The Journal of San Diego History
Summer 2002, Volume 48, Number 3
Gregg Hennessey, Editor

By Abraham J. Shragge

Images from the Article


In March 1915, Captain Philip Andrews, newly appointed commandant of the naval training station on Goat Island in San Francisco Bay, paid an official call on the mayor of San Francisco. The Navy Department approved of such visits, noting the “desirability for officers commanding shore stations to have cordial relations with civil officials adjacent to their commands.” But the Department refused to reimburse Andrews the $2.90 it cost the captain to hire a carriage to take him from the waterfront to City Hall, on the grounds that the Department simply had no budget to cover such expenses. Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels himself suggested

that calls of this character might be of a less formal nature. [D]iscarding the uniform…would dispense with it the necessity for carriage hire. The Department believes that the greeting would be just as cordial, that just as much deference would be shown, and the ensuing relations just as good, as if the initial call had been a more or less formal one and made in full uniform.1

Maybe the secretary meant that Andrews should have donned a business suit and walked to City Hall, or perhaps taken the streetcar. In any event, such a thing never would have happened in San Diego, where the arrival of a new commanding officer was often reason enough for the city government to declare a holiday. In San Diego, the Chamber of Commerce would have taken charge of the whole affair. Members of the Chamber’s board of directors would have arranged the visit with the mayor in the first place, and a Chamber hospitality committee would have assembled a motorcade to carry the commandant wherever he needed to go. San Diegans would have been terribly disappointed had an officer shown up in anything less than full regalia. And to be sure, the meeting would have been followed by a banquet in the Navy man’s honor, either at the U.S. Grant or Hotel Del Coronado, San Diego’s finest resorts. When someone as important as the Secretary of the Navy or an admiral came to town, Chamber of Commerce leaders took the train to Oceanside or even Los Angeles to intercept the celebrity en route and accompany him to his destination at the end of the line.

Why were San Diegans so interested in the Navy? Why did they go to such lengths to demonstrate enthusiasm, respect and generosity—indeed, reverence—for this branch of the American armed forces? In short, because meaningful, permanent growth had eluded the city throughout the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The city remained relatively isolated by virtue of its poor railroad connections and a largely unimproved harbor, lacking a reliable water supply, limited in terms of its indigenous capital resources, and generally leery of industrial development. The Navy therefore appeared to hold more promise as an engine of growth than other more conventional means. If San Diego was to grow but remain a tranquil and healthy “city beautiful,” as some of its leading boosters hoped, it would have to follow an as yet uncharted course. And that is where the Navy entered the picture.

San Diego could not hold a candle to California’s great metropolis, San Francisco; and San Diegans viewed the prodigious growth of the Los Angeles region since the 1870s as a degrading insult. H.P. Wood, the secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, summed up the city’s turn-of-the-century mood in dark terms indeed, noting “a general feeling of depression in San Diego, [where] glum faces meet one at every corner….” Strangers felt it too—they “notice our want of parks and boulevards, [and] the unattractive condition of our residence streets, with the result that the enthusiasm engendered by our delightful climate and beautiful bay soon subsides….”2

What would it take to relieve the depression or otherwise allow San Diegans to enjoy their vaunted birthright? According to the Chamber of Commerce, nothing less that the concerted “upbuilding” of the city would do, and that meant great surges in population, construction, industry and commerce. In fact, the Navy was only one of many straws at which Chamber of Commerce directors grasped, but by 1915 it was the one that seemed to hold the best potential for success.

As early as 1900, business and civic leaders in San Diego had begun to establish a highly focused “naval strategy” that started to pay small dividends almost right away. Guided mainly by the directors of the Chamber of Commerce, a tightly knit group of the city’s most influential citizens, San Diegans initiated extraordinary efforts to attract the attention of officials in the Navy Department, hoping that they would choose this southernmost port on the Pacific as the site for future naval bases and other shore activities. Touting what in their minds was a miraculous combination of natural advantages, they began to pepper the Navy Department with pleas to take some notice.3

During the World War I period visual evidence of the fruits of San Diego’s pursuit of the Navy became famously abundant: one could hardly avoid the sheer weight of the naval presence in and around town, whether measured in terms of the number of uniformed men to be found in the city’s public spaces at any hour of the day, the participation of sailors and marines in public events, the number of warships in the harbor, or warplanes roaring overhead. San Diego was growing much the way its boosters had hoped, and no one doubted the part the Navy played as demographic and economic indicators ticked upward. Despite the rapid military demobilization that shrank the nation’s armed forces once the war ended, San Diego’s civic leaders and citizens took a series of steps which just as rapidly turned the city into a major metropolitan-military complex.4 Clearly, the citizens of San Diego, the highest officials in the Navy Department, top uniformed officers in the service, and the Congress—which controlled the purse strings—developed strong ways and means to accommodate one another. Perhaps the most important element in this process of give and take was the emergence of a unique civic culture through which San Diego identified itself as a complete “navy town,” where the needs, interests and desires of the service seemed always to come first. How this happened, and what occurred as a result, will be the focus of the balance of this essay.


From the very beginning, San Diegans found it challenging to attract the favorable attention of the Navy Department. At the turn of the twentieth century, Navy ships visited San Diego with some regularity, but there was no permanent naval establishment there to speak of. Thus the directors of the Chamber of Commerce felt it necessary to sell the idea of San Diego as a naval base to high-ranking naval officials. For the time being, however, Admiral of the Navy George Dewey remained unmoved, noting that to lavish any money on San Diego Bay for dredging or other improvements would be a waste. In Dewey’s opinion, the Navy was too small in size to warrant expansion into someplace as undeveloped as San Diego; moreover, at best, “San Diego [was] among the ports of the second order of strategic importance.”5

In 1907 President Theodore Roosevelt—long a direct target of San Diego boosters’ pleas—provided the city with an unprecedented opportunity to prove its worth to the Navy. Having dispatched his Grand Fleet on an around-the-world tour, the city’s leaders set their sights on luring the flotilla into their harbor—no small task under the circumstances that prevailed at the time. With the clearly stated assumption that the event would be a “great advertisement” for the city, the Chamber of Commerce went to great lengths to mobilize public interest and support. The organization’s directors corresponded tirelessly with Roosevelt, officials in the Navy Department, members of Congress and the fleet commander himself, Admiral Robley Evans, in hopes of obtaining a commitment to that end. They created a Fleet Welcoming Committee that raised more than $20,000, mostly in contributions from one to five dollars apiece.

Civic groups and chambers of commerce in the Los Angeles area thought they and not San Diego should host the armada first. This threat prompted the San Diego committee to charter a fishing boat to carry the mayor and a delegation of Chamber directors six hundred miles south to intercept the fleet off the coast of Mexico. There they lobbied the admirals directly on the foredeck of a battleship! The San Diegans received assurances that the fleet would indeed stop at San Diego first, but Admiral Evans insisted that the harbor channel was too shallow, too narrow, and too dangerous, so the big ships would anchor outside the bay off Coronado. Here was a perfect moment for the San Diego boosters to plead their case for a harbor dredging project before a whole pack of admirals, and they did just that.6

Could there be any doubt as to the warmth of San Diego’s welcome? Parades, ceremonies, balls, guided tours, dinners, luncheons, teas, theatrical presentations, and “private drawing-room functions at the homes of prominent San Diego people” were all part of the order of the day when the sailors landed on April 15, 1908. The Union reported that 75,000 people turned up for the procession that ran nearly two miles. At Coronado, distinguished guests from all over the nation gathered to honor the seamen, and patriotism “ran riot” all over town. The Governor of California extended the state’s welcome—a real coup for San Diego—and the enthusiasm was “so great that the very hilltops echoed and re-echoed with the mighty sounds of cheering.”7

The fleet’s visit to San Diego was by all accounts a roaring success. The editors of the Union chided those people who held “false ideas of economy or philanthropy” to change their minds and support not only the expansion of the battle fleet (a bill to that end was presently before Congress), but also join with those who called for a larger permanent naval presence on the Pacific coast.8 San Diego’s boosters now redoubled their efforts to win the coveted appropriations for harbor improvements and naval bases, and the directors were ready as ever to capitalize on the gains they had made during these dramatic events. Their goal was to engineer an increase in the city’s population and trade; the visit of the fleet provided a unique avenue in which to pursue it.

