WNP328 - Memorial to the Missing
Woody: [00:00:00] It’s Outside Lands San Francisco, the podcast of the Western Neighborhoods Project. I'm Woody LaBounty.
David: And I'm David Gallagher.
Nicole: And I'm Nicole Meldahl.
Woody: Thank you, kids. Thank you, David. Thank you, Nicole, for being here.
Nicole: Thank you, Woody, for your excellent leadership, as always.
Woody: You're welcome. So…
David: It’s, I appreciate you too, by the way.
Woody: Thank you! I'm just, I'm just so appreciative, I feel so warm hearted after our Gala last weekend and seeing all the people and supporters there and, and having you guys all help out. So, I'm just, you know, I'm just very happy.
David: I'm really sorry that I got injured in my softball game.
Woody: That's all right, you got through it.
Nicole: Yeah. That black eye was tough.
Woody: You got through it; you got through it. That's not true. Okay, it's Memorial Day weekend. So, usually when we have our podcast on Memorial Day weekend, we try to highlight something that [00:01:00] is fitting. We did, I remember we did the Doughboy statue in the Grove of Memory. And so, this week we're going to do something similar, we're going to talk about a, what's called the “World War II Memorial to the Missing.”
Woody: And I guess the first question, because people probably aren't really aware of this, where is this memorial?
David: Well, it's in the Presidio, right?
David: I mean, it's off of Lincoln Boulevard, which is kind of that way that you go from 25th Avenue to the Golden Gate Bridge, right? You get up to the, up the hill there, and as you're approaching Kobbe Drive, which…
Nicole: Kobbe [pronounces it KOH-Bee].
Woody: Kobbe [pronounces it KOH-Bee].
David: Yeah, where your turn, where you would turn right. It's up on the, it's up above you on the right. Up on the hill, looking over this promontory, looking over the Golden Gate.
Woody: Okay. And, and so what does it look like, Nicole, and what is it, what's the memorial specifically for?
Nicole: So, [00:02:00] well, I pass this memorial every day on my way to work. And it's, I think it's a totally overlooked area of the Presidio, because most people come through the Lombard Gate or out by the Main Post. And this is, it almost feels like the backside of the Presidio.
Woody: Well, I will say, everybody's looking the other direction.
David and Nicole: Yeah.
David: Everybody's looking out at the water.
Woody: Yeah, you look out at the Golden Gate, the Pacific Ocean, the Marin Headlands, and then right behind you on the hill is this memorial.
Nicole: And it's this beautiful, curved wall made of California granite, and it's surrounded by a grove of Monterey pine and cypress. And it was built by the American Battle Monuments Commission, whose mission is to preserve the legacy of American servicemen whose remains were not returned. Either because they, they were buried at sea or they're missing in action.
Woody: And they're specifically people who were lost in the Pacific, right?
Nicole: Yes, between 1941 and 1945. And the wall has a list of their names as well as their rank, military branch, and unit and state. And…
Nicole: Yeah. [00:03:00] Well.
Woody: Well, now, I was just thinking, so I mean, I know, I know what it looks like, it's white, it looks like this curved wall, but, and it has these names on it, but what else does it say? What are the other like decorative elements you might say to the, to the wall?
David: Well so, it's engraved. It says, “Erected by the United States of America in proud and grateful remembrance of her sons who gave their lives in her service and who sleep in the coastal waters of the Pacific Ocean.” And then beneath this there are the words, “Into Thy hands, O Lord.”
David: Bas-relief depicts two constellations: Pegasus, the winged horse and Pisces, the fish. Referring to the stars the mariners traditionally used for guidance out in the ocean.
Woody: So, when you say constellations, this is actually like little star, sort of, map?
David: Star map, yeah.
Woody: Star map, okay, neat. So, I know that when this was first talked about, it [00:04:00] was in 1957, in April. And The Chronicle says that the Presidio was going to get this memorial honoring these servicemen. And I don't know whether, are there service women on the wall too?
Woody: They're just, they're all service men.
