Posted by: cantmisssd | February 18, 2010

Veterans Memorial Garden

San Diego was founded without much of a reason for being. Tourism is a noble pursuit, even with the very notion of recreation still being relatively new. But aside from the harbor, there wasn’t a natural industry that recommended this place as the site of the nation’s eighth-largest city. The city did manage to grow steadily, and was reasonably established by the time WW2 came around, largely because of the early embrace of military industry and aircraft manufacturing. All of that came together commercially during World War II as San Diego found itself well-positioned to provide the sudden national need for warplanes.

Chief among the many planes that flew for the Allied forces in the war was the B-24 Liberator. As the plaque at Veterans Park explains, more than 19,000 Liberators were flown by all branches of the US military and every major ally during the war, making it the “most mass produced American aircraft of all time.” A third of those were built in San Diego, and in the process, it helped solidify the economic base of San Diego and jump San Diego from just another boomtown to an enduring metropolis.

San Diego native Waldo Waterman was amomg the world’s pioneers of flight, and helped to establish the city’s enduring relationship with flight. Consolidated Aircraft Corporation was the manufacturer of the B-24s employing at its WW2 peak 45,000 San Diegans on the B-24, and subcontractors like Rohr Industries, Ryan Aeronautical Company and Solar Company cemented San Diego’s place as a vital cog in the war effort and ensured the city’s place in the reshaped post-war economy.

These days, it’s easy to forget that San Diego wasn’t destined to ‘make it’. But the small garden in front of Balboa Park’s Veterans Museum memorializes the bumpy road this city has taken. Little more than scenery on the way to somewhere else and at best the spot for a quick pit-stop, the sculpted B-24 positioned to soar over the downtown skyline, remembers one of the earliest points when the military provided what the San Diego economy needed.

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