As one of the most unique veterans memorials in the USA, Mt. Soledad is proud to honor veterans, living and deceased, from the Revolutionary War to present day. Eleven curved walls contain more than 5,000 black granite plaques honoring our service men and women.
Towering 822 feet above sea level, Mt. Soledad provides a stunning viewpoint of the entire San Diego region. On a clear day, one can see towns in Mexico to the south, to the mountains of Los Angeles in the north. As the highest point in the La Jolla area, Mt. Soledad gives a breathtaking view of local hotspots such as Miramar Air Station, Torrey Pines Golf Course, UC San Diego and more.
Mount Soledad Natural Park encompasses much of the mountain, within which the Mt. Soledad Memorial was founded. Originally owned by the federal government, Mount Soledad was given to the City of San Diego in 1874. The park itself was officially designated in 1916.
While virtually all San Diego residents know of the current cross that sits atop the mountain, it was not the first to be put in place. The first cross, made of pure California redwood, was put in place by locals in 1913. It stood for a decade before being destroyed in 1923. The next cross was installed in 1934, once again by residents. Made of stucco-over-wood framing, it stood until 1952, when a particularly strong windstorm tore it from its base.
The Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial, as well as the famous 27-foot Latin cross that stands today, were first conceived in 1954. Architect Donald Campbell designed the current- day cross, made of sturdy pre-stressed concrete so that it would stand the test of time. On April 18, 1954, the American Legion Post 275 of La Jolla dedicated the cross and surrounding area as a monument to those who lost their lives serving our great nation in both World Wars as well as the Korean War. The American Legion Post 275 worked alongside the newly-created Mt. Soledad Memorial Association to build and maintain the monument.
While the cross was originally named the “Mount Soledad Easter Cross”, the name was shortened in the 1980s, in part due to religious concerns. Such concerns were the cause of a landmark court case that embroiled the monument for decades.
Before the Mount Soledad Cross was the centerpiece of the Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial, it was the centerpiece of a historic set of lawsuits. From 1989 to 2015, the Cross faced several legal challenges.
On May 31, 1989, a Vietnam War veteran sued the City of San Diego, claiming that the Cross violated both the California and United States Constitutions. The court ruled against the city, naming the cross unconstitutional. A long series of similar court cases continued back and forth over the fate of the Cross.
The City of San Diego attempted to sell the cross on multiple occasions, only to be blocked by court rulings and voters. While the legal limbo continued, the Mount Soledad Memorial Association built and maintained the first part of today’s memorial at the site in 1998.
In 2004, attempts were also made to donate the site to the Interior Department and National Park Service. They, too, were challenged and ultimately blocked by court rulings.
In 2006, the federal government stepped in to try to acquire the site via eminent domain. A bill was passed by Congress and signed by President Bush to transfer the Park and the Cross to the federal government. However, once again, more court battles were fought over the site and the cross. In 2014, the battle went all the way to the Supreme Court, who denied certiorari, leaving the Cross and Memorial in continued legal limbo.
Ultimately, legal matters were settled in September of 2016. The Mt. Soledad Memorial Association was able to purchase the land under the cross for $1.4 million from the Dept. of Defense in July of 2015. With the land no longer under the ownership of either local, state or federal governments, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered dismissal of all cases and appeals.
With the court cases settled, the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association now owns and manages the property and land fully. Freed from legal constraints, the Memorial has blossomed into a breathtaking display of national pride in honor of our servicemembers.
The most unique feature of the Memorial is that it is the only one in the nation that pays tribute to veterans both deceased and still living. In fact, as many as 70 percent of the memorialized servicemembers are still alive today. Men and women who fought for our nation are remembered at the site, starting from the Revolutionary War into today’s continued War on Terror.
Though it was originally built in honor of those who fought in the Korean and World Wars, the site now hosts eleven curved walls that feature black granite plaques etched with the pictures and stories of over 5,000 men and women from all of America’s military branches and battlefields. The first six walls were erected to focus on the five branches of the military that fought in World War II; Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Air Force, as well as the Merchant Marines. 2012 saw the addition of five more walls to include all wars and all branches of service.
Among those honored at the memorial include:
Recognition at the Memorial is open to all, alive or deceased. Placement of one of the ornate plaques has only one requirement: honorable discharge. The Mt. Soledad Memorial Association welcomes all to apply for a spot via our website.
Service members, families, friends, and all other members of the public are welcome to visit the Memorial year-round or at any of the over 40 different Veteran Honor Ceremonies conducted each year.