A pair of local memorials to veterans of World War I and World War II have been restored thanks to efforts by Squadron 283 of the Sons of the American Legion.
The Pacific Palisades based organization held a rededication ceremony for the WWI memorial last week at Santa Monica High School’s Memorial Greek Theater where the plaques are located and family members of one of the local veterans were able to attend.
The refurbishment is part of a national effort by veterans’ organizations to maintain the memory of soldiers who fought more than a century ago. The nonprofit WWI centennial Commission, established by Congress to honor and recognize the centennial of America’s involvement with World War One, issued a plea at the national American Legion convention for the various American Legion organizations to locate and help restore WWI memorials.
The request was specifically aimed at organizations on the West Coast because at the time of the war, the western portion of the county was less densely populated and any memorials that were built were more likely to be lost.
The original Santa Monica plaque was installed on May 30, 1921 at the original dedication of the theater and Jim Yocum, Squadron 283 Past Commander, said he know about its location due to his children attending Samohi. He said some WWI veterans are located in the City’s cemetery but the Samohi plaques are the only truly public memorial.
“On the Westside there aren’t that many in public places,” he said. “Woodlawn cemetery has a number of them, but there’s a means, a budget. Those are paid for but those are private memorials or headstones.”
The refurbishment was accomplished with the help of American Legion Post 283 of Pacific Palisades and the technical expertise of Restoration ArTechs Inc. Squadron 283 has taken on the project of restoring several WWI memorials in the Los Angeles area and this is the first one completed.
Yocum said the original project was for just the WWI memorial but upon inspection, the Squadron realized the WWII plaques were actually in worse shape so both were refurbished for about $5,000. A second ceremony for the WWII plaques will be held during the school year and will coincide with Samohi’s alumni festivities because it’s possible classmates of the WWII soldiers might still be nearby.
Yocum said the kinds of people in the memorial are reflective of the modern city including an actor in the then brand new movie business, a young real estate attorney and a city bus driver.
The recent ceremony was presided over by the Commander of American Legion Post 123 in Santa Monica, Roland Speers, among other local dignitaries, and included family for one of the named veterans.
Yocum said the family were located thanks to comprehensive local records.
“The Santa Monica Public Library has digitized every newspaper back to 1875 by the Outlook,” he said. “We went back and traced some of the descendants. Not everybody was 18 and many of these soldiers had families and children. We did find some descendants and the one family that was actually able to attend. Nobody is local anymore that we were able to find and the family came down from Redding, three generations of one of the soldiers.”
The Sons of the American Legion was created in 1932 as part of The American Legion. The organization includes individuals who parents or grandparents served in the military. The American Legion, The American Legion Auxiliary and the Sons of the American Legion make up
The Legion Family. All three organizations place high importance on preserving American
traditions and values, improving the quality of life for our nation’s children, caring for veterans and their families, and perhaps most, teaching the fundamentals of good citizenship.