This will be the only part of my series about my most recent adventure in San Francisco that is not, more or less, in chronological order- probably- and I guess, most of it almost is. After I finished walking out onto the Golden Gate Bridge early in the morning- okay, it was now yesterday morning, not this morning, but to change the title of my whole post series would be confusing- I drove around the Presidio. This a huge preserved National Park around the South end of the bridge, and it was a military base for years. I went up into the national cemetery there, where many of our fallen military lie interred. You can see the bridge behind the trees.
There are soldiers and sailors from many wars resting in this place.
It was very solemn, and still, in the very early morning.
There has never been a battle fought in San Francisco, nor in the seas outside the Golden Gate. But, as an ex-Navy man, and a student of history, there is a lot of history here that has to do with war.
Whenever there has been a war, or, undoubtedly, will be another war, people get worried that battle will come to the Bay Area. This is not an unreasonable fear. The huge bay is full of Naval bases, active and closed, and other military installations.
Also, it is a vital shipping hub for anywhere on Earth America might be fighting, as well as getting the things we need from overseas. As I drove, following the coastline of San Francisco, looking for good places to get more photos of the bridge and whatever else interested me, I just kept running into reminders of our past struggles. Here is a machine gun nest, on a slope, overlooking the entrance to the bay.
It is just a few yards from this monument, shown from behind, that commemorates the missing soldiers, sailors and Marines of World War Two.
And not far from there is a memorial that I have seen, but never really took a close look at.
Those are shell holes in steel.
And that isn’t thin steel. That is armor plate. And those shell holes are not small.
Those steel-armored plates come from the bridge railing of the USS San Francisco.
Those shell holes come from Japanese Naval artillery of various sizes. The wreath, laid at the foot of this marker to a US admiral who fell during the battle I am about to tell you about, has a ribbon across it that says: Australia. Because this battle was fought to stop the Japanese drive towards Australia. If the Japanese had managed to land there, Australia would have fallen, because most of their soldiers were already off fighting in other places.
In one of those weird coincidences that crop up now and again, I am right now in the middle of reading a book about the Marines in World War Two, and the battle in question is mentioned, although more from the point of view of the Marines than the sailors who fought the naval battle. But the Marines would have been left without support or supplies if the battle had been lost.
The battle of Guadalcanal was fought not only on that island, but in the seas and the skies around it as well. The naval part of the battle is one of the biggest close-range artillery sea battles ever fought. I can’t tell you all about it. You could Google it, or read some books. But it is worth knowing about.
It is worth knowing about the men who stood behind this steel.
The San Francisco survived, with heavy damage. The bridge wings were removed and replaced. Fortunately, the damaged wings were preserved. They now rest here, near the Golden Gate, erected as they once stood on that ship, as a tribute to the men who sailed in her.
The fear of an attack on the Bay Area has roots in the American Civil War. There is, as I have mentioned many times before, a Civil War Fort- Fort Point- that still stands, nestled under an arch at the Southern footing of the bridge. They built the bridge over the fort, leaving it to stand, even though it was long obsolete by the time the bridge was built. I put a good photo of the fort, taken from the bridge, in the first post in this series.
Just a little way from all these other things, there stands this impressive structure.
In fact, the hills and coastline all around the mouth of the bay, and leading off on either side, are still dotted with these old coastal artillery emplacements.
Here is the huge mount for one of these awesome canons, able to hurl shells at enemy ships miles out to sea.
Standing on that gun mount, peering over the parapet, out beyond the entrance to the bay, where lookouts would have kept watch for enemy vessels approaching from the vast Pacific Ocean.
Begun during the Civil War, these fortifications have been upgraded and improved, especially during the two World Wars, and the Cold War era.
Looking towards the Golden Gate Bridge from the gun pit.
In World War Two, just after Pearl Harbor, many people were expecting a Japanese fleet to sail into the bay. I know, it is hard to believe that now, but it wasn’t unreasonable then. We were getting our asses kicked all over the Pacific, and most of our Pacific Fleet was in ruins.
From the Presidio, inside the mouth of the bay, looking North. The old buildings of the military base are, for the most part, still there. Now we are more worried about cyber attacks than battleships, but Russia still has a huge army and navy and nuclear missiles and bombs. China is huge, and not always stable. Maniacs rule many nations.
But, if worse comes to worst, there are always those who will step up to defend these shores.