Wilmington Achieves Prestigious Status as American World War II Heritage City

In a notable recognition by the National Park Service for the year 2023, Wilmington has earned the distinguished title of an “American World War II Heritage City.” While the city’s maritime and military history may not be as prominently showcased in contemporary times, remnants of its impactful contributions can be explored at Drava Plaza along the riverfront.

The official announcement did not explicitly detail the reasons behind Wilmington’s commendation, but it underscored the city’s substantial role during World War II. These contributions encompassed defense manufacturing, involving the production of ships, aircraft, uniforms, and equipment. Additionally, Wilmington played a crucial role in producing food and consumer goods for both the Armed Forces and domestic consumption. The city’s involvement in volunteer efforts and civil defense preparedness also factored significantly into earning this prestigious title.

DRAVO PLAZA WAS THE SITE OF THE DRAVO CORP.’S SHIPBUILDING FOR 40 YEARS. PHOTO FROM CITY OF WILMINGTON.
DRAVO PLAZA WAS THE SITE OF THE DRAVO CORP.’S
SHIPBUILDING FOR 40 YEARS. PHOTO FROM CITY OF WILMINGTON.

Each state or territory is limited to designating only one American World War II Heritage City, and Wilmington proudly represents Delaware in this esteemed category. In 2023, Wilmington joined the ranks of 11 other cities or jurisdictions added to the heritage list, including 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.

Mayor Mike Purzycki expressed his pride in Wilmington’s pivotal role during the Second World War, emphasizing the enlistment of Wilmingtonians in the military, conservation efforts at home, extensive fundraising through Bond Drives, and dedicated work in the city’s shipyards and factories. Prominent heritage sites 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.

Acknowledging the historical significance of Wilmington’s wartime contributions, Mayor Purzycki highlighted the lessons learned from the Holocaust Memorial at Freedom Plaza. He commended Historic Preservation Planner Debra Martin for her dedication in preparing Wilmington’s heritage application, which sheds light on Dravo Corp.’s impactful shipbuilding efforts during the war. The company’s efficiency and safety achievements earned numerous distinctions from the government, with expressions of gratitude from sailors and soldiers conveyed through heartfelt letters to the workers. The comprehensive heritage application provides a detailed insight into the city’s rich and commendable history during World War II.

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