President Donald Trump honors WWII veterans today in Wilmington, NC

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WTVD) -- President Donald Trump alongside the battleship USS North Carolina and before a sizable crowd, designated Wilmington on Wednesday as the first American World War II Heritage City.

At least 25 WWII veterans were at the event. Many of them are in their late 90s or have reached 100.

They told ABC11 it was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and that they were excited to witness history.

"A lot of cities wanted this," Trump claimed. "And you got it."

As thunder was heard in the background the president said, "God is saluting you" and that the battleship shows "we don't tear down the past."

WATCH FULL REMARKS:
EMBED More News Videos

As thunder was heard in the background the president said, "God is saluting you" and that the battleship shows "we don't tear down the past."



U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt joined Trump on Wednesday. The designation recognizes the countless contributions of the women and men who stepped into the workforce to support America's successful campaign during World War II.

"I congratulate Wilmington on being designated the nation's first American World War II Heritage City," Bernhardt said. "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."

According to military officials, 243 war ships were built in the Port City, three prisoner war camps housed Nazis, and nearly 250 soldiers from Wilmington lost their lives in the fight.

President Trump's visit is also an unofficial campaign stop.

North Carolina is a battleground state with just two months remaining before the election.

In Wilmington, Trump won the election with nearly 50 percent of the votes cast in 2016.

The Trump campaign is trying to use the visit as opportunity to galvanize his base, especially those who have an affinity for the military, which is deeply rooted in Wilmington.

This marks the president's 12th visit to North Carolina.
Copyright © 2020 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.