WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - The City of Wilmington might be the first place recognized as an American World War II Heritage City because of its contribution to defense manufacturing, locals serving in the military, and other support with the war effort.
City leaders gathered at the Hannah Block USO Building in downtown Wilmington Monday afternoon to share the progress of their push for Wilmington's historical recognition.
Representative Ted Davis, Mayor Bill Saffo, New Hanover County Board of Commissioners Vice Chair Skip Watkins, and Captain Wilbur Jones spoke about Wilmington's history and House Resolution 970 (HR 970), the legislation pushing for this new designation, which was unanimously adopted last Thursday.
Wilmington city leaders, including Davis and Jones, are traveling to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to meet with federal leaders about the push for this law.
Jones emphasized that for a city to receive the WWII Heritage City designation, it must not only have made a major wartime contribution, but also have worked actively since to preserve the military legacy.
For Wilmington, "It's the historical markers. It's the preservation organizations that have been established. It's the veterans that we have looked after with USO dances...and meet and greets, and ceremonies honoring the Pearl Harbor survivors every December 7, and I could go on and on and on," said Jones.
"Where it may lead from here, who knows?" said Davis. "I hope it might possibly lead to some sort of avenue to get some grant money to help Captain Jones with his endeavor in the city with that designation. But this is the first giant leap of getting that done."
"During World War II, Wilmington was the country's unique wartime 19 boomtown, aptly and officially named 'The Defense Capital of the State,'" according to the resolution.
The house resolution urges Congress to pass a law which would require the government to declare at least one new city per year as a WWII Heritage City, with Wilmington as the first.
Wilmington's rich war history includes the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company of Wilmington's construction of 243 cargo vessels for supplying soldiers with goods.
Wilmington was also the site of three housing camps for German prisoners of war.
About 250 men from the Wilmington area died defending the U.S., and two New Hanover High School graduates received the Congressional Medal of Honor.
"Wilmington's strategic position made it vulnerable to enemy attack by German 9 U-boats, which marauded shipping off our beaches," the resolution states. "In July 1943, in perhaps 10 the only German attack on the United States, a U-boat fired at the Ethel-Dow 11 chemical plant in Wilmington. Wilmington endured this attack, as well as 12 constant civilian defense restrictions and air raid drills, including black-outs 13 and dim-outs."