Dayton, county named Ohio’s only World War II Heritage City, one of 19 nationally

National Park Service recognized communities that played major part in war effort

The National Park Service on Tuesday named Montgomery County and the city of Dayton as one of 19 American World War II Heritage Cities in the nation, and the only one in Ohio.

“The National Park Service recognizes the role this region played in winning World War II,” said Susan Richardson, chair of the National Aviation Heritage Area board. “This rich heritage is part of our ongoing community identity and current leadership role in supporting our national defense and the future of aerospace.”

The National Aviation Heritage Area advanced the nomination for Montgomery County, the largest political jurisdiction that could receive the designation under the National Park Service guidelines.

“The City of Dayton was critical to the war effort, as were the surrounding cities, communities, and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base,” said Mackensie Wittmer, National Aviation Heritage Area executive director.

The 18 cities named on Tuesday join the first community, Wilmington, N.C., which received the designation in 2020.

Because only one political jurisdiction per state can be named an American World War II Heritage City, the nomination required local, state, and federal support.

“NAHA would like to thank our elected officials and community leaders who supported this nomination,” Wittmer said.

Neither Montgomery County officials nor the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force commented on the honor Monday.

National Aviation Heritage Area officials led the nomination process and said they worked with various community leaders, historians, and other partners including:

  • Montgomery County and Montgomery County Commission;
  • Wright-Patterson Air Force Base;
  • National Museum of the United States Air Force;
  • Dayton History at Carillon Historical Park;
  • Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park;
  • Local history teacher Bridget Federspiel.

“I think this means that NPS recognizes our region and all of the things done here,” she said. “It’s part of the community’s regional identity, and the National Aviation Heritage Area leads to economic development as one of the leading areas in the state and nation for aviation, aerospace and military facilities. It’s looking to our heritage and why there are so many industries located near the base.”

Wittmer cited various civilian industries and companies that shifted gears to make various products to support the war effort. This was in addition to the work going on at then Wright Field and Patterson Field.

Frigidaire, a division of General Motors, switched to war production when the U.S. entered the war. The company utilized its 16,000 employees to make machine guns, pistols, and propellers. Workers produced more than 360,000 .50 caliber Browning M2 aircraft machine guns and one million spare .50 caliber machine gun barrels. Frigidaire engineers made over 500 design and manufacturing changes to reduce the cost of the machine gun to 25% of its original cost, using mass manufacturing techniques.

Montgomery County and Dayton companies and workers developed long-range fuel tanks, components for various weapon systems, bomb sights, fuses and plane engines. NCR also was part of the American Bombe code-breaking assignment that cracked the German Enigma machines. Monsanto Company worked in Dayton and Oakwood on the Manhattan Project to develop atomic bomb mechanisms before that work was moved to the Mound Laboratory in Miamisburg.

The American World War II Heritage City program was created by the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act of 2019. Wittmer said local officials submitted the application in August 2021 for Montgomery County.

More information about the National Park Service program is available at:

World War II Heritage Cities

Springfield, Massachusetts

East Hartford, Connecticut

Paterson, New Jersey

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Wilmington, North Carolina

Savannah / Chatham County, Georgia

Pensacola / Escambia County, Florida

Dayton / Montgomery County, Ohio

Evansville, Indiana

Oak Ridge, Tennessee

Manitowoc, Wisconsin

Pascagoula, Mississippi

New Orleans, Louisiana

Corpus Christi, Texas

Wichita, Kansas

Los Alamos County, New Mexico

Casper / Natrona County, Wyoming

Lewistown, Montana

Tri-Cities, Washington

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