President Trump declares Wilmington WWII Heritage City, touches on U.S. turmoil in speech

Published: Sep. 2, 2020 at 8:52 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 3, 2020 at 10:23 AM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WITN) - President Donald Trump has declared Wilmington a World War II Heritage City.

The president gave a 13 minute speech Thursday afternoon at the Battleship North Carolina.

“In Wilmington more than 20,000 workers of the North Carolina ship building company poured out every ounce of their strength to build an astonishing 243 ships for the U.S. Navy. And, it was the citizens of Wilmington who came together to save a priceless artifact of American history, the glorious battleship behind me, the U.S.S. North Carolina.”

The president did steer the speech at times toward the controversial current events taking place in the United States including the removal of divisive memorials and ongoing protests in several cities.

“With this designation we proudly declare that 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,” Trump said.

“American warriors did not defeat fascism and oppression overseas only to watch our freedoms be trampled by violent mobs here at home. We stopped those violent mobs very easily, all they have to do is say “Come in Mr. President,” we’ll have it done in one hour,” Trump said.

Legislation enacted last year requires the Secretary of the Interior to declare at least one city a year to be a World War II Heritage City.

Veterans said the speech and the declaration should be something other public officials should look up to.

“I don’t care if it’s the local level, state level, federal level. You take an oath to the people,” said Retired Army Command Sergeant Major Mike Allen. “You take that oath too. And I’m afraid a lot of our people don’t take that oath seriously.”

Wilmington is the first.

Wilmington has been home to the Battleship North Carolina since 1962. The ship was active in the Pacific theater during World War II and is now a floating museum.

President Donald Trump will be in Wilmington Wednesday to declare the city an American World War II Heritage City.

But, before his arrival, there is a lot of planning and preparation that goes into his visit.

“This is all about Wilmington,” said Will Knecht, the Chairman for the NHC GOP. “This is about our history. This is about the World War II designation as a heritage city—the first in America.”

When is the president arriving?

The president will arrive at ILM at around 1:25 Wednesday afternoon.

“They are scheduled to have the aircraft park on the north ramp,” said Julie Wilsey, the airport director for ILM. “The 747 is an extremely large aircraft, much larger than what were used to having, so we’re going to need the entire north ramp to park the aircraft and all the equipment and all the stuff that goes along with the president’s visit.”

Knecht and Wilsey told WECT there will be between 500-800 people welcoming President Trump on the tarmac by invitation only.

Knecht says there will be people lining the streets on 23rd Street from the airport exit to the Hwy. 74 ramp. He says anyone is welcome to join them to welcome the president to Wilmington.

Where will President Trump be during his time in Wilmington?

According to an administration official, the president will arrive at the Battleship North Carolina at 2 p.m. for remarks in front of more than a dozen World War II veterans, advocates for the WWII Heritage City designation, and community leaders.

“The Battleship is the host site for Wednesday’s event, but White House staff is managing the president’s visit,” said Stacie Hidek with Battleship North Carolina.

On Tuesday afternoon, White House staff, NCDOT, and several other crews were seen at the Battleship setting up equipment and scouring the area in preparation for the event.

“This will probably be a somber event to commemorate the sacrifices families and loved ones made but also honoring those veterans who are still with us today and maybe those who serve so proudly,” said Knecht.

Who can attend the event?

Knecht says the event is not open to the public. Tickets went to World War II veterans, advocates for the WWII Heritage City designation and community leaders.

“It’s a very closed event on the Battleship,” said Knecht. “The focus is on the veterans and the honor that the city will be having.”

Knecht says he isn’t even on the guest list.

“It’s not something that you can show up at the Battleship and just join,” said Knecht.

According to administration officials, Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt will also be in Wilmington. The Department of the Interior is responsible for establishing the program and designating cities under the bill signed into law in 2019 by President Trump.

President Trump will depart the Battleship North Carolina at 3 p.m. and head to ILM.

The Cape Fear River will be closed to all boat traffic from noon until 5 p.m. for security during the president’s visit; although, if he leaves the Battleship on time, the river may reopen shortly after 3 p.m.

President Trump last came to Wilmington in 2016 while campaigning for the presidential election.

Copyright 2020 WECT. All rights reserved.

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