Author's note (May 2020): These drawings are correct in dimensions, gun/radar fit, and most details. They are missing some newer stylistic changes such as updated window colors, new hull red colors, and highlighting. They will eventually be updated and newer versions posted.
USS North Carolina (BB-55)
BB-55 as it appeared during the shakedown cruise, August of 1941. Note the non-standard Measure 2 camouflage, with Dark Grey (5-D) left on the hull (from its previous Measure 1 scheme). Ocean Gray (5-O) on the superstructure, with the early Light Gray on everything above the tops of the stacks. Note that no fire control radar has yet been fitted, and the ship's anti-aircraft battery is especially light (only a token few .50-caliber water-cooled machine guns and four 1.1" quad mounts). An interesting feature is the CXAM-1 air search radar on the foremast.
Mk.35 navigational rangefinders present on the platform above the pilot house as well as the #3 turret were removed shortly after shakedown - during the trials they were used to calibrate the secondary battery directors. The spotting glass above the conning tower (part of its Mk.40 standby gun director) has not yet been added.
BB-55 in the summer of 1942, before heading out to the Pacific. Measure 12 (modified) "splotch" camouflage. Fire control radars have been fitted to all the directors (save the aft Mk.37 5" director, "Sky 4"). The Mk.38 directors mount the Mk.3 Mod.1 "FC" radar, and the Mk.37 directors the standard Mk.4. The aft director was left radarless because of optical interference with the aft Mk.38 main battery director.
20mm Oerlikons have appeared in great number, and the .50-caliber water-cooled machine gun count has also increased. Massive vibration problems were discovered during the shakedown, and had such a negative affect on the gun directors that large angular bracing was added to the aft Mk.38 director tower.
It was in this fit that BB-55 suffered a torpedo hit off the Solomons on September 15, 1942. After this damage the ship put into Pearl Harbor for a repair and refit period.
BB-55 emerged from the Pearl Harbor refit period in the Measure 21 camouflage, with Navy Blue (5-N) on all vertical surfaces. This pattern was considered especially effective against aerial observation.
It was during this period that BB-55 received the SG surface search radar. The foremast was heightened to allow the SG radar a clear "sight" over the new Mk.3 Mod.2 "FC" radar fitted to the forward Mk.38 director. A second backup SG sat atop the mainmast. Note also the Mk.4 radar added to the aft Mk.37 director - this time with long supporting struts that helped fix the issue of optical interference with the aft Mk.38 director. The aft main battery director retains its Mk.3 Mod.1 "FC" radar.
The biggest change was the addition of 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft guns, replacing all 1.1" quad mounts. These were directed by Mk.51s in tubs near each gun.
September of 1943 saw another refit and repair period at Pearl Harbor. During this refit, BB-55 received an enclosed walkway around the conning station on the fire control tower. This feature differentiated her from her sistership Washington. An SK air search radar replaced the CXAM-1 on the mainmast, and the ship's main battery directors finally received Mk.8 "FH" fire control radars. Several more 40mm Bofors quad mounts were added - one on the searchlight platform, and one atop turret #3.
Of note is the "sloppy" Measure 32 camouflage - painted by the crew at sea.
In September of 1944, the ship emerged from the Puget Sound naval yard with a fairly extensive refit. The foremast was completely reworked, adding a round SK-2 radar with an SG above. All Mk.37 directors received Mk.12/22 radar combinations. Mk.57 directors for the 40mm Bofors were added in tubs mounted above the bridge and the aft conning station. More and more whip antennae have been added around the forward air defense level and the forward smoke pipe. The spotting glass atop the conning tower was removed and replaced with a Mk.27 standby ranging radar.
Note the "sharp" Measure 32/18D camouflage pattern, painted this time by the civilian yard workers at the Puget Sound yard. This is the "definitive" appearance of BB-55 during World War II.
BB-55's "final" appearance, shown in summer of 1946 with most of the light anti-aircraft guns removed. During early 1945, the ship was repainted into Measure 22, the standard for USN shore bombardment ships after Jap air power ceased to exist with the Marianas Turkey Shoot. An interesting addition is the SCR-720 radar on the forward smoke pipe; originally a night fighter radar, it was fitted to some ships experimentally to cover the "blind spot" overhead, a side effect of a traditional radar fit.
