Medium: Scrapped: The Naval Parade That Brings Military, Civilians, Together

Sailors in North Beach parade. U.S. Navy photo.

My article on the cancellation of San Francisco’s Fleet Week 2013 and the growing military-civilian divide.

Alameda Naval Air Station and the Concord Naval Weapons Station were located in the East Bay. Slightly farther afield was Hamilton Air Force base and Mare Island Shipyard. San Francisco itself had no less than four bases: Fort Mason, the Presidio, Treasure Island and Hunter’s Point Naval Shipyard. The Bay Area was even a nuclear power, with nuclear-tipped missiles deployed in a vast network to protect the population against Soviet bombers.

All of these bases have closed. One by one they folded, relics of the Cold War and shuttered during the base cutbacks of the 1990s. The only military bases left in the Bay Area today are National Guard armories and reservist bases, scattered here and there at places like Camp Parks and Moffett Field. (Link)

I thought it bombed, hits-wise, but Craig Hooper felt differently.

It is a coincidence, but I haven’t heard anything.

Even more of a coincidence, the public affairs officer that escorted Hoop and I on the Makin Island followed me on Twitter two days after this article was published.

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F-104 Starfighters over the Bay Bridge, 1959

Two U.S. Air Force F-104 Starfighters over the Bay Bridge, 1959.

These F-104s were probably assigned to the 83rd Fighter Interceptor Squadron, Hamilton Air Force Base.

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USS Robert E. Peary, San Francisco Bay

USS Robert E. Peary, a Knox-class frigate, with Transamerica Pyramid in background.

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U.S. Military to Recruit at San Francisco’s Gay Pride Festival

Iron in War was on vacation last week, but there was a curious and important development in civilian – military relations in San Francisco: the military showed up at the Gay Pride parade and celebration. From an article written before the event:

For the first time since the repeal of its ban on gay men and women serving openly, the U.S. military is sending recruiters to San Francisco’s gay pride celebration.

The organizers of the annual San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Parade expect to draw one million people to its festivities this year. Recruiters from the California National Guard, joined by openly gay soldiers, will be among them, setting up two booths to answer questions about life in uniform.

“At the end of the day, we’re a community-based organization, too,” Capt. Shannon Terry, public affairs officer for the California National Guard, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “So we need to look like our community.” Recruitment efforts also took place at the San Diego pride parade last year and Los Angeles’ celebrations earlier this year — which drew in crowds of 200,000 and 400,000 attendees respectively. (Link)

The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, allowing gay and lesbian members of the U.S. Military to serve openly, is cited as a major thaw in Military – LGBT relations.


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U.S. Pacific Fleet lights up San Francisco Bay at Night, 1920s

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Are there nuclear weapons in the Bay Area? Yes

The Center for Arms Control and Proliferation has a new Google Earth-based map locating nuclear weapons in the United States. “Are There Nuclear Weapons In Your Neighborhood” lists one site in the SF Bay Area: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which it describes as:

“One of three laboratories in the United States where classified work on the science and engineering design of nuclear weapons is undertaken.”

Although it’s possible that actual, functioning nuclear weapons are present at LLNL, given the danger of nuclear weapons it seems unlikely. Nuclear weapons seem like the kind of thing better worked on in the safety of subcomponents. But what does this blog know?

Incidentally, this represents a historic low in the history of nuclear weapons in the Bay Area. Previously nukes were stored at Concord Naval Weapons Station, which in turn stored them for the former Mare Island Naval Shipyard and the former Alameda Naval Air Station. Nuclear weapons were also stationed at the various Nike Missile sites dotted throughout the Bay Area.

Update: According to Trinity Atomic Test Site, there has been at least one nuclear accident at Lawrence Livermore National Lab:


Livermore, Calif., Mar. 26, 1963

A nuclear excursion and subsequent fire took place during a subcritical experiment in a shielded vault designed for critical assembly experiments. The excursion was estimated at 4 X 1017 fissions and was followed by oxidation of the enriched uranium metal in the assembly.

The cause of the excursion is believed to have been directly attributable to mechanical failure.

The total property loss was $94,881.

Criticality is what powers nuclear reactors. Reaching criticality outside of a reactor is not good.