One prominent San Diegan, newspaper magnate E.W. Scripps, discovered the boosters’ true intentions with regard to the visit of the fleet, and it appalled him. Scripps informed the welcoming committee that “nothing would have been more repugnant to [him] than this idea of the community seeking to make a profitable speculation out of an ostensibly patriotic demonstration.” Scripps himself felt that most San Diegans had been “activated by no other motive than pure national patriotism and a desire in some way to impress upon the government and people of the United States that they approved of the policy of a great and powerful national navy.” It horrified Scripps that the national government along with the general public might “learn to believe that this whole, mighty demonstration attending the visit of the fleet to the Pacific Coast was nothing more than a huge real estate advertisement.”9

Scripps was himself a member of the Chamber of Commerce and a great booster of San Diego. With his sister Ellen Browning Scripps and other family members, he gave money and property to such organizations as the Marine Biological Association of San Diego (the direct predecessor of the University of California’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography) not only for the sake of the good work such organizations could do, but to attract further interest and investment in the San Diego region. As disturbed as he might have been by the Chamber’s use of the Navy as a real estate promotion, he must have understood its value. In any event, no one else seemed to mind, and within a few short years, the Navy began to respond in just the way the directors of the Chamber of Commerce hoped it would.10


The relationship between the city and the Navy began to improve after the election of 1912 when voters sent William Kettner to Congress. Between that year and the early 1920s, the unique attributes of San Diego’s civic culture emerged and solidified in numerous ways. Throughout his four terms in Congress, Kettner remained a director of the Chamber of Commerce, whose business he promoted vigorously and without cease. Because he communicated with his fellow directors at least once per week while in Washington, the board voted in 1914 to mark him present at every one of its weekly meetings. And from this point forward, cultivating the interest of the Navy was both the Chamber’s as well as Kettner’s most important endeavor. Kettner nurtured relationships with ranking naval officials that were both cordial and businesslike; his success in bringing the Navy’s “bacon” home to San Diego is one of the city’s most celebrated traditions. Even before he officially took his seat in the House of Representatives, Kettner went straight to the top officer of the Navy to plead San Diego’s case. But Admiral Dewey would have none of it.11 Thus the congressman had to move mountains to overcome the resistance he found not only in the Navy Department but elsewhere in the federal government in order to send naval and related appropriations in San Diego’s direction.

The first item on the Chamber’s naval agenda during the Kettner era was some much-need dredging at the entrance to the harbor and in front of he Navy’s languishing coal depot at Ballast Point. Because Admiral Dewey still believed that “San Diego’s strategic importance was more apparent than real,” Kettner had to overcome stiff resistance to his pleas, which he did mainly through persistence and force of character. With Dewey finally on his side, Kettner persuaded the House Rivers and Harbors committee to push an appropriation of $238,000 through Congress. The dredging that followed improved the approach to the harbor significantly, and it also made the Navy’s coaling station much more functional, thus increasing San Diego’s attraction as a future naval port. Kettner was now well on his way to earning his sobriquet as “San Diego’s million-dollar congressman.”

Next came the Navy’s purchase of a small parcel of land at Chollas Heights for a radio transmitter. Here Kettner and his fellow Chamber of Commerce directors had to persuade naval officials to place the transmitter in San Diego rather than in the Los Angeles or San Francisco areas. Acting as real estate salesmen, they presented their naval counterparts with several different properties from which to choose, most of which they either owned themselves or whose owners they represented. Chamber member Ed Fletcher—a pioneering real estate developer, among his other pursuits—offered some of his own land in his new Grossmont subdivision free of charge to the Navy, confident that the presence of the service would stimulate the sale of nearby lots. The property that the Navy men wanted most of all, however, belonged to an outsider named Henry F. Carling, of Phillipsburg, New Jersey, who had no desire to cooperate with the Chamber or the Navy by reducing his asking price. The Navy Department went ahead with the transaction anyway, with much help from Congressman/Chamber Director Kettner. The Naval Radio Transmitting Facility’s six-hundred foot tall towers soon became a fixture on the landscape and in the city’s heritage as well. Aware of how close San Diego had come to losing the station to a property in Orange County, the directors of the Chamber of Commerce vowed to maintain tighter control of their naval connections in the future.12

The directors of the Chamber/Kettner axis had worked long and hard to persuade the Navy Department to name a ship after their fair city, and when the event finally occurred in September 1914, the city declared a legal holiday, gave a banquet for all naval officers then in town, and held a barbecue in Balboa Park for all 3,000 enlisted men then present. The Chamber of Commerce organized a giant fleet of private automobiles to provide all sailors with a ninety-minute sightseeing excursion. In case these acts were not enough to make the desired point, the city’s theaters offered free admission to all sailors in uniform, and the streetcar company declared a fare holiday for Navy men as well. On the Friday following the great day, the manager of the U.S. Grant Hotel threw a ball “in honor of the Officers and their ladies” at his personal expense.13

Colonel Joseph Pendleton, commander of the 4th Regiment, United States Marines, was among the honored guests that night, and after dinner he delivered a brief address in which he explained the nature of his current activities. He praised the climate and spoke of his desire for a permanent base in San Diego; he thanked business leader John D. Spreckels and the local citizens for their hospitality, he waxed poetic for a moment, and then delivered his punchline: “[W]e have learned to love you and your city, and…wherever the units of the 4th Regiment may be scattered, from its Colonel to its youngest member, wherever one of us be found, there will be found a SAN DIEGO BOOSTER.”14 It would be easy to dismiss Pendleton’s remarks as nothing more than good-natured banquet talk, uttered in the wine-induced heat of the moment. In fact, it signaled the beginning of a turning of the tide in the city’s naval fortunes.

The directors of the Chamber of Commerce knew now that the right people—the targets of their relentless promotions—actually heard their message and responded in appropriate ways. As they so dearly hoped would be the case, their next big event, the Panama-California Exposition, provided the boosters with a seemingly endless parade of opportunities to clinch the deals they had been dreaming about for years. When the Exposition opened its doors officially on January 1, 1915, it seemed to lift the spirits of San Diegans who found themselves and their businesses depressed by the outbreak of World War I in Europe.15 The Panama Canal itself, which had been unofficially open for business for the better part of a year promised to relieve the city’s commercial isolation, while at the same time it simply had to impress the Navy’s decision-makers with San Diego’s growing strategic importance as a Pacific port. The Exposition proved the perfect venue to tie these themes together in a dramatic and convincing demonstration of progress made as well as progress to come.

