Chairman Runyan, Ranking Member McNerney, and Members of the Committee:
I am pleased to appear today before the House Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Disability and Memorial Affairs to testify on behalf of H.R. 2717, a bill I have introduced to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to designate one city in the United States annually as an "American World War II City."
As we all know, it was just a day after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, that the United States entered World War II. In the end, the conflict took more lives and destroyed more land and property around the globe than any previous war.
The main contributions of the United States to the Allied war effort comprised of money, industrial output, food, petroleum, technological innovation, and of course, servicemembers, especially during 1944-1945. In fact, by the end of World War II, sixteen million Americans had served in the conflict and more than 400,000 had been killed.
Here at home, the wartime efforts of America's cities was apparent as Americans tolerated additional work, rationing, and a diminished quality of life because of their patriotism and the confidence that life would return to normal as soon as the war was won. Many cities based and trained our military services, dispatched their sons and daughters to fight in the war, assist with the transport of goods, or equip those serving.
And, in some cities, like Wilmington, North Carolina, there were additional wartime efforts. For example, the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company of Wilmington, the state's largest employer at that time, constructed 243 cargo vessels with which to provide goods and equipment to our soldiers. Additionally, Wilmington provided the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad headquarters, three housing camps for German prisoners of war, a major training base for P-47 fighters, defense industries producing goods and equipment, a British patrol base, and a shipping point for Lend Lease supplies to the Allies.
I could go on and on. Mr. Chairman, there are countless cities across this great nation that contributed to World War II efforts in more ways than one. Now, with so many members of "The Greatest Generation" passing on, it is time to recognize these contributions before it is too late and the lasting memories of the war continue to fade.
The bill I have introduced will do just this by directing the Veterans' Affairs secretary to designate one city in the United States each year as an "American World War II City" based on contributions to the war effort during World War II and efforts to preserve the history of such contributions, including the preservation of organizations or museums, restoration of World War II facilities, and recognition of World War II veterans, with Wilmington being the first one so designated, with others that may readily qualify to be allowed this special designation.
There are many unique cities throughout the nation that fit these criteria. Therefore, I respectfully request your support of H.R. 2717 which will ensure that they are appropriately granted the title of an "American World War II City."
And, I am honored that my good friend, author and historian, Capt. Wilbur Jones of Wilmington, N.C., will be testifying before you in the next panel.