WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman David Rouzer (R-NC-07) and Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) applauded President Trump for signing the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, which includes a provision authored by Rouzer and Tillis to direct the Secretary of Interior to annually designate at least one city in the United States as an “American World War II Heritage City,” into law. Wilmington, North Carolina is likely to be among the first cities to receive the honor.
Congressman Rouzer and Senator Tillis introduced the same provision as standalone legislation in January.
“Following eleven years of hard work and exceptional dedication by Captain Wilbur D. Jones, I am excited and proud that his idea to honor cities for the preservation of their significant contributions during World War II has now become a reality,” said Congressman Rouzer. ”Our community and state are extremely fortunate to have Captain Jones leading the fight to preserve and honor the City of Wilmington for her legacy and contributions during the war.”
“After years of work with Congressman Rouzer and Wilmington officials, today marks a major step toward designating Wilmington as an American World War II city,” said Senator Tillis. “It is vital we pay recognition to cities across the nation – including Wilmington – that made significant contributions during World War II to secure America’s victory in Europe and the Pacific, and have worked to preserve this history.”
The American World War II Heritage City designations are based on specific criteria, including the contributions a city made toward the efforts to secure America’s victory in the European and the Pacific theaters during World War II, as well as the efforts made by cities to preserve the history of the their World War II contributions through the preservation of museums and organizations, restoration of facilities that helped with the war effort, and a city’s overall recognition of World War II veterans.
During World War II, Wilmington was the home of the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company. The shipyard was created as part of the U.S. government's Emergency Shipbuilding Program. Workers built 243 ships in Wilmington during the five years the company operated.
The city was the site of three prisoner-of-war (POW) camps from February 1944 through April 1946. At their peak, the camps held 550 Nazi prisoners. The first camp was located on the corner of Shipyard Boulevard and Carolina Beach Road; the old Confederate post Fort Fisher housed Nazi prisoners and also served as a training site for the Coastal Artillery and anti-aircraft units. A smaller contingent of prisoners was assigned to a smaller site, working in the officers’ mess and doing grounds keeping at Bluethenthal Army Air Field, which is now Wilmington International Airport. Bluethenthal Army Air Field was used by the United States Army Air Forces’ Third Air Force for antisubmarine patrols and training.