Land’s End is part of the Golden Gate National Park, located on the northwest corner of the city of San Francisco. From this stunning location one can see the entrance to San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, and to the west the seemingly endless stretch of the Pacific Ocean. Hundreds of warships and thousands of men departed on these waters for battle in World War II – many of the ships and men never to return.
On the night of November 12-13, 1942 the U.S.S. San Francisco was part of what has quite often been called “the most savage close quarter naval engagement in history” off the island of Guadalcanal. The entire engagement lasted less than one hour, but numerous ships were lost and thousands lost their lives – many forever lost at sea.
The U.S.S. San Francisco survived that night to fight again in WWII. Many of her crew gave their lives that night, however. One small fact always reminds me of what horror that night must have held for the crew. During all of WWII fifty-seven (57) Medals of Honor were awarded to United States Navy personnel. On this one night alone four (4) crew members of the U.S.S. San Francisco earned the Medal of Honor – over 7% of the total awarded in the entire war. Dozens more earned the Navy Cross for bravery. Virtually the entire crew earned the Purple Heart.
The U.S.S. San Francisco Memorial is located at Land’s End. The memorial consists of various plaques and small memorials attached to an actual surviving section of the ship. The Bridge Wings of the ship (armor meant to protect the bridge) are permanently on display at the memorial. Standing inside the bridge wings and counting the shell holes is a sobering experience. Shells came from every direction – generally entering one side of the bridge wings, going through the bridge itself, and then exiting the other side of the bridge wings. It’s hard to comprehend how any living thing could survive on the bridge – yet they did.
Please visit the web site for the U.S.S. San Francisco Memorial at http://www.usssanfrancisco.org/. There you will find a history of the ship, the memorial itself, and best of all many stories of her crew.