On November 17, Pascagoula celebrated its recent designation as a World War II Heritage City in fine style. A gala event took place on Singing River Island, with hundreds gathering to commemorate this signal honor.
Created in 2020 and administered by the National Park Service, the World War II Heritage City designations have gone thus far to only 19 locations in the entire United States. In order to recognize the importance of the United States’ involvement in World War II, the Secretary of the Interior may designate one city from each state and territory as an American World War II Heritage City, pending an arduous application process from potential candidates.
“The designation of Pascagoula as a World War II heritage area brings the modern day history of our city into clear focus,” said Martin Hegwood, who led the two-year charge for Pascagoula’s selection for the honor. “Everything changed with World War II, and the changes have not only endured, they are ongoing and will continue forever. Like Birmingham, the Pascagoula that sprang up overnight in the 1940s can truly be called a ‘Magic City'”
The event itself went off as very appropriate for the importance of the occasion. The festivities were set out at the former Navy Homeport, with the program on a stage with a backdrop showing a spectacular view of Ingalls Shipbuilding and the city itself over the waters of Pascagoula Bay and the historic Pascagoula River.
Keynote speaker was Mississippi U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, a proud veteran himself. Others who spoke included Mississippi Secretary of State and Pascagoula native Michael Watson, Mississippi Senator Brice Wiggins (also a Pascagoulan), Pascagoula Mayor Jay Willis, Gulf Islands National Seashore Director Steve McCoy, and Ingalls President Kari Wilkinson. All spoke with great pride of Pascagoula’s involvement with WW II, and of the nationally significant city we have become today.
The Pascagoula High Band performed “America the Beautiful”, and the PHS NJ ROTC unit served as ushers. There was an impressive flyover by a National Guard helicopter unit. Entertainment during and after the program was provided by the Victory Belles, the popular singing trio from the World War II Museum in New Orleans. If you get an opportunity to watch the Belles perform their 1940s-era selections, do it—they are exceptionally talented.
All in all, the event on November 17, scheduled intentionally to coincide with Veteran’s Day, was a wonderful way to honor our military, our veterans — including several local WWII vets — and our community for their thankless sacrifices and commitment to our country during World War Two. I would like to personally thank my lifelong friend Martin for making this designation happen, as well as Lindsay Mitchell, Communications Director for the City of Pascagoula, for the countless hours she put in to bring the event together.
That Pascagoula was chosen to be one of the first 19 World War II Heritage Cities speaks volumes. Our city has long been at the forefront of our nation’s defense and stability, and, as shown by the spirit and emotion exhibited at the recent celebration, we shall continue that tradition far into the future.