07/18/2019
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WASHINGTON, D.C. –  Today, the Senate passed The Natural Resources Management Act, which includes a provision authored by Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) 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,” with Wilmington, North Carolina likely to be among the first cities to receive the honor.

Senator Tillis most recently introduced the same provision as standalone legislation in January, with Congressman David Rouzer introducing companion legislation in the House of Representatives. The Natural Resources Management Act, which includes Senator Tillis’ World War II cities provision, now heads to the House for final passage.

“Today marks a major step toward creating official designations for American World War II cities, including Wilmington,” said Senator Tillis. “I’ve been pursuing this legislation alongside Congressman Rouzer for years because it is vital that we pay recognition to the 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 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.

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