The USS NORTH CAROLINA Living History Crew is a group of volunteers whose goal is to support the mission of the Battleship North Carolina Memorial in educating the public about the role of the USS NORTH CAROLINA and her crew during World War II. This goal is primarily accomplished through "living history" activities on the Ship and also by assisting the Memorial's staff with restoration projects on the Ship.
The Battleship has sponsored a "Living History" Weekend every year since 1997. "Living History" attempts to bring historical events, places and persons "alive" for the public by demonstrating various aspects of the past with real people as opposed to static "museum" displays. In a "living history" program the public gets a chance to interact with the interpreters rather than be a passive recipient of information via signs and displays behind glass in a museum. In addition to explaining to the public their roles as sailors and the duties specific to their ratings (jobs) aboard the battleship, the LHC also endeavors to give insight into the daily life and routine of the crew aboard the USS NORTH CAROLINA.
Doing a WWII US Navy impression is a lot different than doing an Army infantry impression, which many of our experienced re-enactors are familiar with. It is not just putting on a different color uniform. Not taking away from doing the WWII infantry soldier impression, but you can put a rifle in someone's hands and have a quick, short lesson on firing the weapon and they can be an infantryman. Doing a sailor is different. Sailors are not "soldiers" in the literal sense; they are technicians. They are cogs in the machinery whose main purpose is the firing of the guns on a ship, whether it is a 16" gun or a 20mm gun. Everyone had a job to do which supported the firing of the guns. As such, you need to learn the duties and responsibilities of the rating or specialty of the sailor you are portraying. It will not be necessary to learn these duties and responsibilities to the extent you would if you were really in that position, but enough to inform the public, correctly, on what your job is and how your machinery works.
What we do is not a re-enactment, but a living history. We have to "recreate" the sailor's world. The life of a sailor is very different than the life of a soldier. The ship is your world. It is a miniature city. It is your home, your office, your workshop, and your recreation area. It has its mayor, police, fire department, hospital, movie theater, restaurant, corner soda shop, post office, electrical and water departments, radio station, library and church. There were men who came from towns smaller than a battleship. You need to think and look beyond just your work space for living history interpretations. In addition to demonstrating to the public how each of the individual areas operated, we are also demonstrating the entire ship as a whole. So there will be times where we have an all hands evolution at a given location, such as a GQ drill, damage control or even a Captain's mast.
For example, if you are assigned to a gun, you need to know the purpose of the gun, the range, how it is loaded, how it is fired, how many men were assigned to it, etc. If you are in the Combat Information Center (CIC), you need to know how to plot, how radars work, what the purpose of CIC is, how it evolved, and so on. Your particular shipboard impression will require a lot of research work on your part, as well as on-the-job training which you can acquire during events on the battleship.
As the Army has its language, the Navy has its own unique language. But the Army's everyday language is more like regular "English." You will not get the point across to the public that you are a sailor if you are unfamiliar with naval terminology and you call a ship a boat, the deck a floor, a bulkhead a wall or the overhead a ceiling.
But the important thing is to have fun with this impression and our demonstrations to the public. We need to make it enjoyable for the crew as well as the public. There are a lot of things that go on in the Sailor's life that is outside of the work areas and we need to show that side to the public as well.
Recreating The Life Of A Sailor
One other thing that you have to understand about a sailor's life is standing watches. This is a major factor in the daily routine aboard any ship. Most ships are in a three-section watch rotation; each watch is usually four hours long. This means you stand a four-hour watch, then you are off for eight hours, then you stand another watch for four hours. And in that eight hours, you have to do your regular job, sleep, eat, and take care of other things such as shower, haircuts, write letters, laundry, etc. This is in addition to other drills and evolutions such as GQ, gunnery drills and working parties. So one of the things about sailors was they were tired.