Channel 1 Los Angeles
Battleship North Carolina
Wilmington, North Carolina
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much. And that was some greeting we had in North Carolina. I’ll tell you, I don’t know if you saw the crowd outside, but it’s pretty amazing. But we’ve had it in Texas, in Ohio, South Carolina, Florida. It’s just incredible what’s happening. Please, sit down. Please.
And I’m honored to be in North Carolina, in the presence of true American heroes, as we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the American victory in World War Two. And a victory it was.
On September 2nd, 1945, the great General Douglas MacArthur accepted Japan’s unconditional surrender aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. V-J Day marked the end of the deadliest conflict in human history and the ultimate triumph of American freedom. That was a big day. That was a great triumph of great country. And our country is greater than ever before. That’s what’s happening, and that’s what it is. Greater — with a greater military — (applause) — with a greater military than we’ve ever had before.
We are deeply moved to be joined this afternoon by World War Two 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.
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. I wanted to be with you. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? And we had a good time, a little while ago — right? — over at the Oval Office. Congressional Medal of Honor.
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. I can say that: so respected, so loved. We are in awe.
Joining us for this commemoration are Secretary David Bernhardt. Secretary? Where is David? Thank you, David, very much for being here. (Applause.)
A great senator, a real friend of mine — a tremendous senator, actually, and he works very, very hard and he loves the people of North Carolina — Senator Thom Tillis. Thom, thank you very much. (Applause.)
And some warriors, they’re in Congress. And they’re tough, and they’re smart. Representatives David Rouzer, Ted Budd, and Dan Bishop. Thank you, fellas. (Applause.) They are tough, but you’re not as tough as these guys, I’ll tell you right now. Right? (Laughs.) You’re not as tough as them.
There is no better place to mark this profound World War Two anniversary than right here in Wilmington, North Carolina. The people of this city and this state — and it’s an incredible state, and I want to thank you for being so nice to me. You’ve been very nice — very, very nice — every time we’ve asked for something. But I’ve been nice to you also; I have to say that.
But you made the extraordinary contributions to the war effort. That’s North Carolina made this extraordinary contribution, and so many.
Nearly 2 million American servicemen trained for combat in North Carolina, more than any other state. Wow, that’s pretty good, isn’t it? Huh? Who would know that? (Applause.) Two million trained; more than any state.
Over 360,000 service members from your state fought in the Second World War. They battled on the cliffs of Normandy, over the skies of Africa, and in the deep waters of the Pacific. 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. That’s them saying hello. (Laughter.)
In Wilmington, more than 20,000 workers of the North Carolina Shipbuilding 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 USS North Carolina. And that is some powerful and beautiful ship.
Coming in on — coming in, we’re just — we got plenty of televisions on Air Force One, and they showed it in primetime, in the ’40s, and they showed that ship. And I’ll tell you, they don’t make — I shouldn’t say this — they don’t make them that way anymore. They really don’t. What a beautiful ship.
During World War Two, this magnificent ship participated in many major naval offensives and — in the Pacific theater itself, including the Marshall Islands, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa, earning more battle stars than any other battleship. We’re learning a lot today, right? That’s pretty good.
Why are you clapping? You come from West Virginia. Huh? He loves West Virginia; so do I. Right? But we’re clapping anyway. Right? (Laughs.) You better believe it. Thank you.
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.
This afternoon, my administration is formally recognizing the city’s exceptional contributions to victory in the Second World War.