Nicole: It's all men, yeah.
Woody: Okay. And they're all the ones, all who had died in, in the waters of the Pacific. So General George C. Marshall, Chairman of the Monuments Commission, you know, announced that the construction would begin on this. And this is a, a big time for these sort of things. The war had been over ten or twelve years, and there's a lot of memorials going up in a lot of places.
Woody: Right? Okay, so who did they get to create, now that they've announced this, they're going to do this, who do they get to create this monument?
Nicole: So, it was designed by two San Francisco architects named Hervey Parke Clark and John F. Butler. And Clark was from Detroit originally, but he came out here in the 1930s and he formed a partnership with John Frederick Butler in 1946. And Clark taught at Stanford School of Architecture from the mid-‘50s to the ‘70s, designed some other buildings at Stanford, [00:05:00] UC Santa Barbara, yada yada. So, he's very well established in San Francisco. And when I started researching the men who are remembered on this monument, well, first of all, I don't recommend just reading succession after succession, like, obituaries about how men died at sea. Because it's, it really was very depressing.
Woody: Yeah, I bet, I bet.
Nicole: That, that was a rough day in the office.
Nicole: But one interesting story I did find was about Lieutenant Otto Ross Bleech, Junior [Grade]. He's from Florida, he's in the Navy, and he went missing in action three times.
Woody: How do you do that?
David: And they, they found him two times?
Woody: Two times at least? Wow.
Nicole: Twice, twice. Well, the first time he was shot down off the coast of Manila in November 1944 and was missing.
David: So, he was a pilot?
Nicole: He was, he was a pilot. He flew bomber in, in bomber squadrons in the Pacific. And he mysteriously turned up in San Francisco in January 1945.
Woody: So, two [00:06:00] months later. He's, he's shot down over Manila, off Manila and then two months later he is in San Francisco?
Nicole: Yeah. So apparently, he'd been shot down by a Japanese cruiser and was rescued by friendly Filipino patriots in, who were on patrol in the Manila Bay. And then he served with guerrilla forces on the island before walking clear across Luzon by foot and reconnecting with an American unit. And then he was there for a little bit, was transferred to Pearl Harbor, and then shipped to San Francisco where he called his parents. I mean, can you imagine being your, being in Florida and being like, ring-ring, “Hi mom!”
Woody: “I'm in San Francisco.”
Nicole: “I'm fine, I'm in San Francisco.”
David: I'm, I’m shocked by this story. And then, they find him, I guess he reports to somebody, and they just send him back to the war.
Nicole: Yeah, yeah. So, he gets a little bit of time off. He gets to go home and, you know, see his parents and then, yeah, then he gets, he gets assigned to a ship, an escort carrier, based out of San Francisco, called the “Siboney.” And he was, [00:07:00] he was taking off, or he was, he had been launched into, I'm going to use all the wrong terminology for this.
Nicole: He'd been launched into an attack, or what have you, from that carrier while he was in the Pacific, when he was shot down on August 10th, 1945. Which, I mean, the Japanese surrendered four days later.
Woody: So, what…
Nicole: He almost made it!
Woody: So, what was the? So that's two times though, right? That he is missing an action? What was the second time?
Nicole: I didn't chronicle the second.
Woody: Kind of in the middle, probably.
Woody: Of that, that journey from Manila back to San Francisco.
David: I mean, that's pretty quick trip between getting shot down and then showing up in San Francisco in two months. Anyway, but I can understand why you wouldn't want to read a whole lot of these stories.
Nicole: Oh my gosh.
Nicole: It's so sad.
David: I mean, but again, I mean, this guy is on the memorial, right? So what a, what a patriot, right? He came, he went through all that. Found his way back and then went back again. That's…
David: That's amazing to me.
Nicole: I got to say, I went down a crazy rabbit hole too because a lot of [00:08:00] these, I found a lot of these guys' names on findagrave.com.
