Battleship Projects

Over the decades, North Carolinians contributed to campaigns that brought the USS North Carolina Battleship home, restored failing materials, and installed features to enhance the visitors’ experience. The following major Battleship Projects supported by donations from individuals, nonprofits, foundations, and corporations too numerous to name, as well as State and Federal funds, are a source of Battleship Pride.


Save Our Ship – 1960

After honored service in the second World War, the USS North Carolina was saved from scrap through Save Our Ship. The grassroots campaign raised funds to purchase, dredge, and prepare a site for the Memorial and to tow the ship from Bayonne, New Jersey, to Wilmington. In 1961, the Battleship became North Carolina’s World War II Memorial and, subsequently, a State Historic Site and National Historic Landmark.

Operation Ship Shape – 1998

Construction of the Battleship began on October 27, 1937. Some 60 years later, several original features needed replacement, restoration, or renovation. Operation Ship Shape replaced the entire teak Main Deck with old-growth teakwood available for use as litigation settlement material. This project also restored the Wardroom (Officers Dining Room) for events and rentals and updated the Roll of Honor display.

Operation Ship Shape funds were later used to repair deteriorated sections of the water/wind line on the ship’s starboard bow (right side of most forward hull). The wind/water line is where the original World War II steel had been repeatedly wetted by saltwater waves and tides and then dried in the wind. Since the ship had not been drydocked since 1947 and towing to a drydock facility was impractical and expensive, a temporary cofferdam system was used as a test case for future hull repairs.

Cofferdam, a Generations Campaign Project – 2017

The Battleship is now surrounded by a 1,909-foot permanent cofferdam built with 1,206 steel sheets and 458 steel H-piles driven roughly 50 feet below the water. The very novel design of the 4.6-million-pound cofferdam incorporates the unique features of the Cape Fear River bottom to achieve acceptable watertight integrity. When the 4 slide gate weirs are shut, the enclosed area is pumped, creating a dry environment around the ship, supporting repairs and maintenance to the hull. This rare approach is approved by the U.S. Navy as an acceptable alternative to routine drydocking.

State Employees Credit Union Memorial Walkway, a Generations Campaign Project – 2018

The .5-mile State Employees Credit Union (SECU) Memorial Walkway was constructed above the water line but below the main deck of the Battleship. It surrounds the ship offering unparalleled views of the entire hull and the beautiful marshlands of Eagles Island. The SECU Memorial Walkway includes 5 Honor Platforms that explain the history of each of the Armed Forces (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard) during WWII and their contributions to the State of North Carolina today. The Merchant Marines are honored by flying their flag on the Quarterdeck. The 10-foot-wide timber SECU Memorial Walkway is ADA-accessible and free to the public.

Piedmont Natural Gas Marine Trail Dock & Kayak Launch, a Generations Campaign Project – 2018

The Piedmont Natural Gas Marine Trail Dock provides access to the Historic Wilmington Riverfront. The Battleship has contracted with Wilmington Water Tours to provide a water taxi service connecting Riverfront hotels, shops, and restaurants with the Battleship. Visitors can now leave their car behind, jump on the water taxi, spend the day touring the Battleship, and return in time for dinner reservations! The Kayak Launch serves as the only ADA-compliant facility of its kind in New Hanover County. It provides everyone access to enjoy the beautiful tidal marshes of Eagles Island.

Hull Repairs, a Generations Campaign Project – 2021

With the watertight cofferdam in place, the repairs begun during Operations Ship Shape could be extended to the remainder of the deteriorated hull. Large sections of the port and starboard (left and right) bow were weakened and failing at the wind/water line (area of original steel wetted by saltwater waves and tides and later dried in the wind). In 2021, the area inside the cofferdam was pumped dry, and roughly 1800 square feet of wasted steel plating and framing were removed. New steel sections were welded and riveted into place and later painted. One hundred percent (100%) of the new steel was U.S.A. made and donated by NUCOR Steel from their plate steel plant in Cofield, North Carolina. 

Mast Repair, a Battleship Restoration Project – 2022

In 2018, Hurricanes Florence and Michael hit the North Carolina coast over a 10-day period. Sustained hurricane winds and wind-driven rain damaged many buildings, homes, and historic assets, including sections of the Battleship’s upper mast system. In 2022, one of the largest cranes on the East Coast arrived in 12 semi-trucks and was erected adjacent to the Battleship, while the entire Forward Mast was wrapped in scaffolding. The huge crane lifted the Forward Mast from the ship and placed it on a pivoting device on the ground adjacent to the ship. The mast was then moved from the vertical to the horizontal to allow more cost-effective repairs and replacement of wasted steel sections. Similar repairs were made to sections of the Forward Mast remaining on the ship. Once painted, the removed mast was replaced on the ship, and the entire Forward Mast gleamed like the day of Commissioning in 1941. Mast repairs were funded by the State Emergency Supplemental Historic Preservation Fund, authorized by Congress, and administered by the National Park Service and by donations from individuals like you!

Battleship Uplighting, a Battleship Restoration Project

Coming Soon

What beauty does not deserve to be featured in favorable lighting – lots of lighting! We are looking forward to the uplighting of the Battleship for the very first time in history. Currently, in design, lights will be installed in the coming months, and the ship will be lit in her full glory for Memorial Day, 2024. Battleship Uplighting was funded by the Kirkpatrick Family Fund, the Friends of the Battleship NORTH CAROLINA, and the ship itself. This Project will enhance the views of the Battleship from all directions at night and highlight significant features of the Memorial.

Living With Water, a Generations Campaign Project – 2024

Living with Water restoration will help meet our top priority – making sure visitors conveniently and safely enjoy the USS North Carolina Battleship Memorial. This project was developed in response to tidal flooding of our access road and parts of our parking lot. Living with Water will install a wetland to help capture and absorb high tides, while a tidal creek will direct water back to the Cape Fear River. A living shoreline will help protect our property from wave action and storm effects. The wetland, tidal creek, and living shoreline will make room for water on the landscape and allow tides to ebb and flow. To learn more, visit the Living with Water Story Map featuring interactive maps, graphics, audio clips, and time-lapse photography or click here for a Living with Water Project Synopsis.

Battleship Park, a Generations Campaign Project

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The USS North Carolina Memorial’s 2.5-acre riverside public park on the Cape Fear River is free and open year-round. It has expansive views of Wilmington’s downtown National Historic District and Riverwalk. Our Park, however, faces persistent high rivers that erode our Cape Fear River shoreline and form low-lying wet areas. This Project is in the early phase of gathering the funds to design and build a beautiful and enjoyable Park at Battleship Memorial. Click the button below to make donations to help create the financial foundation for park renovations and accessibility to last generations and benefit millions!