IN 2000, he founded the WWII Wilmington Home Front Heritage Coalition. The nonprofit’s mission
was to preserve and promote the area’s involvement in and contribution to the war.
“Wilmington had a story to tell, but it was about to die out,” Jones says. “People would have forgot-ten
that Charles Murray and Billy Halyburton from New Hanover High received the Medal of Honor.
It would have been forgotten.”
The story had many chapters.
Every branch of the armed forces was present in the area. Camp Davis in Holly Ridge and Fort Fisher were
Army training bases; anti-submarine warfare (ASW) Navy vessels operated out of Southport and along the
Cape Fear River; ASW planes flew out of Bluethenthal Army Air Base, which was later a training field for
P-47 fighters; the Marine Corps operated out of Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville and the Air Station at Cherry
Point; and Coast Guard patrol boats were stationed at Wrightsville Beach, Wilmington and Southport.
Wilmington was also home to the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company, which built 243 Liberty and
C-2 hulls, three prisoner-of-war camps, and was strategically important as a port city and headquarters of the
Atlantic Coast Railroad.
German U-boats patrolled off the coast, forcing Wrightsville Beach and Wilmington residents to adhere
to black-out restrictions. Some believe a German submarine fired on the Ethyl-Dow chemical plant at Kure
Beach in July 1943, possibly the only German attack on the U.S. mainland.
Civilian industries converted to a war footing. The Block Shirt Factory in Wilmington made uniforms for
the military. Fertilizer plants, farms, dairies, and other small businesses contributed to defense industries.
Wilbur D. Jones Jr.
worked for nearly 13
years to bring national
recognition to Wilm-ington
for its role in
World War II. Opposite:
C-2 cargo ships are
constructed at the
North Carolina Ship-building
Wilmington in 1945.