4. U.S. Maritime Officers Memorial

Follow the path back toward the visitor center, then to your right toward the flagpole

Celebrating National Maritime Day, May 22, 1953.
Courtesy of Captain Malcolm Crossman

While Neptune Beach lay quiet after its closing in 1939, America’s attention turned to World War II and this land was purchased by the military. The U.S. Maritime Service Officer’s School was built here to train merchant engineers and deck officers to operate the Liberty and Victory ships being built in the Kaiser shipyards in Alameda and Richmond. Each of the school’s 20 or so buildings was named after old clipper ships and the base’s main street after ship designer, Donald McKay.

Blackie posing on the fire engine, August 1945. Courtesy of the Oakland Post Enquirer

During the war years, 2000 men graduated per year. One in 26 merchant marines died in the line of duty. The monument before you honors those men. The plaque to the left of the monument remembers “Blackie,” the base’s canine mascot. When the fire bell sounded for a drill, he would rush from his yard to find his place on the engine. Rub his nose for good luck!

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