Mayor Domenic J. Sarno is proud to announce that the City of Springfield has been designated as an American World War II Heritage City by the National Park Service (NPS).
Mayor Sarno, with support from Congressman Richard E. Neal, Springfield Armory National Historic Site Superintendent Kelly Fellner, and Springfield Veterans’ Services Director Tom Belton and Deputy Director Joe DeCaro, submitted the city of Springfield’s application to the NPS American World War II Heritage Cities Program (AWWIIHC) last year.
The NPS American World War II Heritage Cities Program (AWWIIHC) honors the contributions of local towns and cities, and commemorates the efforts and stories of the men and women whose bravery and sacrifices shaped the United States home front during World War II. Only one American World War II Heritage City can be designated in each state or territory. Springfield is proud to be the first city in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to receive this honor and designation.
Mayor Sarno states, “This is a tremendous honor and designation, and yet another first for our Springfield, the ‘City of Firsts’. Springfield has a proud history and tradition dating back to the founding of our nation and this recognition is a testament to the brave men and women of our great city and our local efforts to support the war effort both overseas and here at home. I want to thank my Communications Director Bill Baker for coordinating with everyone and working with the National Parks Service on our application to the WWII Heritage City program. I also want to thank Congressman Neal, Springfield Armory Superintendent Kelly Fellner and our Veterans’ Services Director Tom Belton and Deputy Director Joe DeCaro for their support. The timing of this announcement is symbolic as we commemorate and reflect on the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. It is because of the service and sacrifice of the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces, and their families, America stands as the greatest nation in the world – the beacon of democracy, strength, opportunity and hope. May God continue to bless our service men and women and their families, our Nation and our City of Springfield.”
“Springfield continues to recognize our past while bringing it into the future,” said Congressman Richard E. Neal. “The National Park Service’s choice of Springfield to serve as a designated American World War II Heritage City is an honor as our city is one of only nineteen nationwide. I am proud of our history and the great work that the Springfield Armory does to preserve it and keep it accessible for generations to come. Congratulations!”
Springfield Armory Superintendent Fellner stated, “Congratulations to the City on this recognition as an American World War II Heritage City. We are proud of the role that Springfield Armory played in the war effort, from the invention and development of the M1 rifle by John Garand, to the many innovations in industrial production. The 14,000 Armory employees, of which 40% were Women Ordnance Workers or WOWs, worked around the clock to produce over 3 million rifles between 1932-1945. It is their dedication and legacy that we honor with this recognition.”
Veterans’ Service Director Belton stated, “The announcement from the National Park Service recognizing Springfield, Massachusetts as a World War II Heritage City is a great honor, especially as we commemorate the 81st anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, which brought the United States into the war. It is important that we always remember and never forget the proud veterans and the brave men and women who currently serve in our Armed Forces and thank them for their service and sacrifice defending our Nation and the freedoms that we all enjoy. It is because of them that we can celebrate and enjoy our American way of life.”
Springfield played a critical role in supporting the wartime efforts during this period of American history, and the NPS was pleased to recognize the city of Springfield as an American World War II Heritage City through the Program for its wartime contributions. These contributions to the World War II home front and war effort included defense and wartime manufacturing; production of goods, materials, and consumer items for Armed Forces and home consumption; volunteer participation and military service; and civil defense preparedness.
Springfield has a proud and strong history from the founding of our nation when George Washington designated the nation’s first national armory at the Springfield Armory, which is now a National Historic Site and part of the National Park Service, to today proudly serving and honoring all of our Veterans and continuing our tradition of supporting all aspects of our nation’s military, social, cultural, economic, and educational efforts with a very diverse range of services across all industries and sectors.
For newly two centuries, the Springfield Armory served our nations armed services and industry through the development of superior firearms and innovation. The production of materials from the Springfield Armory were used by our nations armed forces in every war in the nation’s history until the facility transitioned from active production to preservation, collection and archiving of our City’s, Commonwealth’s and Nations history.
