WILMINGTON – Air Force One landed in plentiful sunshine, but a little rain and thunder during President Donald Trump’s remarks Wednesday afternoon couldn’t dampen the accomplishments celebrated at the Battleship North Carolina.
“We are deeply moved to be joined this afternoon by World War II veterans, all of whom I met, all of whom are tough — I don’t want to mess around with any of them, I’ll tell you right now — whose blood, sweat, grit, courage, and unfailing devotion made that epic victory possible,” said President Trump.
“These brave Americans raced into the fires of hell to vanquish tyranny, dethrone fascism, and defend the American way of life. You’ve earned the eternal and undying gratitude of all Americans, and that’s why I’m here today. We’re privileged to be joined as well by veterans from every generation, including a number of wounded warriors. We stand in awe of your service,” Trump continued.
The Battleship, the U.S.S. North Carolina, was the most decorated battleship of World War II and the March 2019 law signed President Trump authorized the Secretary of the Interior to name one city or jurisdiction annually to recognize the continued importance of the United States’ involvement in the war.
U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt attended the commemoration, along with Sen. Thom Tillis, who co-sponsored the bill, and three North Carolina Republican Congressmen – Dan Bishop, Ted Budd, and David Rouzer. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien also joined President Trump at the event.
“I congratulate Wilmington on being designated the nation’s first American World War II Heritage City,” said Secretary Bernhardt. “During World War II, all Americans sacrificed and contributed immeasurably to the war efforts whether in combat or from the home front. Cities like Wilmington, North Carolina were essential to the success of the Allied Forces.”
Many in the crowd thanked retired Navy Captain Wilbur Jones, who championed the cause of World War II Heritage Cities and worked with members from the state’s congressional delegation to recognize Wilmington.
“Today is monumental for the city of Wilmington and Captain Wilbur Jones, who has worked tirelessly to make this community the very first designated as a World War II Heritage City,” said Congressman Rouzer in a statement.
Trump’s remarks continued, saying that more than 20,000 workers of the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company in Wilmington built an astonishing 243 ships for the U.S. Navy and later, the citizens came together to save a priceless artifact of American history. After serving as a training vessel following its decommission in 1947, the battleship was scheduled to be scrapped until a campaign led by the citizens of the state to bring it to its current location succeeded in 1961.
“After the war, the people of Wilmington organized a massive campaign to save this beautiful ship from the scrapyard. They preserved it as a memorial to the gallant deeds of American sailors, a monument to the American workers that built it, and an enduring symbol of American greatness. Now more than 200,000 people visit this site each year to learn the history and the heroism that defines our nation,” Trump said. He continued, “This afternoon, my administration is formally recognizing the city’s exceptional contributions to victory in the Second World War.”
President Trump also commented on the threatening skies, which rumbled during part of his remarks.
“Over 11,000 North Carolina patriots fought the enemy until their very last breath. You know what that means, right? Think of that: Eleven thousand died in the war. We want to thank you. Boy. And we have family members here, by the way,” followed by a loud burst of thunder. “That’s them saying hello,” said Trump, to laughter from the crowd.
“We were hot today but God blessed with a little rain to cool us off,” said Rockingham County sheriff Sam Page before the event began, when a shower rained for five minutes before the presidential motorcade arrived.
The president ended his speech saying that “American warriors did not defeat fascism and oppression overseas only to watch our freedoms be trampled by violent mobs here at home,” to applause from the crowd.
“For the sake of all Americans, we must uphold the rule of law and defend the American Dream for every child in our land. We must teach our children that America is a land of heroes. Together, we will remember America’s towering victories, we will recognize America’s outstanding virtues, and we will pay tribute to the heroes who keep us safe, strong, proud, and free. Your legacy is etched forever into the heart and soul of a grateful nation. God bless you. God bless North Carolina. And God bless America,” Trump concluded.