Nicole: Which if you do any kind of research, genealogical research, there's a lot, it's a valuable resource, but you can sign up to be a contributor where you can either go and take photographs of the graves which our Board President Chelsea Sellin does, or you can add information. And I was like, “These men need to get remembered.” And so, I'm at home, like, drinking wine, like, typing in information and I was like, “Oh God, I got to stop this.”
Woody: You can even put little flowers, little virtual flowers on the graves to remember people and stuff.
Nicole: Anyways, just thought I'd share that.
Woody: So, when I look at the thing I, and I mostly look at it when I'm driving by. Because you have to kind of drive up the road a little bit, up Kobbe, to get to it.
Woody: But I'm driving by on Lincoln, and I always see this statue attached to it, it looks like a statue of this woman.
Woody: So that's a big part of this to me. I mean, the, the stars.
Woody: And the names. But what is, what's the deal with the woman?
David: So, the woman is Columbia, which is a…
Woody: Oh, okay.
David: Who's a personification of, of America, right? [00:09:00] It was a French sculpture called, from, named Jean de Marco, right?
Woody: Yeah, the sculptor.
David: French sculptor, born to Italian parents, he created the Statue of Columbia, right?
Woody: Okay. So, they got, they kind of subcontracted it out to this guy. Just for the female statue part?
David: So, Columbia was always, often used in World War I imagery until she was kind of displaced by the Statue of Liberty, right? So, it's kind of a throwback to, to World War I. De Marco, he specialized in religious imagery and two public works are reliefs of Moses and Saint Louis in the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol.
Woody: So, is that one the kind of thing where each state gets to put a couple of statues in the, in the Capitol?
David: I don't know about that.
Nicole: I don't know.
Woody: Do you know that? Do you know that story though? Like, I think it's the Capitol, where each state gets to put in two [00:10:00] statues. And California had…
Nicole: Was it Thomas Starr King?
Woody: Yeah. Had Thomas Starr King, and they replaced him with Ronald Reagan.
Woody: Because nobody could remember who Thomas Starr King was, I guess. I think the other one might have been Junipero Serra, maybe he got pulled out too.
Nicole: Great. Solid.
David: So, you get to switch them around?
Woody: You do the, the state gets to decide which two statues. Anyway, I'm just wondering if, if his Moses and Saint Louis statues…
David: Are still there?
Woody: And if they were a part of that.
David: If they got removed. Yeah, interesting. But…
David: I'm not done.
David: There's more to it, as we say, there's a, there are a bunch of trees. And there's a whole landscape.
David: Around it.
David: A landscape plan. And so, landscape designer, very famous name, Lawrence Halprin.
Woody: Oh yeah.
David: He designed the surroundings, as well as the meadow near Letterman Digital Arts Center.
Woody: He does tons of stuff.
David: So that's separate, but…
Woody: He does tons.
David: So, Lawrence Halprin did, did the landscaping around it. Kind of give the [00:11:00] place the feel.
Woody: He did the Stern Grove, you know, stage and the whole landscaping for the…
David: Oh, yeah.
Woody: For the concerts there in Stern. He did, he's done tons of stuff. He's very famous.
Nicole: Yeah, and Ghirardelli Square.
Nicole: I think he was the one who reused the existing buildings and redesigned all that.
Woody: Yeah, okay.
David: So, big-time landscape designer.
Woody: So, this goes pretty fast, like three years later, they have ceremonies that dedicate this memorial on November 29th, which is my birthday, 1960, which is not my birthday. So, they had it in the morning. The Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marine Corps and Coast Guard units all come out with color guards for it. Military chaplains deliver the invocation, the prayer, the benediction. The Sixth Army band played. Of course, they played “Onward Christian Soldiers.” And, of course, lots of high-ranking officials were there, including the Philippine Ambassador, Carlos P. Romulo, which is interesting because we had that guy who was rescued in the [00:12:00] Philippines. And, but Romulo was a brigadier general on MacArthur's staff. Anyway, guys you'd heard of: Nimitz, Chester Nimitz, you might know the freeway in the East Bay.