An SR air search radar has been fitted to the mainmast, and the aft conning station has been slightly modified. Note the Deck Blue (20-B) counter shading on the main battery gun barrels. Two of the whips bracketed to the side of the air defense level have been removed and replaced with "NANCY" IR beacons, with TBS (Talk Between Ships) radio antennas above.
USS Washington (BB-56)
This is the ship as it appeared right after commissioning as it began its military trials (which lasted until December of 1941). Notable is the complete lack of radar (the CXAM-1 had not yet been fitted), as well as the lack of main battery Mk.38 directors. Also interesting is the "boat farm" amidships, a practice that was quickly ended after the Solomons battles showed what a huge fire hazard a large boat complement was...
1.1" quad mounts have not yet been fitted, but their tubs are present. Whip antennae attached to the smoke pipes have had their mounts and lead-ins fitted, but no antenna has been mounted yet.
As built, the ship went to sea with a "3-4-4-3" propeller blade arrangement - three bladed propellers on the outboard shafts, and four bladed propellers inboard. This caused very problematic vibration at speeds higher than 20 knots. During this time frame, BB-55 had been sent to sea to begin trials and get "into action" immediately. Washington was used as a testbed for propeller combinations which would eventually be fitted to both ships. By December of 1941, BB-56 was fitted with a "4-5-5-4" arrangement. This reduced vibration to a manageable level, but the two North Carolina class ships were encouraged not to travel faster than 23 knots for long periods of time. The problematic vibration led to the angular bracing characteristic of this class on the aft Mk.38 main battery director towers.
BB-56 in June of 1942, as the ship sortied with the Royal Navy in the Atlantic. Note the drastic increase in anti-aircraft guns since the shakedown. The 1.1" quads have been fitted, with the guns directed by the Mk.44 gun director (an early predecessor of the Mk.51, with no capability for lead angle computation). Large, prominent wind deflectors have been added to the air defense level - a feature characteristic of BB-56. A TBS (Talk-Between-Ships) antenna is mounted ahead of the air defense level. Fire control radars have been added to the Mk.38 main battery directors (Mk.3 Mod.1 "FC" radars in this case), and Mk.4 radars have been mounted on all the Mk.37 5" directors except for Sky Four (the aft director). The CXAM-1 air search radar sits above the fire control tower.
Most interesting is the large bracing on the aft director towers as well as the forward Mk.37 director's foundation. As mentioned before, this was due to vibration problems. The bracing on BB-56 is much more substantial than that on BB-55.
The ship wore Measure 12 Modified during this period (the famous splotch camouflage on most early USN fleet units), but would soon repaint into the Measure 22 graded system camouflage it would wear for the rest of its service life.
BB-56 emerged from her refit at the New York Navy Yard in September 1942 with Measure 22 camouflage. The aft Mk.37 director has received a Mark 4 radar on long supports. A small open conning station has been built atop the pilot house; this would later be extended during the ship's May 1943 Pearl Harbor refit. 1'1" quads have been added in tubs at the fantail, and the old Mk.44 directors have been replaced with Mark 49s (now available in the USN components sheet in my signature). A single 20mm Oerlikon was added port & starboard above the aft conning station between the Mk.37 and Mk.38 directors, along with a new splinter shield and a 20mm ready service box. The ship retains its CXAM-1 air search radar.
Most importantly, this refit added an SG surface search radar ahead of the fire control tower. This position left a large cut out immediately astern, and this proved to be a hindrance during the Second Naval Battle of Guadalcanal when BB-56 was not able to ascertain the position of the USS South Dakota because of the blind spot to the rear. At the time, waveguide losses meant the SG radar had to be positioned relatively close to the radar plot - this would later be resolved, allowing the SG to be placed in a much more advantageous spot above the foremast as on most late-war USN surface combatants.
It was in this fit that Washington engaged and destroyed the Japanese battleship Kirishima.