After repairs at Pearl Harbor, North Carolina screened Enterprise and Saratoga and covered supply and troop movements in the Solomons for much of the next year. She was at Pearl Harbor in March and April 1943 to receive advanced fire control and radar gear, and again in September, to prepare for the Gilbert Islands operation.

With Enterprise, in the Northern Covering Group, North Carolina sortied from Pearl Harbor 10 November for the assault on Makin, Tarawa, and Abemama. Air strikes began 19 November, and for 10 days mighty air blows were struck to aid marines ashore engaged in some of the bloodiest fighting of the Pacific War. Supporting the Gilberts campaign and preparing the assault on the Marshalls, North Carolina's highly accurate big guns bombarded Nauru 8 December, destroying air facilities, beach defenses, and radio installations. Later that month, she protected Bunker Hill (CV-17) in strikes against shipping and airfields at Kavieng, New Ireland.