The battleship USS North Carolina was the lead ship of the North Carolina battleship class and the first new battleship for the US navy since the USS West Virginia was commissioned in 1923. Originally designed with 3 quadruple 14-inch main gun turrets, the North Carolina was redesigned to accept 3 triple 16-inch gun turrets shortly after construction began when the US became concerned over Japan's refusal to commit to the Second London Naval Treaty main gun caliber limits. The ship was laid down in 1937, launched in 1940, and finally commissioned in 1941.

After her shakedown and training exercises were completed, the ship was ready for action in early 1942 and steamed to the Pacific theater after a brief stint in the Atlantic Ocean to defend the Atlantic convoys from a potential sortie by the battleship Tirpitz. The North Carolina joined the Guadalcanal campaign and participated in several actions until she sustained a torpedo hit on 15 September which required her to return to Pearl Harbor for repairs. After repairs were completed, she returned to action in the South Pacific and over the next year, she assisted in the island hopping campaign by covering troop and supply runs.

The battleship North Carolina fit into the role of aircraft carrier protector and island bombarder as the American fleet slowly ground its way ever closer to Japan. The North Carolina assisted in protecting the aircraft carriers at Makin and Tarawa and then bombarded the coastal defenses and air facilities on Nauru. The ship assisted next in the assault on the Marshall Islands, and then defended the fleet during the Truk air strike. The ship continued in this role up through the attack on Saipan where she again bombarded the coastal defenses and sank several small craft in the harbor at Tanapag. After several weeks on station, the ship sailed for the Puget Sound Navy Yard at Bremerton, WA where she was to remain until October 1944 for a well deserved overhaul.

In November 1944 the ship returned to action in the Philippines and after several months of combat, participated in a raid on the coast of Honshu, Japan. The ship participated in the actions at Okinawa and, after a short overhaul, returned to bombard the Japanese homeland over several weeks. After Japan surrendered, the North Carolina sailed for home, finally reaching Boston on 17 October 1945. Over the next two years she performed various training exercises but her end was near. In June, 1947 she was decommissioned and placed in the reserve fleet. The US navy proposed rebuilding the ship to support the new fast carriers but her top speed of 27 knots severly limited the options and finally, in 1960, the battleship North Carolina was stricken from the navy register.

Unlike her sistership USS Washington, the North Carolina avoided the breakers. The state of North Carolina purchased the ship after raising the funds to bring the ship home as a permanent memorial. In 1962 the ship was berthed at Wilmington, North Carolina as a memorial to all North Carolinians of all services who were killed in WWII. The ship is on permanent exhibit and open for tours all year round.