WILMINGTON, N.C. (WNCN) – President Donald Trump paid another visit to North Carolina on Wednesday during which he designated Wilmington as the country’s first World War II Heritage City.
Trump spoke in the shadow of the USS North Carolina battleship on the Cape Fear River.
“We must teach our children that America is the land of heroes,” Trump said.
The president’s visit helped celebrate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. The event was closed to the public.
Workers built 243 ships over a five-year period in Wilmington during World War II. Three prisoners of war camps were also in Wilmington, holding as many as 550 Nazi prisoners at their peak.
WECT reports nearly 250 men from the Wilmington area died defending the U.S., and two New Hanover High School graduates received the Congressional Medal of Honor.
“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. “This mighty vessel and this magnificent town will forever tell that story with this designation, so I want to just congratulate North Carolina and Wilmington.”
While Japan announced its surrender on Aug. 15, 1945, documents to officially end the war were signed on the deck of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945.
“Over 11,000 North Carolina patriots fought the enemy until their very last breath,” Trump said.
He highlighted the role Wilmington played in the war and shouted out several veterans in the crowd.
He spoke for about 15 minutes.
“You hear it all the time, freedom is not free. It’s not,” said U.S. Army veteran Mike Allen. He was in the crowd. He served 28 years in the Army and his father was a World War II veteran.
Trump also touched on other topics, such as demonstrations in Portland and Confederate monuments being taken down.
“I said you can rip them down, but you’re going to serve 10 years in jail if you do,” Trump said.
Opponents said if Trump planned to go off-topic, they wanted to hear more about the pandemic.
“After six months of inaction and without an actual plan, we’re still paying the price,” said North Carolina State Democratic Senator Dan Blue. “The approach he’s taken in addressing this pandemic — not only the approach he’s taken in dealing with the world trying to come up with solutions, the World Health Organization and things like that — but just the approach he’s taken by assuming that, by some magic poof it’s all going away because you wish it were gone.”
However, for Allen, it was everything he hoped for.
“It made my day to be here and I’m still thrilled about being in the United States of America. I get a chance to do something every day to help this country because it’s done so much for me,” said Allen.
The president’s visit to North Carolina comes just a day before Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to visit Raleigh. It marked Trump’s first trip to Wilmington since his 2016 campaign.