Wilmington and New Hanover County World War II War Effort and History Preservation

Contributions to War Effort

  • North Carolina Shipbuilding Co. constructed 243 cargo ships for Merchant Marine and Navy
  • All five armed forces stationed here, British Navy also
  • P-47 fighter training base; anti-aircraft artillery advanced training base
  • Official “Defense Capital of the State”
  • Defense industries: shirts manufacturer, pulpwood, fertilzer producers, dairies, truck farming
  • Principal state port along Cape Fear River
  • Two Medal of Honor recipients from white high school
  • Many servicemen decorated for valor including carrier pilot with 3 Navy Crosses
  • $40 million raised for war bonds
  • Three German prisoner of war camps
  • Atlantic Coast Line Railroad headquarters and terminal
  • U-boat firing on chemical plant
  • County population triples to ca. 100,000
  • 5,495 public housing units built for white and black war workers
  • 14 USO facilities in county
  • 248 county men in uniform lost their lives

Preservation Accomplishments

  • Shining star attraction since 1961 is Battleship North Carolina, state’s memorial to its WWII dead.
  • Formed World War II Wilmington Home Front Heritage Coalition. A 501(c)(3) non-political, all-volunteer preservation organization. Mission: identify, preserve, and interpret the WWII legacy of Wilmington and Southeastern N. C.
  • Saved, preserved, renovated, and restored Hannah Block Historic USO/Community Arts Center, the area’s WWII activity hub
  • Coalition raised nearly $100,000 for building’s restoration, preservation, and other activities
  • Staged WWII veterans meet-and-greet jamborees and USO-style dances;
  • Added exhibits, artifacts, memorials to the 248 New Hanover County dead, its aviators, Medal of Honor recipients, and outstanding veterans; and National WWII Memorial giclee
  • Celebrated the seventieth anniversary with students through music, drama, and dance: “Christmas 1944 at the Wilmington USO”
  • Celebrated the seventy-fifth anniversary with the original musical play “Mrs. World War II Wilmington: We Fell in Love at the USO”
  • 2017 annual Pearl Harbor ceremony with Survivors (99, 97, 95) plus 25 other veterans
  • New York Times, WarHistoryOnline, and Our State Magazine: as potential tourism destination
  • Named a school and city park for two WWII Medal of Honor recipients, erected memorials at New Hanover High School and the HBHUSO/CAC
  • Formed WWII Remembered Group of veterans, home front workers, and enthusiasts
  • Erected markers, including for two German prisoner of war camps
  • Published and distributed three editions (100,000 copies) of the “World War II Heritage Guide Map of Wilmington and Southeastern North Carolina”
  • Coalition chairman has given some 700 presentations and media interviews, written two books, and wrote or been principal source for some 300 print articles about the subject