She participated in every major naval offensive in the Pacific during World War Two before being decommissioned. Thru a massive Save Our Ship campaign, the Battleship North Carolina was bought and has been berthed across from the Wilmington waterfront since 1961.
By that time, the battleship had been in salt water for 21 years. And now, 74 years after being launched, the elements has weaken the ship's hull.
"In the early years of the Battleship coming to Wilmington, there was very little maintenance that needed to be done," said Captain Terry Bragg, Executive Director of the North Carolina Battleship. "But time and the elements have really taken its toll" said Captain Bragg.
Following repairs to the starboard bow three years ago, the Department of the Navy told the Battleship Commission to come up with a plan to repair the entire hull.
"The biggest hurdle that we faced was crafting a solution for the work to be done right here in Wilmington rather than taking the Battleship to either Norfolk or Charleston, which was too expensive and too risky," explained Bragg. "So, for the past couple of years, we have conducted high level technical work, we have received the Navy's approval and we are going to repair the Battleship right here in Wilmington."
With some recent funding from the state, and with the Navy's approval, the hull repair project is under way. The plan is to construct a cofferdam around the ship, similar to this, where local workers can perform the work without removing the ship from the water, or having to take the ship elsewhere.
But it is going to be expensive, to the tune of $17 million. Already, Duke Energy has contributed $1 million. Wells Fargo has given the project a quarter of a million dollars, and the local McDonalds has come on board, with a promotion called Big Macs for the Battleship. It is designed to resemble the nickels and dimes campaign that originally brought the ship to its permanent mooring location in 1961.
In addition, long terms plans call for a memorial walkway to be built around the ship, an eco-expedition trail to be constructed to allow visitors to work in the marshland around the battleship and hopefully rebuild the docks for the battleship.
Captain Bragg says if funding continues as they expect, repair work on the hull could begin as early as this winter.
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