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USS North Carolina (BB-55) is the lead ship of the North Carolina class of fast battleships, the first vessel of the type built for the United States Navy. Built under the Washington Treaty system, North Carolina's design was limited in displacement and armament, though the United States used a clause in the Second London Naval Treaty to increase the main battery from the original armament of nine 14-inch (360 mm) guns to nine 16 in (410 mm) guns. The ship was laid down in 1937 and completed in April 1941, while the United States was still neutral during World War II. During this period, she operated off the eastern coast of the United States.
Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December, North Carolina mobilized for war and was initially sent to Iceland to counter a possible sortie by the German battleship Tirpitz, though this did not materialize and North Carolina was promptly transferred to the Pacific to strengthen Allied forces during the Guadalcanal campaign. There, she screened aircraft carriers engaged in the campaign and took part in the Battle of the Eastern Solomons on 24-25 August, where she shot down several Japanese aircraft. The next month, she was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine but was not seriously damaged. After repairs, she returned to the campaign and continued to screen carriers during the campaigns across the central Pacific in 1943 and 1944, including the Gilberts and Marshall Islands and the Mariana and Palau Islands, where she saw action during the Battle of the Philippine Sea.
The ship was undergoing a refit during the invasion of the Philippines but took part in the later stages of the Philippines campaign and was present when the fleet was damaged by Typhoon Cobra. She took part in offensive operations in support of the Battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa in 1945, including numerous attacks on Japan. Following the surrender of Japan in August, she carried American personnel home during Operation Magic Carpet. North Carolina operated briefly off the east coast of the United States in 1946 before being decommissioned the next year and placed in reserve. Stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in 1960, the ship was saved from the breaker's yard by a campaign to preserve the vessel as a museum ship in her namesake state. In 1962, the North Carolina museum was opened in Wilmington, North Carolina.