The renowned M1 Garand, designed and developed by John C. Garand, was manufactured at the Springfield Armory and saw service as the standard U.S. service rifle during World War II, the Korean War and into the Vietnam War. In addition to serving our brave and dedicated armed forces, the rifle made a significant impact on foreign affairs and relations as it was provided to our nation’s allies as foreign aid. Today, the legendary rifle is still used by drill teams and military honor guards and is widely popular by collectors and civilians alike.
General George Patton even described the rifle as ‘The best battle implement ever devised.’ and General Douglas MacArthur is believed to have stated about the M1 rifle during the heavy fighting on Bataan that, ‘Under combat conditions it operated with no mechanical defects and when used in foxholes did not develop stoppages from dust or dirt.’
During World War II, the Springfield Armory would see a massive budget increase and would go on to employ a workforce of over 7,500 to help fuel the nation’s war efforts. The Armory would go on to maintain manufacturing operations with three shifts where at its peak would produce over 1,300 M1 rifles per shift or 164 rifles an hour. This increase in production and to meet the demand for our country's wartime efforts provided employment opportunities for women. The Women Ordinance Workers (WOWs) filled most aspects of the production of the M1 rifle. Roughly 43% of the workforce at the Armory would be filled by women. By the end of World War II, over 3.1 million M1 rifles were manufactured at the Springfield Armory.
In addition, the city of Springfield was home to many recipients of the Army Navy ‘E’ Awards for Excellence in Production. This was a significant recognition by the United States government of industry’s response to meet the demands of the country’s wartime efforts and production. Some of the recipients included: Westinghouse, Van Norman, American Bosch, Chapman Valve, the US Armory, Indian Motorcycle, Monsanto, A.G. Spalding, Package Machinery, Cheney-Bigelow Wire Works, Standard Electric Time, and the Buick Company.
Furthermore, our local hospitals, both Springfield Hospital (now Baystate Medical) and Mercy Hospital participated in intensive training programs to recruit young women to the nursing profession in their Cadet Nurse programs, part of a federal effort that helped to raise the bar for nursing education and opportunity.
Many Springfield residents played a key and vital role during World War II, either supporting the war effort at home or honorably serving in the armed forces. Harold Roe Bull, a Springfield native, was one of the many residents who honorably serviced our nation during the war. During WWII he served as Assistant Chief of Staff at Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) under General Dwight D. Eisenhower and played a major and vital role in helping to plan the coordinated military operations in Europe. His office was responsible for preparing the periodic situational reports which included the weather reports used for the planning the invasion of Normandy.
In total, over 23,000 residents contributed to our nation’s war efforts during WWII, with the majority of those as service members.
“Springfield is proud of our diversity and the history of our residents and our veterans,” said Mayor Sarno. “Every year we hold numerous ceremonies to honor, acknowledge, and recognize those who have served. One of the many veteran events we hold is a ceremony to recognize the 65th Infantry Regiment nicknamed ‘The Borinqueneers’. This mainly Puerto Rican regiment of the US Army served honorable and with distinction during World War I, World War II and the Korean War. During WWII, members of the 65th Infantry received numerous awards for their service including two Silver Stars, twenty-two Bronze Stars, and Ninety Purple Hearts. In 2016, Congress officially awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to the 65th Infantry Regiment.
The city of Springfield is also home to numerous monuments and memorials dedicated to honor our veterans and their service, along with those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Across from City Hall is Veteran’s Way, an area and walking path where the Department of Veterans’ Services holds its annual wreath laying and flagging ceremonies to honor the memory of those who have served in the various wars. Included with these are numerous WWII monuments throughout the city that are dedicated to the residents who answered their country’s call to service.
In 2015, the city of Springfield was recognized as a Purple Heart City by the Military Order of the Purple Heart, a nonprofit organization with a mission to promote patriotism and help veterans and their families.
The World War II Heritage Cities program was established by the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act of 2019 to recognize the historic importance of the United States domestic involvement in World War II and ensure the continued preservation of defining period in American history.
For more information, please visit the National Parks Service American World War II Heritage City Program announcements at the links below: