“The Arsenal of Democracy” San Francisco 1942

by | Nov 28, 2020

USS San Francisco 1943…
Palace of the Fine Arts, Marine District, San Francisco
Palace of the Fine Arts, Marina District, San Francisco

Marcella and little Jerry settle in San Francisco at 1501 Scott St. near the Marina District close to the Golden Gate Bridge.

It was a time of joy and hope for Vernon’s safe return from Pearl Harbor…

It was also a time of great stress and pain for America. WWII mobilized the United States and its allies like no other time in history.

“The Arsenal of Democracy.” Franklin D Roosevelt


What was it like in the Bay Area during WWII?

“After Pearl Harbor was attacked, the Bay Area became a centerpiece of what President Franklin D. Roosevelt called “the arsenal of democracy.”

Shipyards went up with lightning speed to construct the ships that would take the war to the Japanese in the Pacific. In San Francisco, the executives of the Bechtel Corp. got a telegram from the government on March 2, 1942, asking if the company would be interested in building and operating a shipyard on San Francisco Bay.”

So, Little Jerry was 14 months old in November 1942. He loved hanging out with his mom, especially at the park.

While Marcella sat on the bench next to the small lake at the Palace of Fine Arts, she dreamed of Vernon coming home. Vernon was somewhere between Hawaii and San Francisco sailing home.

There was very little communication back then, Marcella thought, “maybe Vernon would be home for Christmas.” She was already planning for his home coming.

Little Jerry, under the watchful eye of mom, watched the birds fly around the lake. He would point to the birds, and tried to express his awe and joy at the birds.

Jerry would grow up and join the Navy too. He served on the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier during Vietnam. He would be a warrior someday just like his father.

Marcella had a few bread crumbs to feed the birds while they waited for a treat. Jerry would beg his mom with his little hand reaching for a few crumbs. He looked up at Marcella to say, “Mommy, feed the birds, feed the birds, please, mommy!”

Little Jerry was just learning how to say a few words then. He was a very curious little boy. He loved to tinker with things.

Jerry was a good boy. “He hardly cried,” his mommy would say to friends. He was a happy little boy.. They were close. Little Jerry felt loved ❤ He was hugged then and often.

But that would change when his Daddy came home. Vernon would be joyful at times but upset and angry once he got home. Vernon wanted to return to the Pacific and fight the Japanese. Pearl Harbor changed Vernon forever.

Vernon was on a mission like no other in his young life. Vernon was a a fighting man, warrior first. America was at war!

Little Jerry thought every big tall man in a Sailor hat and uniform was his daddy. Mom showed him pictures often and talked about his Daddy.

There were many Navy and Marine military men strolling with friends in the the park. Jerry would look up as the young sailors walked by, reach out to them and yell out with his toddler cute voice and say, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!”

“Jerry wouldn’t remember this first visit after Vernon came home,” Marcella thought with sadness. It would not be until June of 1945 when WWII ended.

As Marcella gently put little Jerry back in the stroller to head back to their new apartment on Scott St., she looked lovingly at her son to say, “Daddy will be home soon, son, he will be home for Christmas.

So, the Christmas preparations were in full swing.

A little Christmas tree on a stand in the corner of the apartment was decorated. Candles glowed at night. “Santa is coming soon,” she would say to little Jerry. Jerry was just learning about Santa and the joy of Christmas then.

Little Jerry loved his 1st Christmas in San Francisco. He even met Santa at the Naval Base near home. He sat on Santa’s lap looking up with some speculation. Then pulled Santa’s long white beard.

Jerry loved to tinker with things. He wanted to know things. He also loved to be hugged. Little Jerry felt loved and secure with his mom back then.

Jerry would grow up and join the Navy too. He would be a warrior just like his father, Vernon. Jerry served on the USS Enterprise (CVN-65), during the Vietnam War.

Marcella still didn’t know if Vernon would come home. She and other Navy wives would gather often with little ones and pray their husbands would make it home safely for Christmas.

Marcella attended Saints Peter and Paul Church every morning and prayed that she would see Vernon’s ship sail under the Golden Gate Bridge any day.

But she didn’t no if or when… It was a hopeful but scary wait, a long long wait, Marcella said the rosary and prayed each day. Marcella’s faith kept her going.

Marcella knew Vernon would come home for Christmas to meet his first born son. She prayed and prayed, and said the rosary again, until Vernon returned home for Christmas on his birthday December 10, 1942…

Steve Sparks, Author, US Navy vet

About the author

Steve Sparks is a retired information technology sales and marketing executive with over 35 years of industry experience, including a Bachelors’ in Management from St. Mary’s College. His creative outlet is as a non-fiction author, writing about his roots as a post-WWII US Navy military child growing up in the 1950s-1960s.
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