WILMINGTON – The Port City will receive the president of the United States on Wednesday as we commemorate the the 75th Anniversary of the end of World War II in 1945. President Donald Trump will visit the USS North Carolina, a storied battleship that still moors in the port after restoration, to present a commemoration speech.
‘Battleship North Carolina,’ as the museum-quality ship is called, logged a ton of action at sea during the war, even facing damage from Japanese forces in the Pacific. It’s home in Wilmington complements the city’s significant role in contributing to the war effort.
Shipbuilders on the Cape Fear built war ships, the area housed Nazi POW camps, all female flight wings were, and massive numbers of troops and workers moved in and out of the city. It was a ‘boom town’ during the war, and a review of the Wilmington’s war time history makes the decision to designate it a WWII Heritage City a no-brainer.
From Wilmington’s Star News:
“The city’s most substantial contribution to the war effort began rolling off the banks of the Cape Fear River on Dec. 6, 1941 – the day before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and pulled the United States into the fighting.
That afternoon, the Zebulon B. Vance, named for the state’s governor during the Civil War, was christened in a massive ceremony attended by thousands eager to see the first product of an industry that had sprung up in Wilmington just months earlier.
Shipbuilding has had a presence in the Cape Fear since its founding in the 1700s, with Wilmington acting as production hubs during the Civil War and World War I. But it reached its peak in November 1940, when Virginia’s Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company chose the city as the home of its new shipyard, the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company – a decision co-signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the U.S. Maritime Commission.
By February 1941, construction was underway at the initial 56-acre yard, located where the present-day Port of Wilmington now stands. To build a shipyard out of flat coastal terrain, crews overhauled the site to include railroad access, a new 1,000-foot steel bulkhead along the river and even created a new system of roads just so workers could make it to and from work.
Within that first year of production, the shipyard would quicken the pace of Wilmington.
The federal government’s persistent reliance on the city during the war led to a boom it almost couldn’t handle, with tens of thousands of soldiers and workers traveling in and out of Wilmington every week.
The government would eventually assign federal funding to the city to build new schools; expand the runway at Bluethenthal Airfield, now the Wilmington International Airport; and even expand the area’s water and sewer infrastructure. The city’s role as the headquarters of the Atlantic Coastline Railroad was also key to moving servicemen, equipment and materials in and out of Wilmington.
At its peak, the shipyard employed some 24,000 workers from the city and surrounding communities, more than all other manufacturing industries in New Hanover County combined.
Men from area farms split their time working the land and building ships. Women filled more and more roles as the draft pulled able-bodied men to the frontlines. Even in the time of segregation, black residents found work at the yard, which was a rare example of mixed-race shipyard employment in the south.
By 1946, when the shipyard ceased production, it had nearly tripled in size to keep up with the demands of war. Over the course of five years, it would produce 243 ships, most of them Liberty ships. […]”
This is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, when it comes to the interesting history of the Port City during the war. From USO centers, to Nazi POW camps, and run-ins with U-boats, enjoy the rest of the incredible history here.
The last time Trump visited Wilmington was during the campaign of 2016, when he visited the campus of UNCW for a rally.
The president’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump, married to his son Eric, is from the Wilmington-area, having grown up in Wrightsville Beach and attended N.C. State University. Lara was a significant part of the 2016 focus on North Carolina as political battle ground, helping her father-in-law win the pivotal state.
Of course, the local chapter leaders of Black Lives Matter are planning a protest to coincide with Trump’s visit; organizing a crowd to be just across the river from where he’ll be speaking. It’s labeled as an ‘anti-racist awareness’ rally.