Wilmington has been named an “American World War II Heritage City” for 2023 by the National Park Service.
The city ‘s ship-building and other military history isn’t on display as much as it was then, but one place to see it is at Drava Plaza on the riverfront where one piece of equipment remains.
While the official announcement doesn’t say exactly why Wilmington was honored, it does say contributions by a city to World War II included defense manufacturing, such as ships, aircraft, uniforms and equipment; production of food and consumer items for Armed Forces and home consumption; volunteer participation; and civil defense preparedness.
Only one American World War II Heritage City can be designated in each state or territory.
Wilmington was one of 11 cities or jurisdictions added mto the heritage list in 2023. Others included Foley, Alabama; Tempe, Arizona; Richmond, California; Waterloo, Iowa; Baltimore County, Maryland; Johnson County & Warrensburg, Missouri (nominated jointly); Hastings, Nebraska; Boulder City & Henderson, Nevada (nominated jointly); Yonkers, New York; and Bedford County, Virginia.
Delaware’s largest city joins the other Wilmington — in North Carolina — on the list. That Wilmington was the first city named a World War II Heritage City on Sept. 2, 2020.
“Wilmington certainly played a played a critical role throughout the course of the Second World War,” said Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki. “Wilmingtonians enlisted in the military, conserved at home, raised funds through massive Bond Drives, and worked in our City’s shipyards and other factories among their many other contributions.”
Evidence of the city’s history at that time, include Dravo Plaza along the Christina River, the Walnut Street YMCA, the former E.I. de DuPont Nemours Co.headquarters and Timothy Duffield’s World War II Memorial in H.B. du Pont Plaza.
“My own office window overlooks the Holocaust Memorial that has graced Freedom Plaza since 1979 and which serves as a somber reminder of that human tragedy and the lessons it has bequeathed us,” he said. “Those lessons, sadly, need to be revisited today as much as they ever have.”
Purzycki and the city’s Land Use and Planning Director Jeff Starkey credited Wilmington’s Historic Preservation Planner Debra Martin for her hard work and dedication in preparing Wilmington’s heritage application. You can see it here.
Among other things, she cited the Dravo Corp.’s shipbuilding in the city. It employed thousands of men and women to build landing ships for tanks, destroyer escorts and landing ships for soldiers and euipment.
“During the course of the war many sailors and soldiers wrote to the company thanking the workers for their efforts,” said an article in Urban. “The government awarded the yard numerous distinctions for efficiency and safety.”
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience.
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