Unknown Navy plaque: Mystery partially solved!

I just received an email from the Port of San Diego.  It concerns a blog post I wrote last month about a mysterious Navy plaque on the Embarcadero.  The plaque stands near the USS Midway Museum, among other military monuments and works of art on the Greatest Generation Walk.

Here’s the body of the reply, which provides a little more of the history of two interesting plaques:

“The plaque in question, which is on the Harbor Drive side of the stone, is a 30” x 22” cast bronze bas relief that commemorates the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Navy – 1773 to 1973. We don’t have information on the exact date it was created and installed but it was most likely cast and mounted around the time of the anniversary in 1973. The sponsor of this plaque was the U.S. Navy. The images in the plaque include representative ships and planes used by the Navy during its first 200 years. From left to right they include: (1) a sailing warship, probably a frigate; (2) a Civil War era ironclad monitor; (3) a pre-World War I battleship or armored cruiser; (4) a modern (circa 1973) aircraft carrier; (5) a nuclear powered submarine; and (6) two F-4 Phantom jet fighter planes. The plaque also includes a circular rendering of the U.S. Navy emblem showing an anchor and eagle and the words “United States Navy”. There is also an oval shaped emblem that includes an anchor superimposed by the dates 1773 and 1973 and the words “United States Navy – Building on a Proud Tradition.” (See image below, which is also attached.) This plaque was originally located on Broadway Pier at a bench and planter area. After the extensive renovation of Broadway Pier some years ago, the plaque was remounted in its current location near the USS Midway by the Port of San Diego’s General Services department.”

Photo of Navy 200 year commemoration plaque courtesy the Port of San Diego.
Photo of Navy 200 year commemoration plaque courtesy the Port of San Diego.

“The Pearl Harbor Survivors plaque, which you mentioned, was also originally displayed on Broadway Pier prior to the above-mentioned renovations. This plaque was sponsored by the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, Carnation Chapter, San Diego, and dedicated during the Chapter’s annual remembrance ceremony on December 7, 1984. From the image attached and shown below, you can read the inscription on the plaque. The five circular emblems are those of the U.S. Navy, U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Coast Guard, and the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association.”

Photo of Pearl Harbor Survivors plaque courtesy the Port of San Diego.
Photo of Pearl Harbor Survivors plaque courtesy the Port of San Diego.

The exact origin of the first plaque still seems a bit mysterious to me.  Was it unique to the Broadway Pier?  Were more of these plaques created?

Thanks go to the Port of San Diego, who provided the above descriptions and the photographs!

Thanks also go to gpcox, who spent a good bit of time searching for answers to this fascinating mystery!


William Abell wrote the following comment on the original blog post:

My name is William Abell and I was an ML3 aboard the USS Ajax AR6 and I helped create this plaque in the ship’s foundry in 1975. I have a certificate from Admiral J L Holloway III commemorating the plaque’s creation and my part in its creation. The date on the certificate is Oct 13, 1975. The plaque was to be a gift to the City of San Diego. I am now a retired police commander living in Monroe WA.


A subsequent comment has directed my attention to the following information:

I am Molder Chief Petty Officer Jesse G. Lopez USN Ret. The foundry crew from Navy Repair Ship USS Ajax AR-6, created the pattern which was made by Patternmaker Chief Carlos De Santiago USN RET and molded by myself when I was a MLFN. Petty Officer Abell was our Third Class in charge of the molders.


I’ve received detailed information about the plaque, including photographs of its creation and creators! Click here!

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Published by

Richard Schulte

Downtown San Diego has been my home for many years. My online activities reflect my love for writing, blogging, walking and photography.

7 thoughts on “Unknown Navy plaque: Mystery partially solved!”

  1. “Where do I begin?”

    My name is Francisco Cruz LOPEZ.
    Born: 10Nov46.
    I was an Illustrator Draftsman First Class (DM1), in the USN/USNR.
    I was affiliated with several naval commands, while residing in San Diego (1971-80).
    I now reside in Fontana.
    Where am I going with all of this?
    I designed this plaque for the Navy, as a gift to the City of San Diego. It was a ‘big deal’, on Dedication Day. A lot of brass, swords & politicians. I was part of the assemblage. And, we all made The Tribune.

    The only question that I have, is the following.
    I have always presumed, that it was the moulders (ML’s) aboard the USS Markab (AR-23), that did the casting. If it was actually the ML’s aboard the USS Ajax (AR-6), I was not aware.
    Further, I was told at that time, that they procured all of that brass, from the USS Bunker Hill (CV-17). The plaque was much more heavier, than I expected. The Bunker Hill which was ‘perpetually’ moored at the north end of North Island, in those distant days.
    Lastly, I can easily prove my above comments. How? I still possess my original design sketches.

    Feel free to contact me, if anyone has any further inquiries.
    (909) 600-8288


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