President Trump and Secretary Bernhardt Designate Wilmington, North Carolina as the First American World War II Heritage City

New federal designation recognizes the home front contributions of the Greatest Generation 

Last edited 06/27/2023

Date: Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020

WILMINGTON, N.C. – Today at the U.S.S. North Carolina, President Donald J. Trump and U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt designated the city of Wilmington, North Carolina, as the first American World War II Heritage City. The designation recognizes the countless contributions of the women and men who stepped into the workforce to support America’s successful campaign during World War II. 

“I congratulate Wilmington on being designated the nation’s first American World War II Heritage City,” said Secretary Bernhardt. “During World War II, all Americans sacrificed and contributed immeasurably to the war efforts whether in combat or from the home front. Cities like Wilmington, North Carolina were essential to the success of the Allied Forces.”

“After years of hard work alongside Congressman Rouzer and Captain Wilbur Jones to give American cities the recognition they deserve for the important role they played in World War II, I am proud that Wilmington, North Carolina, has been designated as the first American World War II Heritage City,” said U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (NC). “Across the nation, cities like Wilmington made significant contributions during World War II to secure America’s victory in Europe and the Pacific, and I worked with Congressman Rouzer to introduce legislation that was signed into law that would direct the Secretary of the Interior to annually designate at least one city in the United States as an American World War II Heritage City. Wilmington is more than deserving as the first city to receive this designation, anchored by the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company that was created as part of the U.S. government's Emergency Shipbuilding Program and built 243 ships during the five years the company operated. I am proud we were able to produce this win for the Port City, and I want to thank President Trump and Secretary Bernhardt for partnering with us to recognize Wilmington’s contributions during World War II.” 

“Today is monumental for the City of Wilmington and Captain Wilbur Jones, who has worked tirelessly to make this community the very first designated as a World War II Heritage City in accordance with legislation that Senator Thom Tillis and I worked hard to get passed and signed into law,” said U.S Representative David Rouzer (NC-07). “On behalf of the citizens of Wilmington and the state of North Carolina, I want to thank President Trump and Secretary Bernhardt for their support. It is an honor to have the President make the announcement of this designation, for it is one that the City of Wilmington, Captain Jones, and so many others richly deserve — not only for preserving the history of Wilmington's contributions to support the war effort, but for the sacrifices many North Carolinians made for the sake of our country and freedom.” 

“Becoming the nation’s first American World War II Heritage City is a tremendous honor, not only for our city, but for the courageous men and women who fought in battle and those who sustained our nation while at war,” said Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo. “We’re proud that our Port City played such a vital role in the Allied victory and that we continue to recognize Wilmington’s historic wartime contributions and their enduring legacy through this designation.”

“This federal designation not only champions Wilmington’s standing as a successful business community and growing region for economic development, the honor also serves as a permanent recognition of those who have selflessly served us,” said General Counsel at the NC Chamber Ray Starling. “Kudos to Senator Tillis, Congressman Rouzer, Secretary Bernhardt and President Trump for making it a reality.”

The U.S.S. North Carolina was the most decorated battleship of World War II, and the city of Wilmington, known as, “The Defense Capital of the State,” was home to several strategic defense industries, including the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company. The city more than doubled in population during the war as workers built 243 ships in five years and supported other rapidly expanding industries. The city also served as a critical training hub for each branch of the military. 

Today, the city hosts a variety of resources related to the home front story, including an adaptively used USO Building and several parks and monuments that interpret the wartime period.  

The John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, signed into law by President Trump in March of 2019, authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to annually bestow this honorary designation on at least one city or local jurisdiction annually in each state and territory, in order to recognize and ensure the continued preservation and importance of the history of the United States involvement in World War II. 

Nominate Your City 

Any city, or other local jurisdiction, may be eligible for recognition as an American World War II Heritage City.  Further information, including program information and nomination guidance, is available online.

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