Posted in Concord Naval Weapons Station, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Nike Missile Sites, U.S. Navy | Leave a comment

Periscope Photographs of San Francisco Bay

Over at SFGate, Peter Hartlaub has discovered a series of photographs taken from the periscope of the U.S.S. Catfish (SS-339) of San Francisco.

Catfish, a Balao-class submarine, was built by Electric Boat of Groton, Connecticut in 1944. Catfish conducted a single war patrol in the Far East during World War II, and several missions in support of UN forces in Korea during the Korean War. Although based in San Diego, Catfish visited Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo several times for overhauls and upgrades.

Catfish was decommissioned in 1971 and sold to Argentina, which named her ARA Santa Fe. Damaged during the 1982 Falklands War, she was captured by British forces and scuttled in 1985.

According to the USS Catfish SS339 Home Page, Catfish made at least one trip to San Francisco in 1951:

In Jan 51 the Catfish departed San Diego for San Francisco. While there the boat embarked on a one-day cruise training Naval Reserve personnel from the SF area. At the same time, the Mutual Broadcasting Co made a tape recording which was a general story of the Submarine Navy and the Submarine reserves. The Catfish returned to San Diego and continued type training and special services on 27 Jan 51.

The Catfish arrived at Mare Island Shipyard on 30 April 1951 for a regular overhaul. The yard overhaul was completed on 31 July 51 and from then until 6 Aug, 51 the boat conducted exercises in the San Francisco area. It was during this overhaul that the Portsmouth step sail was installed. The following pictures are from Truman Winnett who was aboard at that time.

The SFGate pictures are dated 19-21 January 1951, so it’s possible the pictures were taken during the Naval Reserve/Mutual Broadcasting Company cruise.

Whether or not the submarine is actually submerged is a good question. Submarines usually transit San Francisco Bay surfaced, in order to identify themselves and avoid collisions. A submarine can also use its periscope while surfaced. The fact a cargo ship appears heading within ten degrees of a submarine seems to indicate that the sub is surfaced.

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The Day the Navy Bombed Market Street

Trajectory of the bomb as depicted in The Deseret News. Via

Military aircraft often drop dummy training ordnance during practice flights. Sometimes the bombs accidentally fall on cities, like San Francisco.

In July 1963, a U.S. Navy A-4 Skyhawk flown by U.S. Naval Reservist Lieutenant R.A. Kiner accidentally dropped a training bomb over downtown San Francisco. The bomb, which had worked itself loose from the aircraft wing,

“did not explode, but did manage to gouge a hole in the asphalt a foot wide and four inches deep.

Then the bomb ricocheted in a 300-foot high arc that carried it over three city blocks and several office buildings, including one eight stories tall.

It then struck a cornice on the top floor of the Phoenix building on Pine Street and tumbled to the concrete below, striking a Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) service truck where three employees were eating their lunch. Nobody was hurt.”

Falling at lunchtime in downtown San Francisco, it’s a minor miracle that the bomb didn’t kill anyone. What’s even more remarkable was that it was actually a nice day in San Francisco on July 22nd, 1963. According to weather records, the temperature in San Francisco that day was in the upper 70s, and the skies were clear. Anyone who has walked down Market at lunchtime on a nice summer day knows the streets are crowded with people.

The Skyhawk had been operating out of Crow’s Landing Naval Auxiliary Air Station, which as Wikipedia describes it, is an old military airfield 71 miles east of Alameda in Stanislaus County. The station has been closed, subject to an EPA cleanup, and currently lies vacant.

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The aircraft flown by Lieutenant Kiner, the A-4 Skyhawk, was a light attack jet used by the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps during the Vietnam War period. For the bomb to have flown approximately three blocks and bounced over eight story buildings Kiner must have been flying at a reasonably high altitude and rate of speed.

The bomb was a Mk. 76 training bomb, designed to simulate bombs in the 500- to 2,000 pound range. The Mk. 76 is still in use today. Here’s one being loaded on an aircraft carrier.

Mk. 76 training bomb being loaded onto an aircraft on the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.

Military aircraft still occasionally lose bombs, such as this incident in 2007 near Naval Air Station Oceana. It’s possible that too was a Mk. 76.

H/T: Blueoz

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U.S. Navy Martin XPB2M-1 Mars flying over the Golden Gate Bridge, 1945

Credit: @naugusta

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Martin B-10′s over San Francisco’s Haight, 1938

Credit: @naugusta

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