Memorializing American History: The Stories Behind Our USS Battleship Teak

May 29 2022 – Mike Yarbrough

Rustic & Main's Newest US Battleship Teak from the USS California
Rustic & Main's Newest US Battleship Teak from the USS California
At Rustic & Main, you could easily accuse us of American history buffery. 
Maybe it’s because we’re a made in USA brand. 
Maybe it is because we love stories, or perhaps it's just because we like knowing how we got our good old fashioned American values.
The main way we try to commemorate our love of history is through sourcing materials that tell the story of this country. 
The rustic way we show our passion for American antiquity is by hiring a bunch of old-timers to craft rings (jokes folks).
We often talk about how we love to make rings that tell a story, but it isn’t any fun if we never spit that story out, is it? 
Since we’re celebrating Memorial Day, how about we tell the story behind our USS battleship woods?

Seaworthy Teak

All of our USS Battleship woods are teak. 

Why Teak? 

 Teak was king in the world of 19th and 20th-century shipbuilding. 
This southeast Asian hardwood holds up well against the wind, rain, and waves. Teak tends not to warp or rot, because it doesn’t swell and shrink much in hot, humid weather, and its oily nature prevents water damage. In fact, this wood’s natural oils were so good at repelling water that shipbuilders often left teak decks unfinished.

Teak Aesthetics 

Besides the practical uses for shipbuilding, teak's just a downright beautiful wood. The wood's tight, straight grain makes it strong and gives it a gorgeous texture. Depending on the finish used, the color of teak can range from a warm silvery tone to a rich ochre. 

Collecting Ship Decks

We have teak from three different battleship decks: the USS North Carolina, the USS New Jersey, and recently the USS California. 

Do the Teaks Look Different?

We think the USS New Jersey tends to be a lighter color, but it truly varies from board to board.
Since they are the same type of wood, the biggest difference in our USS battleship teaks is the stories of the vessels upon which they served as decks. 
All three vessels served during the WW2 era and at times even fought in the same campaigns, but each of these three battleships had very different paths.
The USS North Carolina would serve in every major Pacific naval campaign in WW2.
The USS New Jersey would have the longest career of any American battleship and became the most decorated vessel in the American navy. 

The USS California sunk at the Attack on Pearl Harbor but would rise again to serve out its military career in WW2. 

Above is just a taste of each battleship's story, and there is so much more to tell! We outline the highlights of these vessels' legendary careers, but if you want to dig even deeper into the history of these ships, you can check out some of the sources we used to write this post at the bottom of the page. 

Picture of a battleship on deck looking down the barrel of three heavy artillery guns

A Brief History of the USS North Carolina

December 7th, 1941 was the day the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service woke the sleeping giant of the USA.
The United States was dead set on staying out of the war that consumed the entire world, until Pearl Harbor got attacked.
 Once attacked, the USA went no holds barred. 

Existing factories were converted to build everything from tanks and airplanes to guns and ammunition. 

Picture of three WW2 soldiers

Young men were drafted or recruited to serve Uncle Sam, and battleships got prepped for combat. 
The USS North Carolina was the first battleship commissioned for the American Navy in WW2.
While she would begin her career in the Atlantic, commissioned to Argentina in case of a potential German naval attack, the USS North Carolina would quickly sail across the Panama Canal to continue her career in the Pacific. 
The USS North Carolina would participate in every key Pacific naval offense in WW2, including the Guadalcanal campaign and the Gilbert and Marshall Islands campaign. 
During her time in the Pacific, she established a role in protecting aircraft carriers, escorting vessels like the USS Enterprise and the USS Saratoga in the Battle of the Eastern Solomons.
The USS North Carolina also participated in several shore bombardments and shot down or destroyed numerous enemy aircraft.   
By the end of her military career, the USS North Carolina accumulated 15 battle stars.
This vessels also had the best surviving record of any American battleship during WW2, losing ten men and seeing 67 wounded of her crew of over 2,000. 

Battleship Saved By North Carolina Man

After being decommissioned in 1947, the battleship stayed 14 years in the Inactive Reserves in Bayonne, New Jersey. The vessel was then doomed to the scrap yard till North Carolinian James Craig got wind of the battleship's coming demise. 
After getting the governor of North Carolina, Luther H. Hodges, to request the Navy wait to scrap the ship, Craig raised $330,000 to go toward “land” where the USS Carolina could lay anchor.

On November 10, 1982, the battleship received National Historic Landmark status. 

picture of a map with a North Carolina flag pinned on the state of north carolina

A Battleship Museum 

The USS North Carolina was then permanently moored in Wilmington, NC, serving as a museum and memorial of the thousands of North Carolinians who served or lost their lives during WW2.

Acquiring the Deck of a Ship

In 1998, the museum raised money to replace the old teak decks.
This renovation allowed Rustic & Main to buy our stock of this historic wood, which held many powerful stories.

Rustic & Main USS North Carolina Designs

We feature this historic teak in The USS North Carolina
This design was one of the rings with which we launched our company.

We craft the band's base from the USS North Carolina teak. We then lined the inside of it with wood from a whiskey barrel. Finally, we inlaid the ring with a metal of your choice. 

Picture of the USS New Jersey on the water in the evening, with the ship reflecting into the water

A Brief History of the USS New Jersey 

While the USS North Carolina might have served in all the major WW2 naval attacks, the USS New Jersey easily saw the most action and is the most decorated American battleship with 19 Battle and Campaign Stars. Commissioned back in 1943, this ship went through 4 wars and received it last decommissioning in 1991. 

The USS New Jersey's WW2 Career

The USS New Jersey started its illustrious career as the last American vessel to leave the Atlantic. She was dispatched to Maine to defend the east coast from a potential German attack that never came, thanks to British submarines laying out some serious damage to the German vessel Tirpitz. 

