Wilmington Named “American World War II Heritage City” By National Park Service

Delaware’s largest city joins 10 other newly designated communities across the United States for their contributions to the home front war effort

Mayor Mike Purzycki and the City’s Land Use and Planning (LU&P) Director, Jeff Starkey, are pleased to announce that Wilmington has been designated as an “American World War II Heritage City” for 2023 by the National Park Service. The Service’s American World War II Heritage City Program (AWWIIHC) honors the contributions of local towns, cities, and counties, as well as commemorates the stories of the men, women, and children whose bravery and sacrifices helped shape the U.S. home front during World War II and still impact our country today.

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 to the list in 2023; that list also includes 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. 

“Wilmington certainly played a played a critical role throughout the course of the Second World War,” said Mayor Purzycki, “and this special recognition is a well-deserved acknowledgement of our place in that history. 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. And as you travel throughout Wilmington you will see that history honored and preserved – from Dravo Plaza along the Christina River to the Walnut Street YMCA to the former E.I. de DuPont Nemours Company headquarters to 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. Those lessons, sadly, need to be revisited today as much as they ever have.”

Mayor Purzycki and LU&P Director Starkey today also thanked Wilmington’s Historic Preservation Planner Debra Martin for her hard work and dedication in preparing Wilmington’s application for this program back in August of 2023. A copy of the City’s AWWIIHC application, which outlines in detail Wilmington’s many contributions to the war effort during WWII, can be found here.

The AWWIIHC was established by the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act of 2019. Wilmington, North Carolina, was officially named the first World War II Heritage City in the country on September 2, 2020. The Park Service’s announcement of the 2023 American World War II Heritage City designees can be found here.

DHS Dravo Wilmington LST under construction, February 23, 1944. (Photo: Delaware Historical Society. Used with permission.)
Dedication of Dravo Plaza along the Christina River, June 6, 1999. (Photo: Riverfront Development Corp. Used with permission.)
Holocaust Memorial, Freedom Plaza, Wilmington, August 2023. (Photo: D.C. Martin. Used with permission.)
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