there about 4,000 yards. We employed for the first time…all of our batteries. We saw the whole show from beginning to end.”

Rear Admiral Tom Morton, USN (Ret.) He was Commander Morton, Gunnery Officer, during the engagement.

“One of the best sights I can remember in the Navy was when we were starting to sweep Iwo. There was the USS NORTH CAROLINA throwing big shells onto the beach. That was a protective sight. You felt you weren’t out there by yourself.”

Roy Benton Braswell, Quartermaster 2/c, on the minesweeper USS SKIRMISH clearing harbors and landing zones before the Marine landing.

“I remember it was foggy that morning [2/19] but the most beautiful sight was seeing the USS NORTH CAROLINA battleship coming through the fog.”

Isaiah Springs, U.S. Army

“I could see the Marines on the beach and they were catching it! There was very slow progress that first day.”

Willie N. Jones, Gunner’s Mate 1/c, assigned to mount #10, secondary battery

“I remember looking through the rangefinder and watching the Marines land. After so much ammo it was unbelievable that any Japanese was still alive.”

Fred Welch, Fire Controlman 2/c

“I came topside and the 16-inch guns were firing the barrels almost horizontal…. We were about two miles off the island firing point blank at the Japanese with those 1,900 pound shells. Just off the port bow there were splashes in the water where the Japanese were firing at us with small caliber stuff and I thought how ridiculous it was.”

Charles Paty, Radioman 1/c

Map of Iwo Jima

Special Air and Gunnery Target Map

This map was used in Secondary Battery Plot during the bombardment of Iwo Jima. The map denotes location of airfields, probable tank barrier and minefield along the beach, and Japanese weapons and defensive placements on the island. Ships were assigned areas in which to operate, targets to engage, a firing schedule and the time to “lift fire” to make way for the ship to shore troop movements.

“It should be noted that to coordinate bearing observations with the people on the navigation bridge, the prominent land features were labeled on the chart with the names of loved ones selected and agreed to by the bombardment crew. It was easier to ask for a bearing to Barb or Jean or Katie than to some Japanese name.

On day three only the 5-inch guns were fired…because we had used all the 855 rounds of high capacity 16-inch shells we had on board. After day four we withdrew and replaced all that ammunition while underway by ship to ship high line transfer.”

Capt. Tracy Wilder, USN (Ret). He was Ensign Wilder in Secondary Battery Plot during the Iwo Jima bombardment.

Officers in Plot

Secondary Battery Plot

Lt.(jg) James Mason, far right, was officer in charge in during the bombardment. He was commended for “his leadership, coolness under fire, and personal courage [which] enabled the ship to inflict serious damage on the enemy.” Also pictured: Jasper Ortiz, William Winston, and James Allen.

The plotting room personnel along with the aviators and fire director crews carefully studied the relief map, aerial photographs and gridded maps before the bombardment.

Iwo Map shown onboard

This simplified map of Iwo Jima was distributed to the crew. A 3-D mock- up of the island was on display on the mess decks. It had “flags on it showing how much the enemy had been pushed back on the island. You could go down there every day and see what changes they had made.”