Legendary Leadership

During WW2, she would serve as the flagship for two legendary New Jersey native admirals, Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, who led the Battle of Midway, and Admiral, William “The Bull” F. Halsey, Jr in Halsey.

She was under Halsey’s command for the battles of Peleliu, Formosa, and Leyte Gulf, which is largest battle ever fought at sea.

picture of a hurricane

The USS New Jersey would survive a typhoon cobra, a storm that sunk three other ships, destroyed 156 airplanes, and drowned 790 men. 
Some other significance war time events she served in during WW2 were the in the invasion of the Marianas and the battle Philippines.
To finish out her WW2 career, the USS New Jersey served as the flag ship for Admiral Spruance when the Japanese surrendered and ended the biggest war to be ever fought at sea.

The USS New Jersey's Korean War Career

The USS New Jersey was recommissioned in 1950 to be the flagship for the 7th Fleet The battleship would run along the North Korean coast, switching back an forth between the roles of accompanying aircraft carriers to keep them safe and shelling the shore.

The USS New Jersey's Vietnam War Career

When the Vietnam War came along, the military pulled USS New Jersey out of the mothball fleet. $21.5 million dollars were put into the ship to refit with up-to-date technologies, and then it went on to serve as the only U.S. battleship to provide gunfire during the Vietnam conflict. When it launched in 1968, USS New Jersey was the only active battleship on earth. 

The USS New Jersey's Cold War Career

After the Vietnam conflict, an icy fear gripped two global superpowers, knowing that each side had nuclear weapons that could decimate the planet. Fearing the Cold War, President Ronald Reagan had the USS New Jersey refitted and recommissioned the vessel himself, giving the USS New Jersey the unique honor of being the only US battleship to receive a commission from a sitting president. At this time, the navy modernized the battleship to carry missiles, like the Tomahawk Cruise Missile.

The USS New Jersey's Lebanese Civil War Career

The USS New Jersey rounded out its military career with the Lebanese Civil War, where the ship assisted in American operations.

Picture of an map focus in on the state of New Jersey

The USS New Jersey Battleship Museum

Like the USS North Carolina, the New Jersey is a floating museum and memorial.
Rustic & Main has a unique story about how they got the opportunity to buy the teak from the deck of the USS New Jersey

Rustic & Main USS New Jersey Ring Designs

We have two limited edition designs we incorporate the USS New Jersey teak in The USS New Jersey and  The USS New Jersey- Bloodwood Edition. While the original USS New Jersey features a whiskey barrel liner, the Bloodwood Edition’s inner lining is bloodwood. Both designs base us on the USS New Jersey battleship teak and inlaid with a metal of your choice. 

Illustration of the battleships sinking during the attack on pear harbor "29 USA" written the top left corner of the image because it is an illustration for a stamp

A Brief History of the USS California

The military commissioned The USS California back 1921. 
During peacetime, she served as the flagship of the battle force in 1934, and the USS California’s military career started the day of the Attack on Pearl Harbor. The vessel was about to be inspected, so things like the airtight doors were left wide open, and the crew could not close them all before the USS California was struck by a Japanese torpedo and started to flood the ship. 98 sailors did not survive the attack, and 61 were wounded. While other ships made efforts to put out the fire and expel the water from the vessel, their efforts were unsuccessful, and the USS California settled at the bottom of Pearl Harbor over three days.
But the USS California did not stay on the ocean floor. The navy resurrected her from the murky depths of the harbor. After months of repairs, the USS California was afloat yet again. With peacetime literally being laid to rest, the USS California launched her military career. 
She served in the invasions of Saipan, Guam, and Tinian, providing heaving gunfire support. During the Lingayen Gulf invasion, the vessel received damage from a Kamikaze suicide plane and remained in action for two weeks without repairs. 
The USS California also participated in the Central Pacific campaigns, the Philippines campaign, and the Battle of Leyte Gulf (the largest battle ever fought at sea).
The USS California was decommissioned officially in February 1947 and sold for scraps in July 1959. 

Rustic & Main USS California Rings 

Rustic & Main features a single inlay of USS California Teak in The Gold Rush Gold Wedding Band.

Memorial Day Activities

Today, we encourage taking a moment to think of those who have given their lives for this country, and if you are local to these areas, you might consider checking out the USS North Carolina or the USS New Jersey battleship museums. 

Picture of a field of mini flags for the Memorial Day Display

Supporting our Military

On Memorial Day, we remember those who have fallen in service to our country. These days are sobering reminders of the cost of our freedom and the value it holds, in that men and women were willing to sacrifice their lives for our country’s liberty. 
We have several veterans on our team, and we love making rings for those who serve and who have served in the military.
 If you are active-duty military or a veteran and are thinking about purchasing a ring from Rustic & Main, please let us know so we can give our military discount when you purchase your ring. 

It’s our way to show our appreciation for your service. 

Picture of the American Flag blowing in the wind

One of our favorite causes is The Independence Fund. One of the very special things they do is support families who have lost family members in active duty. 

Rustic & Main donate 5% of our profits from The Purple Heart Ring, The Valor, & The Valor in Gold to the Independence Fund, and we’d deeply appreciate you helping us support them. 

Click here for more information about this great organization. 

Memorialize History with Rustic & Main

In our line of work, we get the honor of creating both rings that have a unique story and have historical significance. When we use materials like our US battleship teaks, it feels like were tying all the rings made that material back to a moment that change the course of history. If you're interested in memorializing American history in this unique way, check out our Historic Rings or Our Ring Customizer to see how we can create a ring that tell your story. 

USS North Carolina Sources:

USS New Jersey Sources:

USS California Sources: