The Lone Sailor: A San Fran tribute to the sea services

25 Aug 2011 | I Marine Expeditionary Force Public Affairs

For decades this city has played host to the U.S. military, but because of base realignments and closures most of what remains are merely memories.

Situated near the water, San Francisco was a major gateway for service members Pacific theater-bound during World War II. The Army had the Presidio, which was once a Spanish garrison established in 1776. The Air Force had Hamilton Field Air Force Base. The Navy had several locations including Hunter’s Point Naval Shipyard and Treasure Island Naval Station.

All are now closed.

True, all the services at one time boasted a relationship with San Francisco, but because of its proximity to the water she was known as a sea service city. It wasn’t until 2002 that a site existed to honor that relationship.

Area philanthropist Henry Trione and retired Navy Capt. Jackson L. Schultz co-chaired a committee to raise the nearly $3 million needed to erect a memorial on the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge. There today stands a replica of the Lone Sailor statue found at the United States Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Surrounding the San Francisco version of the statue are bronze plaques honoring the Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine. Each is an exact replica of ones at the memorial in D.C., except the Navy’s plaque. It’s an original created by local artist Keith Christie.

Visitors to the site will also see these words penned by San Francisco Chronicle writer Carl Nolte:

“This is a memorial to everyone who ever sailed out the Golden Gate in the service of their country – in the Navy, the Marine Corps, the Coast Guard, the Merchant Marine.

A ship heading for seas passes directly by this spot at the northern end of the Golden Gate. Here the sailor feels the first long roll of the sea, the beginning of the endless horizon that leads to the far Pacific.

There is one last chance to look back at the city of San Francisco, shining on its hills, one last chance to look back at home.

Thousands and thousands of American seafarers have sailed past this place, in peace and war, to defend this country and its sea frontiers. Many of them never returned. This monument is dedicated to the ordinary sailors and Marines who sailed from this place and did their duty.”

Come October, the statue won’t be the only sign of the naval service tradition of San Francisco. As it has for 30 years, the city will host Fleet Week. From October 4-11 more than 10,000 sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen will visit the city. San Francisco Fleet Week will allow area residents to see the Navy’s Blue Angels, the Marine Corps Band, and displays boasting the military’s humanitarian aid and disaster relief capabilities.