Woody: But I know what's funny is that John L. DeWitt, who was the Commander of Western Defense in the Fourth Army at the Presidio during World War II, got to talk too. And Dewitt is infamous now because, he's the one that basically put out the, the law that in, interned thousands and thousands of Japanese. I mean, Roosevelt did it, but he's the guy who like caused the panic on the West coast and had Japanese citizens…
David: He's fairly responsible for it.
Woody: Yeah, put under suspicion, by everybody essentially. But it's funny at this dedication ceremony, he's sort of backpedaling on this, right Nicole?
Nicole: Yeah, he's, he talks about how scary it is when he got that message from Pearl Harbor that the Japanese had bombed and how he had to do what he had to do. And I've read a bunch, because [00:13:00] working in the Presidio, I've read a bunch of DeWitt’s various speeches over time. And he always brings this up, like, like he knew immediately, this is complete conjecture, but like he knew immediately, “Oh man, I messed up. That was really messed up.”
Woody: “I overdid it, and this is a big black mark on my record.”
Woody: I mean, I don't know if he really felt that way either.
Nicole: I don't know.
Woody: But he does come across that way ten, twelve years later he does. Anyway, so…
Nicole: But if you want to learn more about this…
Nicole: You can go to the Officer's Club in the Presidio and there's a great exhibition right now on Japanese incarceration. So, that's the authority that you should go read about all of this.
Woody: Yeah. So, if I want to go see it now, is it, does it look the same? Is it, you know, from when it was opened in 1960?
Nicole: Well, it's still beautiful, but it's changed a little bit because in 2014 they did a massive upgrade to it that improved accessibility to the site. So, there's a great ramp now, so it's accessible to everybody. It's a really [00:14:00] beautiful spot. I used to go there a lot when I first started working in the Presidio. Just ate lunch there and it’s got beautiful views of the water. And you should go check it out yourself this Memorial Day weekend. On May 27th, they're going to do a big commemoration in the Presidio, which starts at 9:45 at the Officer's Club. And so, you've got the Presidio Trust, the City of San Francisco and the Department of Veterans Affairs, they all come together to do a large parade and a formal ceremony at the cemetery with a twenty-one-gun salute followed by a community picnic. So, it's a great way to remember those who've served in our armed forces. I can't talk today!
Woody: Yeah, that's Memorial Day, that's Monday.
Woody: That's this Monday.
Woody: So, and you can just show up for that, right? Starts at like 9:45 in the morning.
David & Nicole: Yeah.
Woody: And then they go on. But yeah, I recommend everybody take a look at that memorial. I mean, we pass these things so much and we kind of glance at them, but they're, they're very beautiful when you get close and, like, you know, Nicole kind of talked about, you get into these stories. This is what the whole thing's about remembering these, [00:15:00] in this case, these men who died in service. All right, now it's time for the Pearl of the Podcast.
Nicole: The Pearl of the Podcast today is that there are 413 names engraved on the, on the monument, but all the newspaper accounts referenced 412 before it was actually constructed. So, I'm wondering who the mysterious late edition was?
Woody: So, we don't actually know?
Woody: It's, it's a Question of Pearl this time.
David: But the Pearl is there's 413 names.
Woody: Oh, okay. And the, and there's just an additional question.
Woody: Which is, who's that mysterious 13th?
David: More research required.
Nicole: I, I'm going to open that bottle of wine now.
Woody: Okay, now let's practice this, let's do this right. It's time for listener mail! Are you guys awake? Are you still there?
David: No, I, I [00:16:00] left the room for a moment.
Nicole: Gallagher out.
Woody: How does one send listener mail? How do we get mail?
David: Well, you send email. You're familiar with the electronic mail system?
Woody: I still am, yes.
David: Yeah, you send email to email@example.com.
Woody: Okay, did we get any?
David: Yeah, we did! Joel wrote in and he said, “I just discovered your podcast.” You know, we see that, we get that all the time. It's amazing that we've been doing this for six years and, is it six years?
Woody: Yeah, almost.