The boosters and the community at large rallied around the Exposition, lavishing more resources upon it than they had ever mustered in the past. The citizens’ committee that took the matter in hand raised more than a million dollars in contributions, and the federal government offered $250,000 as well. In 1913, the city’s voters approved a new $850,000 bond, earmarked strictly for the Exposition, by a margin of sixteen-to-one. Now they could turn the 1400-acre “barren waste” that was City Park into the jewel it deserved to be.16 Exposition promoters left nothing to the imagination in their public solicitations for funds. The language of their advertisements hammered home the idea that while citizens’ investments in the fair would help to assure the city’s future, individual residents would themselves receive the most immediate and tangible benefits, no less than a tenfold return on their outlay.17

To Colonel Pendleton’s delight, the Navy Department ordered him to move his marines from North Island to the Exposition grounds, where he established a model camp; there the marines staged daily demonstrations, parades and reviews for the visitors.18 Believing that a constantly rotating naval flotilla would constitute a spectacle of its own, Exposition president G. Aubrey Davidson asked Congressman Kettner to use his influence at the Navy Department to make sure that warships were not diverted to Panama for the formal opening of the canal. And the Navy obliged him.19 When ships came into the harbor, their crews welcomed inquisitive members of the public on board for guided tours. The ships also provided spectacular illuminations of the bay and waterfront at night with their high-powered spotlights.20 Events soon fulfilled the boosters’ ebullient claims about the meaning and the value of the Exposition. Before the fair finally closed down two years later, more than 3.7 million visitors had passed through its gates, a fact the Chamber of Commerce used to explain a strong surge of population growth lasting into the 1920s.21

When Kettner visited the Exposition in mid-March at the head of the largest congressional delegation ever to come to San Diego, he met Pendleton for the first time. Over dinner one day, the colonel informed the congressman of his desire to establish his advance base in San Diego, preferably on North Island. For reasons of his own, Kettner suggested a place called Dutch Flats, part of the semi-submerged tideland located halfway between the naval coal depot on Point Loma and the downtown waterfront. The congressman claimed that his hillside home overlooked Dutch Flats, and that he had long “visualized it into a beautiful place, and wanted [his] dream to come true.”22 He did not, however, allude to his two-pronged hidden agenda with regard to this rather forlorn property. First, Kettner had already been at work for more than a year on an as-yet unannounced plan to turn Dutch Flats into a naval complex; and second, part of the tidal flat belonged to his close friends and associates who owned and operated San Diego Securities Company.

When Franklin Roosevelt came west to view the fair just two weeks later, Pendleton and a coterie of Chamber directors greeted him as he stepped off the destroyer that had carried him down from San Pedro; this was the colonel’s first meeting with the assistant secretary of the Navy. Pendleton had been well briefed a few days earlier to be “nice” to Roosevelt, whose friendliness toward the Marine Corps was worth cultivating.23 Ushering Roosevelt onto the Exposition grounds was “one of the largest and most impressive” military parades in San Diego history, composed of no less than “three coast artillery companies and band from Fort Rosecrans, crews of [all the Navy] ships [then in the harbor], the battalion of marines and squadron of cavalry from the Exposition, and other military organizations.”24

Kettner had just missed meeting Roosevelt on his home turf, but when Roosevelt returned to the capital, the two men spoke of another long-cherished dream—moving the Navy’s west coast training station from Goat Island, on San Francisco Bay, to San Diego. According to Kettner’s memoir, Roosevelt was “really delighted with San Diego….[H]e made the statement that he found at Goat Island among the Navy boys so much sickness [due to San Francisco’s insalubrious climate] that it was quite distressing, and practically assured me that if I should make some effort to remove the Base to San Diego, I could have his support.”25 The marine base, however, seemed to occupy a low priority on Roosevelt’s agenda at that moment.

George Burnham (a director of the Chamber and vice president of San Diego Securities) showed how much he had learned from the recent radio-station transaction: he quickly offered to waive [San Diego Securities’] “anticipated profit” by dropping the price from the $400,000 originally asked to a mere $250,000, which figure the company claimed to be their cost, plus a thirty per cent “carrying charge.” According to testimony Kettner gave to the House Naval Affairs Committee, it was Chamber of Commerce representatives who met with officers of San Diego Securities and convinced them to reduce the price and forgo any profit on the sale. To sell their Dutch Flat holdings in one swift transaction must have been an attractive proposition to them, for it would have cost the company a considerable sum to improve and subdivide the property themselves, as they had originally intended to do.26 Upon receipt of this intelligence, General George Barnett, commandant of the Marine Corps, immediately contacted the Secretary of the Navy, telling him that “The citizens of San Diego are most anxious for such a post, and would be inclined to do everything possible to aid the Navy Department in whatever manner they could.”27Plenty more booster-pressure was applied all around during the next few months, and the parties did ultimately reach a mutually satisfactory agreement: the Navy Department purchased Dutch Flats for $250,000, while the City of San Diego donated five hundred acres of adjacent tidelands to complete the package.


The federal government began to reclaim the low-lying mudflat through a massive dredging and filling operation, and improve the property by building a multimillion-dollar “Advance Marine Base.” The Chamber of Commerce understood the significance of what was about to take place for it convinced the Navy Department to invite Bertram Goodhue, chief architect of the Panama-California Exposition, to lay out a preliminary plan for the base. Soon the Navy’s Bureau of Yards and Docks appointed Goodhue consulting architect for the entire project, a clear sign, according to the San Diego Union, that the base would become “one of the showplaces of California.” The Bureau also retained Goodhue to design North Island Naval Air Station, a project he enjoyed because of the unique challenges it posed.28

When Goodhue began work on the Exposition, he and his associates had already achieved international renown for their landmark designs at the United States Military Academy, Rice University, two churches in New York City, and the La Santisima Trinidad cathedral in Havana, Cuba. The Cuban project provided the underpinnings for much of what Goodhue accomplished at the Exposition—the emergence of a style called “Spanish Colonial Revival” that became popular all over California. The plan he developed for the marine base included forty-five permanent buildings all constructed in this fashion, laid out in clustered formal arrangements around parade grounds and park areas, with buildings linked by arcades.29

With the dredging and filling eighty percent complete, groundbreaking for the first permanent structures on the base took place in March 1919. The Marine Corps recalled Pendleton (now a brigadier general, thanks in part to lobbying by his friends at the Chamber of Commerce) from Parris Island to San Diego in October 1919 to command all Marine Corps activities in the area. He oversaw construction on the base, corresponding frequently with Goodhue whenever contractors or officials in the Bureau of Yards and Docks tried to change the plans. Pendleton told his superiors his goal to “make it the most beautiful and picturesque military post in the United States.” Considering how undeveloped San Diego remained at this time, and how ugly were the forlorn Dutch Flats, such talk must have been music in San Diegans’ ears.

Steadfast though they were, supporters of Goodhue’s plan could not avoid the cutbacks in military spending that followed after the end of World War I, nor could they adequately answer the $1.5 million cost overrun that occurred before builders completed the first set of barracks in 1921. Yards and Docks demanded that the number of buildings be reduced along with other significant modifications to the overall design of the base in order to save money. The mayor, the city council, the Chamber of Commerce, and U.S. Senator Hiram Johnson (among many others) leapt into to the fray to beg the Navy Department to keep to the original plans. It would be a “big mistake,” said Chamber president E.B. Gould, to “do anything that would spoil the outline of this group of buildings.” Senator Johnson told Admiral Parks, chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks, that the proposed changes were “not satisfactory” to General Pendleton, “nor [were] the citizens of San Diego pleased with the same.”30

Admiral Parks remained unmoved: the powers in Washington modified the project, as he put it, to “secure more efficiency in administration at the Post, more convenience to the enlisted men, and economy in construction.” The first phase of development ended in 1926 with approximately sixty percent of the base completed, mostly in accordance with Goodhue’s grand design. The next wave of building commenced in 1939. The Navy Department resurrected some of the old plans from the 1920s and expanded the facilities on the base so that it could accommodate the new personnel and activities in support of the coming war effort. Although architectural critics have claimed that the economies taken during the interwar period prevented the installation from becoming the perfect gem it might have been, the base nevertheless remains an aesthetically striking, functional example of a major style developed in San Diego, and a completely unique artifact of the city’s “metropolitan-military complex.”31

The story of Pendleton’s life and career in San Diego represents very well the depth and complexity of San Diego’s emergent, all-encompassing civic culture. Pendleton seemed predisposed to shine especially brilliantly in this unique environment.32 During the time the 4th Marines were stationed at the Panama-California Exposition, their model camp was among the first attractions visitors saw as they entered the grounds, and by many accounts it was one of the most popular. When Pendleton returned to San Diego after World War I, his life in San Diego thereafter makes an interesting case in point with regard to the methods of military lionization the Chamber of Commerce perfected during the 1920s. Pendleton took up his second tour of duty at the Marine Base with pleasure in 1919, where one of his most important tasks was to guard the architectural integrity of the much-cherished Goodhue design. He retired in 1924 to a gracious custom-built home in Coronado, served on that town’s school board for fourteen years, and was elected Mayor of Coronado for two terms, serving from 1928 to 1930. From the time of his arrival in 1914 until his death in 1942, in uniform and out, he was one of the city’s most ardent boosters.

