The Santa Barbara Municipal Airport used to be the site of a Marine Corps training base during World War II. Today, it is the location of a memorial that is dedicated to the Marine Corps aviators who died fighting for their country. Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum expresses that along with honoring the fallen heroes of the war, the memorial site is designed to “recognize the contribution of all the men and women who were assigned to the Marine Corps Air Station in Santa Barbara.” In addition, the memorial site was constructed to share a piece of history with the Santa Barbara community.
The Santa Barbara Airport states that the memorial is “designed as a place for reflection.” The question is, what should we, as the Santa Barbara community, reflect? Being a family member of the ones who passed away, a person who lives in the area, or even a student at the University of California, Santa Barbara all allow for the identification as a Santa Barbara community member.
Although many people are not personally affiliated to the Marines who are honored at this memorial, the community does feel connected to the monument; it is a part of our history. This memorial invites the community to establish a specific bond to this memorial site, reflect upon our past, and acknowledge that without the Marine Corps, the Santa Barbara that we recognize today would not be the same. The acres of land that are now UCSB, Goleta, and the Santa Barbara Airport used to be owned by the United States Marine Corps. Following the end of the war in June of 1949, the Marine Corps gave their land back to the city of Santa Barbara, “and nearly a thousand acres of land. More than 400 acres were deeded to the University of California, which allowed the creation of UC Santa Barbara” (Orozco).
The University here alone has an abundant amount of evidence that shows how important the Marine base was for its creation and eventual growth. Many of the structures that are still on campus were military built and owned, including the Old Gym, the College of Creative Studies, the El Centro building, and the small buildings right next to the library parking lot (Britta). Additionally, Tom Modugno from the “Goleta History” website comments that “out on Campus Point, the Marines had a rifle range and a skeet range for target practice… If you walk out there today, you can still find remnants of broken skeets that were shot… We’ve walked past them thousands of times and never noticed the 70 year old artifacts of World War II right under our feet.” Because many citizens here have never noticed the historic presence that is around them, this World War II memorial site does not only encapsulate the memory of America’s veterans, but also that of Santa Barbara’s history.
According to Modugno, the residents of Santa Barbara made the marines that were stationed here feel like they were part of their community, as friends and guardians. The welcoming members of this beach side town, now known as the “Good Land,” even invited these soldiers to a variety of different events, parties, and family dinners. After the war was over, “Many of the Marines… made it their home.” This is one of the reasons why the City of Santa Barbara funded the project that Karen Ramsdell decided to create (Lewis). This memorial serves a purpose to the individuals that take the time to notice it, whether those people are the city’s residents or just people that are passing through the airport on their way home. It is here to remind us all that the Marine base is a large part of what created a community that accepts, respects, and remembers our history and those we helped shape it.