David: And people are still discovering the podcast. There's still more people who don't know about us, and Joel is one. And we're glad to have you, Joel, thank you for finding us.
Woody: That was a short letter he wrote though.
David: Yeah. Okay, all right. That was an aside by me, all right? Okay? So, he says he just discovered the podcast, and he is enjoying listening to all the old episodes. His wife and he just recently visited with his daughter and her husband so they could [00:17:00] see where his wife and he lived many years ago.
Woody: Right. Like looking, so…
David: So, they did a little tour, little back to the, back to the old homestead tour.
David: He says, “Comments, number one: is there a story about San Francisco Ice Arena? I remember skating there, but I don't remember where it was. I can only guess that there probably wasn't much around when it opened, but by the time it closed, the area was all residential. Did its fate kind of mirror that of Playland?”
David: I think we can answer this.
Woody: We can. Did we do a podcast on the ice arena?
David: I'm not sure.
Nicole: No. We were going to, and we started researching it, and then we didn't do it.
Woody: Oh, well I guess we should do it now. But yeah, it was a little ice-skating rink. Right there on 47th, I'm thinking.
Woody: 46th. Anyway, in the Outer Sunset. And I can't believe, I don't know which numbered it is now, but I think it’s…
David: Like in the 40s.
David: Up until like the ‘90s, got torn down in the ‘90s or maybe the early 2000s even.
Woody: [00:18:00] Yeah, it was between Kirkham and Lawton, something like that.
David: I remember going in there, I was never an ice skater, but I remember going in there because it was kind of a little remnant of something, right? And you go in and it had all alpine wood, like, log cabin stuff inside.
David: It was very cool.
Nicole: I wish we'd bring back more of those ice skating rinks. because I enjoy myself thoroughly every Christmas.
Woody: Well, you know, you wanted a 50,000-gallon wine cask last week and now you want us to do an ice skating rink.
Nicole: Ooh! Maybe we can combine these concepts.
David: Maybe they could be ice skating Saint Pauli Girls with…
Nicole: Oh boy.
Woody: Oh yeah. Did…
David: Yeah, anyway.
Woody: Did Joel write anything else?
David: Joel's not done.
Woody: Okay, good.
Nicole: I'm sorry, Joel.
David: Joel's not done. He says, “Number two,” he says that, we don't cover many churches. And he, “I guess that that many have interesting histories, but I suppose would be probably most interesting to people of a specific faith.”
Woody: Yeah, we can do churches though.
David: Yeah, we have done a couple churches.
Woody: I think we've done a synagogue or two too.
David: Yeah. [00:19:00] “His favorite San Francisco story to tell, is that his wife and he were almost run over by Sean Connery on the Presidio the night he proposed.
Woody: Okay, now that's a story I want to hear more about.
David: We don't know anything about that. Joel, you have to write again and tell us.
Woody: Come back!
Nicole: Was he, was he in a car? Was he on a bike?
Woody: Did he see you? Is Sean Connery, like, “I'm going to run them over.”
Nicole: Were you in the street? Were you on a lawn?
David: Say it in your Sean Connery voice.
Woody: I, I can't do my Sean Connery voice, I have to think. Anyway, I, I…
Nicole: Your mother Trebek. [in Sean Connery voice from Saturday Night live skit]
David: Anyway, Joel continues…
Woody: That's not Sean Connery, that's an impersonator!
David: “I'm going run you over.” [attempt at Sean Connery voice] “Keep up the good work!” And he looks forward to many more podcast episodes.
Nicole: Thanks Joel!
David: Yeah. So, thanks Joel. And remember everybody else, write in, review us on iTunes. You can send [00:20:00] us messages on all our, on Instagram, or Facebook, or Twitter, you know, all those things. And we will read your message on the air. And if we don't, it's because we just don't want to.
Woody: “I'm going to run them over.” [in Sean Connery voice]
David: “I'll run them over.” [in Sean Connery voice]
Woody: “I'll run them over.” [in Sean Connery voice] All right, it's time for events. Do we have any events? I know where you can go to the webpage, and you can click on “Events,” and you can read events. And I know there's one in June, right? There's, there's an event.