The significance of these details of one man’s career in San Diego is both substantive and symbolic. It speaks to the larger story of San Diego’s civic culture in several distinct ways. First, Pendleton’s, the Marines’, and the Navy’s problems had become San Diego’s problems, and the reverse was by now every bit as true. Second, since the time of World War I, the growth of the city and the growth of the Navy had become inextricably intertwined. Who could now question the benefits that might accrue to San Diego every time the Navy built a new ship, established a new aviation squadron, or contemplated building a new base? Third, the life and general well-being of the city had become increasingly dependent upon various agencies of the federal government, especially those related in any way to the armed forces. Whenever San Diegans had anything to celebrate, they called in the Army, the Navy, and the Marines, whether to march in their parades, to stage aerial extravaganzas, to show off their might or technological advancements, or to entertain the city’s visitors. Fourth, naturally, the city had to do its part to reciprocate, which explains why the municipal government, the Chamber of Commerce, and the general population undertook such massive and continual efforts to entertain “their” men in uniform. Fifth, the lives and welfare of individual sailors and marines, from General Pendleton down to the most ordinary sailor or recruit, seemed to have occupied civic leaders at least as much as any other issue, and oftentimes more. And finally, the city now advertised itself to the world as a Navy town, by which fact it hoped to attract tourists and settlers alike because of the money they would bring with them to spend in San Diego. The Navy, in other words, had become the sine qua non of San Diego’s very existence.33

San Diegans tried hard and succeeded well at accommodating the Navy during the World War I years. They gave over all of Balboa Park to the service once the Exposition closed down in March 1917, and all of the parks land and buildings became a training station for naval recruits, Marines, and naval aviators. Within a year of war’s end, the city’s voters, led by the Chamber of Commerce, offered the Navy Department vast tracts of bayfront property (as well as a corner of its precious Balboa Park) at no cost to the service, other than the promise to build large bases in the immediate future, which promises were all fulfilled by the early 1920s.

But enough of real estate. By this time San Diego was well on its way to become the preeminent “navy town” on the West Coast. The reticent Admiral Dewey had retired, his office replaced by a new, more powerful Chief of Naval Operations [CNO]. Admiral William Benson, its first incumbent, had to be educated by his staff on the San Diego story, and they informed him in no uncertain terms that it was now necessary to develop San Diego “as a main operating base for the Pacific Fleet, and as a repair base for destroyers, submarines and other small craft of that Fleet.” Moreover, “the operations of the Fleet on the West Coast [would] require, in addition to the aviation training and operation station on North Island, additional facilities in San Diego Harbor, consisting of a supply base, repair base for all but capital ships, and a large addition to the fuel supply base….”34 The Navy Department commissioned Naval Base San Diego in December 1919, but found in less than two years’ time that operations there were sufficiently large to warrant creation of a whole new naval district with San Diego its headquarters. Its first commandant, Rear Admiral Roger Welles, seemed truly to deserve the nickname by which San Diegans have called the holder of this office ever since: “the naval mayor of San Diego.”35

On the San Diego side of the equation, each time a proposition appeared on the ballot to give the Navy more land, the voters approved it by overwhelming majorities. And from this point forward, they courted their naval benefactors—whether prospective or proven—with dazzling intensity. These actions signified what was arguably the single most noteworthy aspect of San Diego’s civic culture, as well as the Chamber of Commerce’s most important pursuit, especially if the volume of their records devoted to the Navy may be judged any indicator. Throughout the 1920s and ‘30s the boosters eclipsed all their previous efforts care to lavish gifts, entertainments, travel expenses, and perpetual red-carpet treatment for naval officers by a wide margin. Frequently the Chamber’s Army and Navy Committee, or the Entertainment Committee, would lay on additional social events, including teas, dances, theater outings, and the like for the benefit of those members of the local naval establishment with whom the visitor had some particular business. Naturally, the base commandants, the public works officers, and others of the higher ranks were usually invited along. If the dignitary had indeed arrived on a naval ship, the ship’s crewmen received their own red-carpet treatment, which often included trolley passes, theater tickets, picnics, and most of all, large public dances held either on the downtown piers or at indoor dance halls. By the 1930s, these Chamber-sponsored dances had become almost a weekly feature in the life of the city, sometimes attended by as many as 6,500 people. The directors also planned events for the enlisted men’s enjoyment well in advance, as was they did in the spring of 1932, when they set a full agenda for the coming summer that included four large dances expected to attract thousands of sailors.36

Beyond special events for high-ranking visitors, the officers who were stationed in San Diego for a term of years walked into a ready-made social whirl where their presence was always in great demand. The society editor of the Union regularly noted officers’ (and their family’s) comings and goings, and whenever the paper reported on a high-society function, the names of any number of officers and their wives always appeared. Almost all naval officers in residence in San Diego had at least the opportunity to become instant socialites, representing as they did the cream of the city’s population. Officers’ wives often hosted lavish parties for the rest of the local elites, and just as frequently rose to positions of leadership in charitable organizations such as the Red Cross, YMCA, Sailors’ Aid, and Community Chest.37 The local officer corps appeared regularly at Rotary, Kiwanis, and Lions Club meetings, and city schools as well, speaking to large and appreciative audiences of both adults and children on topics related to their own expertise, international diplomacy, and even “clean living.”

As always, the language the Chamber directors employed in their discussions of naval matters fell neatly into one or more well-tried categories: friendship, honor, patriotism, national defense, or San Diego’s “natural rights.” Far surpassing these, however, was the starkly mercantilist, if not mercenary, point of view that by now appeared innate among civic leaders. All other considerations aside, more naval activity in San Diego meant more business activity, more real estate development, construction of more critical public works, and more money flowing through the pipeline from Washington, D.C.


In the end, the Navy Department contributed mightily to the completion of some of San Diego’s most urgent infrastructure needs. The famed Nolen Plan—a grand “City Beautiful” design commissioned by George W. Marston in 1908 and updated in 1926, but only partially implemented—was prominent among them. Prior to World War II, San Diegans had been able to take great advantage of several New Deal programs in order to obtain partial funding and low-cost manpower for civic improvements to the waterfront that city-planner John Nolen had suggested long before. With the help of the Works Progress Administration, the Civil Works Authority, and Public Works Administration in particular, the city fathers had built a handsome city hall and county administration center, featuring a panoramic view of the harbor. The federal agencies also dredged a great deal of the bay, reclaiming hundreds of acres of land in the process; expanded the airport; made many millions of dollars worth of improvements to the various naval bases in the area; and were at this moment studying ways and means to construct Harbor Drive between the destroyer base and downtown to the south, and the airport, Marine Base, Naval Training Station, and Fort Rosecrans to the north and west.38 These were all elements of the Nolen Plan.

