In 2020, Wilmington, North Carolina, was designated as the first American World War II Heritage City. Now, the National Park Service is looking to drastically increase that list.
The Park Service is accepting nominations for the 2021 honor, seeking to designate one American World War II Heritage City in each state and territory.
The program recognizes the wartime contributions and current efforts to preserve and memorialize the home front in cities across the country. It was created by the John Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act of 2019, and is coordinated by the Park Service.
“The World War II period saw an epic contribution of public service, not only in enlistment but on the home front,” NPS Deputy Director Shawn Benge said in announcing the call for nominations. “Cities throughout our country preserve a unique moment in history where workers from around the nation had to unite and overcome differences to meet war demands, forever changing the cultural landscape of the United States.”
The program authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to bestow the designation on only one city or local jurisdiction in each state and territory.
“World War II permeated every aspect of American life and resulted in a large migration of people within the United States,” the NPS wrote in announcing the program. “Individuals and families relocated to industrial centers for good paying war jobs and out of a sense of patriotic duty. Many industrial centers became boom towns, growing at phenomenal rates.”
The program recognizes how the war effort forever changed the cultural landscape of the country as workers intermingled with each other and overcame differences.
Wilmington was the first city chosen last year. Devastated by the Great Depression, the city became home to the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company in 1941, transforming it into the “The Defense Capital of the State.” Residents from around North Carolina migrated to Wilmington to seek employment at the shipyard or with other defense industries located in or near the city.
“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,” Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said in September. “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.”
Nominations for this year’s honor will be accepted through August 31 from any city or other local jurisdiction. Nominations must be submitted by the highest locally elected official and endorsed by a majority of the state’s congressional delegation.
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