FOLEY – The National Park Service has named Foley as the American World War II Heritage City for Alabama.
Foley is one of 11 communities across the United States to receive the designation announced recently. Only one community in each state or territory can be designated an American World War II Heritage City.
The program recognizes communities that made contributions to the war effort and that continue to recognize the sacrifices made by veterans and those on the home front during World War II.
Mayor Ralph Hellmich said the designation is a great honor that salutes the patriotism of Foley residents in the past and today.
“Foley’s recognition by the National Park Service is an incredible recognition of our city and area’s support of our military and veterans,” Hellmich said. “Even before World War II our area was patriotic but it certainly peaked during our nation’s World War II effort. We should all be proud of this recognition.”
The World War II Heritage Cities program recognizes the historic importance of the United States’ domestic involvement in World War II and ensures the continued preservation of a defining period in American history.
“The American World War II Heritage Cities Program honors the contributions of local towns, cities, counties and commemorates the stories of the men, women, and children whose bravery and sacrifices shaped the U.S. home front during World War II, and still impact our country today,” a statement from the National Park Service said.
“Foley played a critical role in this history, and we are pleased to recognize your jurisdiction as an American World War II Heritage City through the program,” the statement continued.
On Dec. 5, 1942, less than one year after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Navy opened the Barin Field training center in Foley. The field served as an auxiliary training center for the Pensacola Air Station.
In its first 24 months of operations, 5,795 students were entered in the field log. By 1945, 1,886 enlisted personnel and 165 officers were assigned to the field.
Barin Field had a major impact on housing and other areas of the economy in a town that had 846 people in the 1940 census. Navy personnel boarded in almost every vacant room in the town and as many as five families occupied a single house. In 1943, the National Housing Administration built 72 concrete modular apartments at the current site of Riviera Utilities in east Foley.
The American World War II Heritage City designation also recognizes efforts by community leaders and residents to honor the men and women who served in the conflict.
On Feb. 1, 1943, the Women’s Club of Foley planted a live oak tree as a living tribute “honoring the young men and women of the community who are now or will soon be in the service of our country.”
After the end of World War II, a flagpole and stone marker were dedicated at the site on July 4, 1946.
The oak, flagpole and marker remain in Foley’s Heritage Park as an ongoing commemoration recognizing those who served in World War II. Today, the Foley Revitalization and Beautification Advisory Board maintains the site.
Foley also dedicated a second memorial to World War II veterans. That memorial is in Max Griffin Park. Since World War II, Foley has expanded that memorial to recognize veterans who served in later conflicts.
The city has continued to expand that tribute. In 2023, Foley added two anti-tank guns acquired from the U.S. Army to the memorial site at Max Griffin Park.
The 10 other communities recently designated as American World War II Heritage Cities are:
- Tempe, Arizona
- Richmond, California
- Wilmington, Delaware
- Waterloo, Iowa
- Baltimore County, Maryland
- Johnson County and Warrensburg, Missouri (joint community nomination)
- Hastings, Nebraska
- Boulder City and Henderson, Nevada (joint community nomination)
- Yonkers, New York
- Bedford County, Virginia
Since 2020, the National Park Service has previously designated 19 other communities as American World War II Heritage Cities. Those communities include Pensacola, Pascagoula and New Orleans.
Contributions by a city to the World War II home front war effort include defense manufacturing, such as ships, aircraft, uniforms and equipment; production of food and consumer items for Armed Forces and home consumption; volunteer participation; and civil defense preparedness.
More information about the program is available at https://www.nps.gov/subjects/worldwarii/americanheritagecity.htm