The Navy had taken up the matter of Harbor Drive itself, recognizing its potential to move great volumes of men and materiel efficiently from one base to another—a critical issue during wartime or national emergency. In the first Nolen Plan of 1908, a major stretch of the proposed Harbor Drive shared the territory with a grand esplanade, and provided for parks and other suitable public entertainments. The 1926 update reflected some of the vast changes the city had undergone during the intervening years, in particular the naval bases and airport, but the basic concept remained the same. Unfortunately, much of it fell out of date during the 1930s when Consolidated Aircraft and Lindbergh Field took over property reserved under the plan for parks and recreation areas. The plan, however, included a large tract close to downtown for a civic center, which indeed became its use; the groundbreaking for this project took place in December 1935.39

The Navy ratified the Nolen Plan soon after the Chamber and city government expressed their approval of it (in September 1927), and as many records of the Navy’s Bureau of Yards and Docks indicate, the service was scrupulous in reviewing the plan and conforming to it as it developed its own public works. Not long before the official onset of the war emergency, the Chamber applied to CNO William Leahy for his approval to realign the still-proposed Harbor Drive to pass through Navy property, which it would have to do in order to skirt the much-enlarged Lindbergh Field and Marine Base. The boosters also hoped the Navy would contribute to the new road’s construction. To encourage the Navy Department to support these ideas, the Chamber promised to place on the upcoming ballot the transfer of up to $600,000 worth of real estate that the Department then coveted for the expansion of its shore establishments. The terms of the Chamber’s deal presented the whole business in the name of national defense and reciprocal relations between city boosters and naval officials, by then dominant elements in San Diego’s civic discourse for many years. Admiral Blakely answered the call a year later in businesslike terms in his reply to the Chamber, and supported the organization’s point of view.40

With the war emergency under way, Blakely gave Harbor Drive second priority on his list of immediately essential road construction projects, after improved access roads leading to the Marine Base and the Naval Training Station. As part of his responsibility to relieve the already staggering urban congestion, the district engineer sought permission and funding from the Public Roads Administration to commence work, noting that “complete development of this project may not be required but portions such as are necessary for immediate access to the naval establishments.” The wording of this request suggests that the military would seek its own solutions to problems and work to fulfill its own needs independent of the city.41

Nearly two years later, Harbor Drive construction remained unfunded and the right-of-way over Navy land unsettled, although the Federal Works Agency administrator reported to the Chamber that he still favored the project. The Navy had invested $32 million in construction in San Diego in fiscal year 1940-41, but the service spent none of this on Harbor Drive. Not until November 1942 could the president of the Chamber of Commerce announce the forthcoming completion of the road, scheduled for spring 1943.42

Two of the of the city’s most pressing concerns, harbor development and the water supply, also fell to the Navy to solve during the 1930s and ‘40s. San Diego’s taxpayers had supported several projects over the years to improve the harbor and waterfront for use by commercial vessels, but by this time warships were far and away the most numerous occupants of the bay’s dock space, anchorages, and navigation channels. Technological progress in the form of ever-larger cruisers, battleships and now aircraft carriers put increasing demands on the harbor—the channels and turning basins required major dredging to accommodate the modernizing fleet. Moreover, the sheer number of warships on San Diego Bay, whether mothballed, homeported, or just passing through, threatened to overwhelm the harbor’s capacity to hold them. Mindful that such saturation might drive naval officials to take their business elsewhere, the Chamber of Commerce acted in the mid-‘30s to obtain a record-breaking federal appropriation to fund the necessary work. Only a few years earlier, the boosters had failed in their attempt to convince top admirals to designate San Diego as the home port to the aircraft carriers Lexington and Saratoga because the harbor was too constricted. According to the commander of the Pacific Battle Fleet, Admiral L.R. de Steiguer, improvements at San Diego for the sake of the carriers deserved no priority. He noted in remarkably blunt language that San Pedro was a much better place for the carriers in every respect, to the extent that he found it unnecessary “that the carriers go to a pier at [North Island] or even enter San Diego Bay.” Furthermore, at San Diego, the big ships would always be “in grave danger of grounding,” especially in “thick weather,” and that it would be a complete waste of money to attempt any of the improvements that might ameliorate the situation.43

Rising to the occasion, the Chamber of Commerce went to work on the Navy as never before. The directors presented the commander of the Navy’s carrier force with a formal invitation to bring the Saratoga into the harbor—a hair-raising feat that when accomplished caused the city to declare yet another holiday in honor of the Navy on November 6, 1931. Next, the boosters enlisted a much friendlier group of admirals to plead their case before Congress for a series of projects over the next five years. As part of its full-court-press on the powers in Washington, the Chamber commissioned an exceedingly attractive brochure of its own, titled “National Defense and the San Diego Dredging Program,” which it dispatched to all members of appropriate congressional committees, to “every flag officer on active duty in the Navy,” and of course, the President himself.44 Of particular interest is the fact that most of the text of this document, with the exception of an article by General Pillsbury, Chief of Engineers, and another by the president of Consolidated Aircraft, Reuben H. Fleet, was written by admirals on active duty, who had clearly learned to speak the Chamber’s own language very well indeed.45

Absent from “National Defense and the San Diego Dredging Program” was the kind of doubt that Admiral Dewey had expressed only twenty years earlier about San Diego’s strategic value. Now, the outgoing CNO, Admiral William Standley, in his introduction to the brochure, said that the harbor was of “vital strategical importance to the nation, both in peace and in war.” The brochure generated precisely the response for which the boosters had hoped. Letters poured into the Chamber from congressmen, naval officers, and other interested individuals from around the country, congratulating the organization for the brilliant prosecution of its campaign. How frustrating it must have been having to wait for Congress to appropriate the money, especially in light of new pressures emanating from the Navy.

For all of the miracles large and small that the city and its partners in the federal government worked upon San Diego during the early years of World War II, a solution to the water supply problem continued to elude them. After he had met with both the “industrial mayor,” Reuben Fleet, and the elected mayor, Percy Benbough, on September 23, 1940, Admiral Blakely—the naval mayor—realized as perhaps he never had before, that the city’s water shortage weighed especially heavily upon the Navy.46 The three leaders agreed that the present water supply was inadequate to meet the city’s anticipated growth, which they expected to exceed 100,000 people in the next year alone. They based this prediction upon the projected increase in naval shore activities, and on the aircraft plants, which at the moment had a backlog of orders in the amount of 300 million dollars.

Admiral Blakely told his superiors in Washington that he taken the initiative “[i]n view of the splendid cooperation which the Navy has always received from the City of San Diego….” In other words, he was doing it for the city and for the aircraft manufacturers more than he was doing it for himself or the Navy. Thus he recommended to the Secretary of the Navy that the Navy Department present the City of San Diego’s water supply problem to the appropriate Federal Agency with a request that immediate action be taken to secure approval of…an allocation of $7,700,000 be made from any Federal appropriation now available for the purpose so that actual construction of the pipe line may begin at the earliest possible date.47

The Navy Department appeared in no hurry to follow through with Blakely’s request. Nearly two years later—in August 1942—District Engineer Rufus Putnam issued a report on the matter suggesting that if the war ended within eighteen to twenty-four months, and if the rainfall and runoff were “above average during the next few years,” then there would be no need to spend so much money, because local supplies would suffice. In the meantime, the Corps of Engineers would keep a close eye on the situation, but would not even authorize a survey of the route of the proposed aqueduct until 1945. In any event, a conduit carrying Colorado River water into San Diego was to be a mere backup system, used only in emergencies.48

Rather than wait for the government, the Chamber’s water committee undertook to lead the city to tap the Colorado on its own. There were now approximately 125,000 military personnel inhabiting the city and 385,000 civilians; average daily water consumption had jumped from 21 million gallons per day in July 1939 to 51 million in July 1943. Thus the notion of the city taking responsibility for its own needs seemed to indicate a remarkable change in the Chamber’s thinking, for its directors had on a number of occasions asserted specifically that the Colorado River project was completely within the federal government’s bailiwick. Congressman Ed Izac stood behind that concept, telling them that the nation was “putting in standby water systems in many areas for the safeguarding of troops.” Therefore San Diego “should be safeguarded to the same extent….”49

