Battleship latest Wilmington landmark to earn national acclaim

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As of Monday afternoon, Battleship North Carolina held the fourth spot on USA Today's list of top 20 museum ships in the country. File photo.
As of Monday afternoon, Battleship North Carolina held the fourth spot on USA Today’s list of top 20 museum ships in the country. File photo.

Wilmington is in the running for yet another national superlative, this time around for the historic landmark that lines the Cape Fear River.

The city that boasts the nation’s best riverfront and al fresco dining – and owns bragging rights for being a draw for beer drinkers and small businesses alike, among other accolades – is now also the home of one of the top floating exhibits in the country.

The Battleship NC has been picked as a contender in USA Today’s Top 20 Best Museum Ships in the country as part of the publication’s 10 BEST Readers’ Choice Awards series.

“The first of 10 fast U.S. battleships that saw service in World War II, the USS North Carolina was decommissioned in 1947 and was narrowly saved from scrappers in 1960,” a USA Today writer said of the Battleship. “Today she sits anchored in the Cape Fear River near Wilmington, NC, where visitors can walk her decks and learn the stories of the crew who served on board.”

Readers quickly voted the historic vessel to the number-one spot on the list but it has now fallen slightly to fourth, just under Los Angeles’ USS Battleship Iowa. As of Monday afternoon, Battleship Texas, docked in La Porte, Texas and USS Midway in San Diego were in the lead in second and first places, respectively.

The Port City’s iconic ship, a long sought-after destination for tourists, is the only North Carolina-based vessel to make the online poll and one of two in the southeast. It’s joined by Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, which is home to a pair of museum ships: World War II aircraft carrier USS Yorktown and USS Laffey, the country’s only remaining destroyer that saw action in the Atlantic Ocean.

Commissioned in 1941, the Battleship was considered the “world’s greatest sea weapon,” according to USS North Carolina’s website. During World War II, the massive vessel played a role in every major naval offensive in the Pacific area of operations and earned 15 battle stars.

The ship, which recently unveiled its newly renovated Officers Wardroom, is in the midst of another restoration – major improvements to its rapidly deteriorating hull. Last year, U.S.S. North Carolina launched its Generations Campaign, an ongoing fundraising effort for the $17 million repair project.

USA Today’s Top 20 Museum Ships poll remains open to voters through Monday, July 18. Readers can cast their ballot once per day until that deadline, when the winner will be announced.

Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at hilary.s@portcitydaily.com.