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History and Heritage

Sailor by the Bay

Lone Sailor Guards San Francisco

During World War ll, approximately 1.5 million men and women shipped out from San Francisco, leaving the foggy city on the bay for submarine- infested waters and dense island jungles where hand-to-hand combat and disease all too often waited. In April 2002, a statue was erected at their embarkation point.

The statue, a replica of the first Lone Sailor located at the U.S. Navy Memorial in Washington D.C., represents a Sailor's last view of the West Coast, of home, as he sails out for duty at sea.

The Lone Sailor statue is a memorial to all who ever sailed out the Golden Gate in service of their country - in the Navy, the Marine Corps, the Coast Guard and the Merchant Marine.

"There's a very touching story of how ex-servicemen would come to the construction site and surreptitiously drop their dog tags into the hollow cement block that forms the core of the monument," said retired Lt. Henry F. Trione, the memorial committee's chairman. "Hearing that meant a great deal."

The Lone Sailor embodies honor, courage and commitment according to Not only have these values been the basis of maritime strength throughout history, they have also contributed to America's security and prosperity.

"We place Lone Sailor statues around the country to give Americans and the public the opportunity to honor, recognize and celebrate the men and women of the sea services," said retired Rear Adm. Frank Thorp, president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Navy Memorial in Washington D.C. "It ends up being a photographer's magnet because men and women want to stand and pose next to that statue that represents their mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers."

The centerpiece of the San Francisco memorial is a 100-foot diameter granite map of the world with the bronze statue of a Sailor prominently displayed, surrounded by 26 large bronze panels commemorating events in naval history. The statue is the creation of Stanley Bleifeld, the United States Navy Memorial's official sculptor. In the late 1980s, Bleifeld was selected by a board of recognized art authorities from a field of 36 sculptors identified in a six month, nationwide search.

In total, 15 Lone Sailor statues stand guard around the world from D.C., to Orlando, to Bremerton, to Fort Lauderdale, to Jacksonville and now to San Francisco.

"San Francisco harbor was discovered just a couple years before this country declared its independence," said Thorp. "Within the entire history of the U.S., the harbor has been a big part of who we are as a country. The ships and aircraft homeported at Treasure Island, Alameda Naval Air Station and the shipyards played an important strategic role for the U.S. and the Navy."

Over the span of two years, retired Capt. Jackson Schultz and his committee raised $3 million for the project, excluding any government funding and including all private donations, large and small.

According to Thorp, the San Francisco Lone Sailor is visited the most out of all 15 Lone Sailor statues by an estimated two million-plus visitors a year.

"We are all very proud of our work," said Trione. "We are happy to see how well visitors from all over the world have accepted it."

Click here to learn more about the Lone Sailor statue.