The mayor and city council soon dropped all pretext of self-sufficiency and resolved forthwith to “initiate negotiations with the Navy and other appropriate Federal agencies to the end that the Government, at its sole expense, bring an adequate emergency supply of water to San Diego. Evidently, Admiral Blakely’s influence had not been sufficient to bring the Navy on board, even though the armed services’ activities in the vicinity consumed at least forty percent of the available supply. As if all of these complex issues combined were not enough to demand immediate action from the federal government, one more matter of long-standing urgency remained unsolved: the city and county’s claim on any Colorado River whatsoever would expire in 1946, unless the city was receiving at least some of that water prior to expiration of the claim. At this point, no one had any more time to lose!50

In May 1944, San Diego area voters approved by a margin of fifteen-to-one the proposition to create their own San Diego County Water District, which included the city of San Diego, Chula Vista, National City, Oceanside, and several rural constituencies. According to its charter, the new entity had the power to annex itself to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD), for which purpose negotiations were already underway.51 Just four months later, drought and population growth had combined to exhaust most of the city reservoirs’ reserves. At this point, President Roosevelt responded to the crisis personally, and he commissioned a study to find methods and financing for an aqueduct project. The committee the president caused to be appointed included representatives from the Bureau of Reclamation, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Works Agency, the San Diego County Water Authority, and of course, the Navy.

On October 21, 1944, the committee recommended that the federal government immediately begin construction of a pipeline to connect San Diego with the MWD’s Colorado River Aqueduct at San Jacinto. Because this had become a military project designed with the sole purpose of preventing a wartime shortage, local agencies (except for the new County Water Authority—a minor player, to be sure) had been removed from participation in decisions pertinent to the capacity and location of the aqueduct’s component parts. This served to hobble local options in planning for future contingencies, making the cost of the system’s later expansion much more expensive than it might have been had it been planned in conjunction with the appropriate civic authorities.52

Although the government nearly canceled its construction contracts in the wake of V-J Day, work began September 1, 1945 under Navy supervision. So urgent was the need for the new supply that the Navy started work prior to having obtained congressional approval of the arrangements. Chamber leaders could not have been more pleased with themselves, and with some justice claimed credit for stimulating “one of the greatest urban water development enterprises in the United States.” This sentiment suggests how eager they were to file away and forget all their years of inability to take the water problem firmly in hand. No matter though, for their favorite uncle had intervened just in time to rescue them. The first delivery of water from the Colorado arrived at the San Vicente reservoir in November 1947, at which point “less than a month’s requirements was on hand.”53 The aqueduct, however, was not exactly a free gift from Washington. Under the contract between the city and the Navy, it was agreed that San Diego would lease the pipeline at a rate that would amortize the hard cost, but not any interest expense, over a thirty-year period, when the city would own it free and clear.54

Within a year of the aqueduct’s completion, it became clear that its capacity would have to be doubled in order to sustain the county’s recent population explosion. Because the Navy owned the right-of-way, private financing of the expansion might prove impossible. Therefore, the County Water Authority, with the help of Congressman Clinton McKinnon, prevailed upon the Navy’s Bureau of Yards and Docks, the Federal Bureau of the Budget, and the Congress to establish and fund a second barrel of the aqueduct by way of a new lease-purchase agreement. Where the first barrel of the aqueduct was designed to solve a military emergency during wartime, the second barrel was proposed “to supply primarily municipal, industrial, and domestic water at government expense,” and thus was without federal precedent.55 Apparently in recognition of the many contributions San Diegans had made to the Navy’s own growth and well-being in the area, the appropriation passed in 1951 and the pipeline built shortly thereafter, solving the basic water problem for at least a while.

The aqueduct marked the apogee of San Diego’s relationship with the Navy, a long-term evolutionary process capped by the demands of carrying on a vast war in the Pacific. Various federal agencies, and especially the Navy, had all but dictated the ways and means of the city’s wartime growth, and the preeminence of the federal government in city affairs would not wane now that the war had ended. Although the influence and authority of the national government had in many respects eclipsed the boosters, the Chamber directors failed to interpret this as a reason for the organization to change course, and indeed, it did not.

Naturally, San Diegans had worried about the potential impact upon their community of demobilization at the end of World War II. Fortunately for the local economy, reductions in naval personnel were much smaller there than in many other areas.56 The Chamber of Commerce commissioned a lengthy report on the situation by a recently retired admiral friendly to the cause. Although this 1952 report mainly addressed the much-feared transfer of ships from San Diego to other ports, its most prominent conclusion was an appeal to the federal government for a new dredging program. By this late date, the apple of Theodore Roosevelt’s eye was strictly passé:

San Diego does not need the battleships which are held out by their deep draft, but it does need the new super-carrier Forrestal and her sister ship. It also needs all the destroyer and cruiser types it can accommodate. For these San Diego is the ideal harbor.57

Clearly, the Chamber’s hired wordsmith had not forgotten the city’s historic civic language—San Diego needed the Navy and its carriers, while the carriers needed San Diego, in that order. In 1950 the Chamber stated that “[u]nquestionably, San Diego’s biggest dollar comes from the military establishments, so it is good business to explore the fields of mutual cooperation with our friends in the service of the United States.”58 What if the Chamber of Commerce, the municipal government, and the citizens of San Diego had chosen other ways to overcome the natural obstacles to water and harbor development—indeed, to urban growth in general—and dealt more realistically with San Diego’s limitations? What if they had been able to live and be content with the city’s reputation as a tourist and health resort, with some smaller manufacturing enterprises, some agriculture, and a world-famous institute of marine biology as its principal attractions and economic mainstays? Was the “naval solution” the only means to solve their problems?

The choices that San Diego’s boosters made after 1900 in these matters conditioned the choices they made during the next four decades, in turn determining the outcome of many of the events discussed here. Had San Diegans and Navy men not learned to speak each other’s language so well, and not taken such good care of each other when their needs and desires seemed to demand such accommodation, the city might today be an entirely different place. Although the Navy no longer rules the economy or the culture, San Diego remains the nation’s preeminent military-urban complex, and the “naval mayor” is still a much-respected figure around town. As long as the United States feels the need to project its power overseas, there will be a Navy, and as long as there is a Navy, one might well imagine that a part of it will find its home in San Diego, a city that grew up with the service in so many ways.




1. 6th Endorsement, from Josephus Daniels to Bureau of Supplies and Accounts, April 1, 1915. United States National Archives, Washington, D.C. [hereafter cited as USNA-DC] Record Group 80, Secretary of the Navy General Correspondence [hereafter cited as RG80], file 4778-64 (Ph), box 165.

2. Secretary H.P. Wood to President and Directors, SDCOC, May 30, 1901, p. 5. Also, SDCOCBOD 1901, p. 380.

3. See, for example, H.P. Wood, “Report to the Board of Directors,” February 8, 1901, p. 3. Minutes of the weekly meetings of the San Diego Chamber of Commerce, [hereafter cited as SDCOCBOD], 1901, p. 282. Also, “The Pacific Ocean and Its Shores Are Destined To Be The Theatre Of The World’s Greatest Commercial Activity,” August 3, 1904. SDCOCBOD 1904, pp. 221-3.

4. Frederick L. Paxson, “The Great Demobilization,” in Paxson, The Great Demobilization and Other Essays (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1941), 4-22. Roger Lotchin, “The City and the Sword in Metropolitan California, 1919-1941,” Urbanism Past and Present 7:2 (Summer/Fall 1982): 1-16; “Introduction: The Martial Metropolis,” in Lotchin, ed., The Martial Metropolis in War and Peace (New York: Praeger, 1984), pp.xii-xiii; and for his most comprehensive analysis, Lotchin, Fortress California, 1910-1961: From Warfare to Welfare (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), esp. chaps. 1, 2, 5, 6, and 9.