Nicole: Yeah, there's an, that's me, yes, there's an event in June. On June 20th, that's a Thursday, 7:00 PM at the home for history on Balboa, “Villages and Concessions of the Midwinter Fair.” So, we'll have good friends Barbara Bergland and Steven Pitzenbarger. They're going to be guests as we explore the concession exhibits at the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition.
Nicole: We're talking plastic igloos, German castles, an indoor [00:21:00] volcano. Villages, air quotes, of African, Hawaiian, and Inuit performers “reinforced imperial ambitions and attitudes of superiority while meeting interest in foreign humanity.”
Woody: That's what they said.
Nicole: Yes. So, California interpreted myth and mythol, ohh, words! Mythologized!
David: Mythologized. [in Sean Connery voice]
Woody: Mythologized. [in Sean Connery voice]
David: Mythologized. You know, Sean Connery voice?
Nicole: Well, there was a 49er camp and people paid dimes and quarters across the Fair. Anyways, people came to see these things and…
Woody: It's $20. [Sean Connery voice]
Nicole: $10 for members.
David: That sounds like a great deal. [attempted Sean Connery voice]
Woody: I, I think you're being Liam Neeson.
Woody: I don't think…
Nicole: Or Christian…
David: They're from the same place.
Nicole: Or Christian Bale from Batman.
Nicole: That's the Batman voice.
Woody: You're not doing Sean Connery.
David: You know my hearing’s challenged, so I can't tell what I sound like.
Woody: Is there anything happening in July, [00:22:00] Nicole?
Woody: Since June is covered, I think.
Nicole: So, this is not our event, this is an event hosted by the Conservatory of Flowers on July 19th, which is a Friday, 7:00 to 10:00 PM. Super fun, “Botanicals and Brews.” So, the Conservatory will be illuminated, there's going to be live local music, curated food trucks, and exclusively prepared beers developed in collaboration with craft breweries. So, the tentative theme as far as we've been told is, “Historic Gems.” And Board President Chelsea Sellin and I will be manning, air quotes, a Western Neighborhoods Project table where we're going to chat about the myths of the Conservatory or anything you want to chat with us about. This is a great time to bring your Western Neighborhoods Project beer koozie or purchase one at the event. And tickets are $29 general admission. Sorry, no WNP member discount on this one, but it should be a fun time.
Woody: Yeah, and beer!
Nicole: And beer. And history. Beer and history!
Woody: And history. Beer and history is perfect. What else can somebody do on the [00:23:00] website? Oh, wait, we're not even on the website now. We're talking about events, so, but I guess I just want to get across to people that they should become members because it's just worth it. It supports us. They get all the history stuff they like, and I don't know, they kind of keep this whole rickety covered wagon…
Woody: Going down the road. Well, we're kind of rickety today. We're doing Sean Connery impressions. Come on.
Nicole: I mean, we’re…
David: Oh wait, I got it, I got it, I got it. “I’ll run down those lovebirds. This is a government installation.” [attempted Sean Connery voice]
Nicole: Oh boy.
David: No? That's not it?
Woody: That's terrible.
Nicole: I, I think we're a jalopy.
Woody: We're a jalopy.
Nicole: We're at least jalopy level.
Woody: All right, let me give you a preview for next week when we'll do a much better job promoting the organization. Next week we're going to put a clothes pin, we're going to use a clothes pin to put a playing card in the spokes of our…
David: This is a stretch. Jalopy is really falling.
Woody: I went to the covered wagon and the [00:24:00] jalopy and…
Nicole: The wheel came off our jalopy!
Woody: We're going to talk about bicycles next week, okay?
David: I'll see you next week.
Woody and David: Goodbye, goodbye. Goodbye. [strange voices]
Ian: Outside Lands San Francisco is recorded by Ian Hadley, content Creation and media production at ihadley.com.
Woody: To learn more about the Western Neighborhoods Project and more about San Francisco history, go to outsidelands.org.