San Diego is a prime strategic military location, especially for the Navy. With its long military history, San Diego has several notable monuments. One of the most accessible is the Greatest Generation Walk by the downtown harbor, a short distance from the airport. This is our guide to the Greatest Generation Walk.
The Greatest Generation is a term coined by Tom Brokaw for his 1998 book of the same name. It refers to the generation that lived through the Great Depression and fought in World War II. They were generally born between 1901 and 1927.
The Greatest Generation Walk is more of a stroll around a park as opposed to an actual walk. You can extend it into a walk around the harbor or see it as part of our bike ride from Liberty Station to the harbor. However, the actual area referred is Tuna Harbor Park, right next to the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Midway, one of San Diego’s premier attractions.
San Diego has a huge history as a leader in tuna fishing. Many of the fishermen were immigrants from Italy and Portugal. The Little Italy area directly to the north was founded by the tuna fishing industry. The Greatest Generation Walk combines both San Diego’s tuna fishing history with its military history. There is even a plaque on the service of the tuna fleet during World War II.
The Greatest Generation Walk can best be described as art installations around Tuna Harbor. These pieces are all in this small area. This article describes the prime pieces of art. There are also several quotes from famous World War II heroes such as General Douglas McArthur.
U.S.S. San Diego
One of the first pieces you will see is the large memorial to the U.S.S. San Diego carrier. The U.S.S. San Diego was one of the most decorated ships of World War II serving in 34 major battles with no loss of life. The library at the San Diego Maritime Museum has a complete history of its service from 1942 to its decommissioning in 1946. A map carved in the front of the monument shows the route the U.S.S. Sann Diego took.
The Homecoming Memorial is a statue of a sailor coming back to his wife and children. Of course, even in peacetime, this is still a frequent site in San Diego. Navy personnel often leave for six month or more deployments.
Aircraft Carrier Memorial
San Diego has been (and continues to be) a leading base for aircraft carriers. This memorial has the name of all aircraft carriers and their hull numbers inscribed. Amazingly there are 165 aircraft carriers listed! Of course, right next door you can tour the U.S.S. Midway aircraft carrier. The memorial also consists of statutes of two soldiers, presumably getting ready for deployment.
The most notable monument of the Greatest Generation Walk is the Unconditional Surrender statue. This 25-foot statue is a representation of the famous photo of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square on V-J-Day, August 15, 1945. The New York Post has an interesting article about a 2012 book that uncovered the identity of the sailor and nurse. This statute has been the subject of controversy with some complaining it is undignified. Originally it was designed as temporary, but it became permanent in 2013.
Bob Hope Memorial
Close to the water, right by the Unconditional Surrender statue is a memorial to Bob Hope, the comedian noted for traveling to entertain the troops. The memorial is a statue of Hope performing. A recording broadcasts some of his most notable skits.
Clifton Sprague Memorial
This memorial is highlighted by a bust of Vice Admiral Clifton Sprague. Sprague commanded the “Taffy 3” unit which consisted of 7,300 men on 13 ships. Behind his bust are 13 granite panels representing each ship. The panels are ordered by the number of causalities each ship suffered.
San Diego Harbor
The Greatest Generation Walk is part of one of our top free attractions in San Diego, the area from along the waterfront from the convention center to the San Diego Maritime Museum. This is a hub of activity full of interesting sites. This is home to harbor excursions and other paid activities. However, sites like the Greatest Generation Walk make it an excellent place to visit without spending a dime.
You can combine the Greatest Generation Walk with a bike tour along San Diego Harbor or our 6-mile San Diego harbor walk from Barrio Logan.