5. Dewey to SecNav, October 26, 1904. General Board No. 414-1, USNA-DC RG80, General Board Letters, Vol. III.

6. Frank Flint to SDCOC, November 15, 1907. SDCOCBOD 1907-08, p. 802. Victor Metcalf to President, SDCOC, November 15, 1907. SDCOCBOD 1907-08, p. 805. Special Board of Directors Meeting, January 13, 1908. SDCOCBOD 1907-08, p. 3. Archibald Hart to President, SDCOC, January 16, 1908, SDCOCBOD 1907-08; and Minutes of the meeting of the Entertainment Committee, January 21, 1908, SDCOCBOD 1907-08, pp. 1-2. SDCOCBOD, February 12, 1908, p. 1, SDCOCBOD 1908 (1). “Fleet Will Not Enter Harbor While Here,” San Diego Union (hereafter cited as Union), 17 March 1908, p. 2.

7. Since the population of San Diego was considerably less than 40,000 at the time, the attendance at the parade is all the more remarkable. See “Cheering Thousands Greet The Greatest Naval Parade On Record,” Union, 16 April 1908, p. 3.

8. “A Chance For Missionary Work,” Union, 17 April 1908, p. 4

9. E.W. Scripps to C.E. Groesbeck, O.W. Cotton, L.S. McClure, and SDCOC, May 11, 1908. SDCOCBOD 1908 (2).

10. The visit of the Grand Fleet in 1908 was hardly the first time San Diegans invoked the Navy in their advertising schemes. The Hotel Del Coronado distributed a brochure in 1898 that offered guests the suggestion that they might “attend one of the weekly receptions on board the U.S. Cruisers of the Pacific White Squadron, some of which are usually riding at anchor in the harbor.” The hotel’s brochure for 1902 noted that the premises were “much frequented by officers of the Navy, their families residing there for extended periods.…” The Florence Hotel, near downtown San Diego included a photograph of the battleship U.S.S. Iowa in its 1904 brochure. A real estate developer’s 1905 advertisement for his new subdivision included a quote from assistant secretary of the Navy Charles Darling: “…I believe the harbor of San Diego, because of its location, is one of the most important in the United States, and that it will grow in importance in its relation to the Navy Department, and also in its relation to the commercial world.”

11. President General Board (Dewey) to Secretary of the Navy. Second Endorsement. General Board No. 414-1, March 15, 1913. USNA-DC RG80, file 10924-75, box 485.

12. See A.J. Shragge, “Radio and Real Estate: The U.S. Navy’s First Land Purchase in San Diego,” Journal of San Diego History (Fall 1996): 240-259.

13. Minutes of the meeting of the USS San Diego Committee, September 14, 1914, pp. 1-2. SDCOCBOD 1914.

14. Joseph Pendleton, “speech delivered at banquet at U.S. Grant Hotel, San Diego, in celebration of the re-christening the ‘California’ as the ‘San Diego’—September 16, 1914.” United States Marine Corps Historical Center, Pendleton Papers, box 2, folder 11. Emphasis original.

15. O.W. Cotton, The Good Old Days (New York: Exposition Press, 1962), 113-114.

16. This was notable in light of the fact that the city’s voters had turned down a park-improvement bond only a short time before. See Clarence McGrew, City of San Diego and San Diego County, (Chicago: American Historical Society, 1922) Vol. 1, 208-209. McGrew noted that “[m]ore than 95 per cent of the money was paid in….”

17. “Exposition Notice No. 1.” Union, 18 November 1910, p. 16.

18. Barnett to Pendleton, October 9, 1914. Pendleton Papers, box 2, folder 11. Also, 1915 Army and Navy Review: Being a Review of the Activities of the Officers and Enlisted Men Stationed in San Diego During the Exposition, n.p. An article in this remarkable document describes the model camp as a paragon of orderliness, where the “mess tents and all details of practical housekeeping can serve as models to members of the many Women’s Clubs, which visit the grounds in a body.”

19. Davidson to Kettner, September 22, 1914. USNA-DC RG80, file 27388-83.

20. The military’s quotidian activities were featured in a regular column in the Union called “Gleaned on the Prado and Isthmus,” a reference to the Exposition’s two principle venues. The comings and goings of American and foreign warships always received prominent coverage as well. Articles on this topic usually gave credit where it was due. See, for example, “Cruiser San Diego Will Remain in Port Until Jan. 12. Kettner’s Enterprise Holds Warship Another Week.” Union, 5 January 1915, p. 5. See also, “Marines Feature Program at Exposition.” Union, 8 March 1915, p. 12.

21. McGrew, City of San Diego, Vol. 1, 210-13.

22. William Kettner, Why It Was Done and How (San Diego: Frye & Smith, 1923), 52.

23. Laucheimer to Pendleton, March 17, 1915. Pendleton Papers, box 2, folder 12.

24. “Unique Reception for Marshall Planned,” Union, 28 March 1915, pp. 1-2.

25. Kettner, Why It Was Done and How, 60.

26. Lieutenant E.A. Swanson, Letter to Commission on Navy Yards and Naval Stations, 6 December, 1916. USNA-DC RG 80, file P-11-30. Also, Kettner, Why It Was Done and How, 58.

27. Kettner, Why It Was Done and How, 52, 58; George Burnham to George Barnett, August 19, 1915; George Barnett to Secretary of the Navy (Matèriel), August 26, 1915. Both letters in USNA-DC RG80, file 16721:95.

28. Stephen R. Wee and Stephen D. Mikesell, “National Register of Historic Places Historic District Evaluation for Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego,” [hereafter cited as “Historic District Evaluation”] United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1990, section 8, p. 9. Also, Union, 12 December 1918.

29. Wee and Mikesell, “Historic District Evaluation,” sec. 8, p. 9.

30. Gould to Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., Sept. 2, 1921, USNA-DC RG80, file 28751-18; Johnson to Parks, September 8, 1921, USNA-DC Record Group 71, Bureau of Yards and Docks General Correspondence [hereafter cited as RG71], file 677-1-SD.

31. Wee and Mikesell, “Historic District Evaluation,” sec. 8, pp. 9-24. Also, Richard Oliver, Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue (Cambridge: The Architectural History Foundation, 1983), 154.

32. George Burnham had once told Pendleton that “the gods of Nature made San Diego for just such fellows as you and…others whom we delight to call our friends.” Burnham to Pendleton, February 14, 1917. Pendleton Papers, folder 18, box 2.

33. Nothing illustrates this last point better than a full-page advertisement in National Geographic magazine for January 1942, in which the Chamber offered the Navy’s ships, airplanes, and men in uniform as the city’s primary tourist attraction.

34. Captain B.F. Hutchison, Senior Member, Planning Board, to CNO, December 11, 1919. USNA-DC RG45 Naval Records Collection of the Office of Naval Records and Library, Subject Files 1911-1923, file PN-12.

35. Navy Management Staff, “The Eleventh Naval District: A Factual Account of its Operation, including a description of its organizational relationship,” 15 September 1953, p. 22. Navy Department Library, Navy Yard, Washington, D.C. Also, R.E. Coontz to Commandants, Eleventh and Twelfth Naval Districts, January 26, 1921. United States National Archives-Laguna Niguel, Record Group 181, Files of the Commandant, 11th Naval District [hereafter cited as USNA-LN RG181], file 24514-II-2, box 31, folder 2000-1.

36. During fiscal year 1936, for example the Chamber listed thirty-six “entertainments,” only eleven which were not in honor of military men or congressmen. All told, 16,672 souls attended these events. Annual Report of the President of the SDCOC for the fiscal year ending October 31, 1936, Exhibit A. According to the same report for 1937, the Chamber staged forty-seven social functions for the Navy, with an attendance of 20,439.

