By John Staton, Wilmington StarNews, September 29, 2021
In 1961, the struggling, railroad-abandoned town of Wilmington, North Carolina, was a vastly different place than the growing, film-industry-saturated city we live in in 2021.
Charting all of the changes in the Port City over the past six decades would be a story unto itself. As steeped in history as Wilmington is, however, in that time there have been plenty of constants, and one has been the enduring presence of the Battleship North Carolina.
Since it first arrived, to much fanfare and more than 100,000 onlookers, on Oct. 2, 1961, the Battleship has been moored in its current spot on the west bank of the Cape Fear River across from downtown Wilmington.
It was dedicated on April 29, 1962, as a memorial to the more than 10,000 North Carolinians who died fighting in World War II. For the past 60 years, the 728-foot, de-commissioned Navy vessel has been not only a vital part of the downtown Wilmington skyline, but also its economy, attracting tens of thousands of visitors each year, including nearly 200,000 since Oct. 1 of last year.