U.S. President Donald J. Trump chose Wilmington, North Carolina, as the first American World War II Heritage City which he declared in a celebration marking the 75th anniversary of the end of the war, when Japan formally delivered its surrender to the United States.
“There is no better place to mark this profound World War II anniversary,” the president said on Wednesday.
The backdrop for his remarks was the USS North Carolina. During World War II a total of 243 ships were built for the U.S. Navy by the Wilmington-based North Carolina Shipbuilding Company.
President @realDonaldTrump commemorates the 75th anniversary of victory in World War II!
"V-J Day marked the end of the deadliest conflict in human history and the ultimate triumph of American freedom." 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/fA2lkwnFu5
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) September 2, 2020
Over 360,000 North Carolinians served in the war and 11,000 of those patriots made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. During World War II, almost 2 million Americans trained for service in the state of North Carolina.
During today’s event, World War II Veterans joined President Trump and the Interior Secretary David Bernhardt.
“These brave Americans raced into the fires of hell to vanquish tyranny, dethrone fascism, and defend the American way of life. In America, we don’t tear down the past. We celebrate our heroes, we cherish our heritage, we preserve our history—and we build the future.”
President Trump signed legislation in March, 2019, directing the Interior Secretary to designate one U.S. city each year as an official World War II Heritage City.
Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper also celebrated the occasion, speaking aboard the USS Missouri, where the conflict ended in the Pacific in 1945.
The ship was originally built for war but 2,400 Americans paid the ultimate price at the beginning of the war on Dec. 7, 1941 when it was attacked at Pearl Harbor. The USS Missouri now rests in that very same harbor where those patriots died, where the ship is dedicated to peace and reconciliation.
“This morning, we pay tribute to all those we lost on that infamous date in 1941, and to the millions more who demonstrated our collective resolve and commitment to freedom in the years of war and hardship that followed,” Esper said.
Esper shared the stories of two men that saved lives during the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.
One hero, Floyd Welch, an electrician’s mate, helped save the lives of more than 30 sailors trapped in the sinking USS Oklahoma. With pinpoint precision, Welch cut holes in the ship’s hull, freeing the sailors without igniting fuel cells.
Another hero, Mess Attendant Dorie Miller – is the namesake of the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier. Miller assisted his mortally-wounded Captain aboard the USS West Virginia and then he stepped right into manning an anti-aircraft gun, with no formal training, to blunt the onslaught of enemy fighters and bombers.
Millions of Americans also contributed to the war efforts at home, rationing supplies, recycling scarce items, working as civil defense volunteers and buying war bonds. Assembly lines were also transformed into making needed items for our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen, Esper said about the ship.
The loss of human life in World War II totalled more than 70 million lives. The war changed the balance of power across the globe and reshaped the international order. This shift brought like-minded nations together that would fight Soviet communism that followed soon after the conclusion of WWII.
After the destruction of World War II, the United States assumed the both the mantle and responsibility of leadership. The US recognized that the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans no longer would provide protection from conflicts that were started abroad.
Relationships were forged with like-minded nations that were based on reciprocal trade. It was not based on a “might makes right” strategy, he said.
“The United States’ commitment to the world today is the same one we made to the freedom-loving people of the world in 1941: that we will remain ready to fight any foe and defend any friend; and, that we will safeguard our values and all that we hold dear, at every turn, in any place.”
“We will not back down, and we will not yield. Freedom is far too precious to do otherwise; and the sacrifice of those who came before us, far too great,” Esper said.