37. One good example out of hundreds appeared in the “Society and Club” section of the Sunday Union on June 5, 1932: “This has been a gold braid season as far as San Diego’s and Coronado’s social calendar is concerned—for the visit of the scouting force to the west coast has occasioned many brilliant functions in honor of high ranking officers. The Admiral’s Ball given in April at Hotel Del Coronado for Adm. Frank R. Scofield, commander in chief of the United States navy, and flag officers, will be remembered as one of the most colorful events ever given on this coast.” This long article went on to note Admiral Schofield’s official reception aboard his flagship, U.S.S. Pennsylvania; that district commandant T.J. Senn and Mrs. Senn had held an “at home” in Schofield’s honor; and the guest list for the upcoming dinner-dance, “to be given by the City of San Diego and chamber of commerce….” To be sure, the names of every ranking Navy officer and his wife then in San Diego appeared on that roster, as did that of anyone who was anyone in town. Later still in the same article the paper announced fifteen more recent or future fêtes prominently featuring various officers and spouses, including such news as sorority-girl Miss Catherine Nimitz’s homecoming for the summer to be with her parents—Captain and Mrs. Chester Nimitz—after a year away at the University of California. (p. 4.)

38. In 1936, for example, the Navy Department submitted $5.8 million in requests to the PWA alone for naval base improvements. USNA-DC Record Group 72, Bureau of Aeronautics General Correspondence [hereafter cited as RG72], file NA11, v. 13, box 3878.

39. San Diego Federal Writers Project, San Diego: A California City, (San Diego: 1937), p. 70.

40. SDCOC to CNO, February 8, 1939. USNA-DC RG80, file NB12/N1-3 (390208), box 3147. Also, Blakely to SDCOC, October 24, 1940. USNA-LN RG181, file ND11/A16-1 (A5-Sd), box 143.

41. Blakely to SecNav, November 5, 1940; and Despatch from the District Engineer, PRA to Commissioner, PRA, November 1, 1940. Both in USNA-DC RG71, file ND11/N2-1 v.1, box 1366.

42. SDCOCBOD rwm August 7, 1941, pp. 2-3; SDCOC President’s end-of-year address, November 1942, in SDCOCBOD 1942. Harbor Drive presents an interesting case in its own right because of its innate complexities. The matter of realigning its route involved a series of exchanges of property, necessitated in part by the Navy’s recent accretion of waterfront property through some not entirely friendly condemnation proceedings. Moreover, as in many other examples of “government work,” countless bureaucratic wheels spun furiously between San Diego and the Navy Department to accomplish this particular business. USNA-DC RG71 documents these events exhaustively—a worthy topic for further study.

43. C.F. Hughes, CNO, to Bureaus and Offices and Divisions of Office of Naval Operations, December 13, 1927. USNA-DC RG72, file CV3/A4-3(5) (271213) Op-38-A-MW. Also, L.R. de Steiguer, CIC, Battle Fleet to CNO, June 20, 1928. USNA-DC RG 72, file H1-1/N22.

44. T.C. Macaulay, Executive Manager, SDCOC, to CNO, April 6, 1937. USNA-DC RG71, file QH(16)-San Diego/N22(341005-3), box 1353.

45. CNO William Standley, in “Foreword,” “National Defense and the San Diego Dredging Program,” (SDCOC, 1937), p. 7.

46. Although the “naval mayor” clearly exerted enormous influence in civic matters, it is nevertheless remarkable to find some of his powers committed to writing in official documents. For example, “the District Commandant is responsible for the expansion and construction of any Public Works which are required during the present or any other national emergency, and plans which have already been formulated and approved provide for such work being carried out under the cognizance of the Commandant and the direct supervision of the Public Works Officer.” Moreover, “The Commandant …desires to invite attention to the fact that the acquisition of any real estate…which may be required for expansion of Public Works on shore is a function of the District Commandant….” J.R. Defrees to all base commanders, San Diego Naval Bases, September 18, 1939. USNA-DC RG72, file ND11/A1-3 A16-1, box 3879. This being the case, one assumes that the Commandant selected the necessary real estate appraiser for all such acquisitions, including the practically numberless leases, purchases, and condemnations carried out in the District during the war. One also wonders, then, why in almost all transactions documented in Navy Department files only one appraiser’s name appears. Is it significant that that appraiser was booster/developer Oscar Cotton?

47. Blakely to SecNav, October 1, 1940. USNA-DC RG71, file ND11/N26-6 v. 1, box 1371.

48. Admiral R.S. Holmes to W.R. Felt, Regional Engineer, Federal Works Agency, September 29, 1942; Colonel Rufus Putnam, District Engineer, to Holmes, December 8, 1942; Felt to Putnam, October 29, 1942; and Putnam to Holmes, November 5, 1942. All in USNA-DC RG71, file ND11 NB1/N26-6, box 1371.

49. SDCOC, Ecm February 19, 1942, p. 2; and SDCOCBOD rwm August 20, 1942, p. 3.

50. SDCOC Ecm November 16, 1943; and SDCOCBOD rwm April 6, 1944. Emphasis added.

51. The San Diego County Water Authority, “First Annual Report,” (San Diego, 1946), 11-12, 15, 31-32.

52. Ibid., 33-35.

53. “Metropolitan Water District Directors to Tour San Diego Coastal Areas,” San Diego Business, p. 1. November 19, 1945; and “Water and San Diego County Growth,” iv-v.

54. The San Diego County Water Authority, “First Annual Report,” p. 35. Contract negotiations between the city and the Navy were affected by wartime pressures: because the emergency was so acute and time so short, the Navy threatened to withdraw from the project unless the city agreed to reimburse the construction costs over time, which left many San Diegans convinced that they had been forced to accept financially disadvantageous terms. In fact, it was a whopping good bargain for the city. Had San Diego issued a bond for $17,5000,000 (the Navy’s low estimate for the work), to be repaid over thirty years at a five percent annual interest rate, they would have had to pay back a total $33, 819,762—principal and interest!

55. “Water and San Diego County Growth,” vi-vii.

56. “The United States Navy…and San Diego” [sic]: A Reminder of What the U.S. Navy Means to San Diego,” in Union Title-Trust Topics, Vol. III No. 5 (September-October 1949), p. 10. For example, San Diego was then slated to lose 5% of its naval personnel, “compared with about 45% in other sections of the Eleventh Naval District.” This article went on to point out that “San Diego and its residents should direct constant attention and effort towards strengthening in every possible way the ties between Navy and civilian activities. Every loyal citizen of this community should keep in mind always the vastness of local naval undertakings, and how much they mean to our local economy and to our community life.” Such was the undiminished voice of boosterism, as it appeared in a magazine published by a title company, an enterprise dealing with the history and value of San Diego real estate.

57. Rear Admiral Ray Tarbuck, USN, ret., “Analysis of the Transfer of Naval Vessels from San Diego,” July 1952, p. 7.

58. SDCOC, “Annual Report, 1950,” n.p.

Abraham J. Shragge II: Born and raised in San Francisco; a resident of San Diego since 1982; B.A. in history, UC-Davis; M.A. and Ph.D. in Modern U.S. History, UCSD, 1998. Spent fourteen years in business (retail scuba diving and commercial real estate) before entering the graduate program at UCSD. Has taught history at San Diego City College, MiraCosta College and UCSD. Presently a Coordinator of Public Programs with the UCSD Civic Collaborative, engaged in projects including the compilation and publication of a Directory of San Diego County Historical Resources, creation of a San Diego Regional Studies Network, a San Diego Ex-Prisoners of War Oral History program, and teaching at UCSD. Family includes wife, Judy, Director of Fund Development for the San Diego-Imperial County Council of the Girl Scouts of America; son Alex (17), and daughter Katie (13).