The notorious history of California’s swastika-shaped building πŸ’₯πŸ‘©πŸ‘©πŸ’₯

The resemblance went unnoticed, by the public at least, for decades, until Google Earth appeared and shed light on the very distinct shape of a barracks at Naval Base Coronado near San Diego.

Designed in 1967 by architect John Mock, the barracks on the shore of the San Diego Bay are technically four structures β€” buildings 320, 321, 322, and 323 on the Naval Amphibious Base Coronado. In the center of the four L-shaped buildings are two smaller structures, a boiler room and recreational hut.

The likeness to a swastika is undeniable, right down to the fact that the symbol is rotated 45 degrees off north, the exact way the Nazi party displayed the symbol after appropriating it from Buddhism and other eastern philosophies, in which for centuries it was a symbol of good luck.

In 2006, after numerous complaints, a Navy public affairs officer explained away the building’s design as a mistake.


“The final ‘look’ of the six building complex as seen from the air, was the result of an ‘oversight’ by Navy planners at the time,” the Navy’s Steve Fiebing wrote in a letter to the press. Notably, the word “oversight” is placed in single quotation marks in his response.

The Navy claimed the initial plans drawn up in the ’60s only included one of the four L-shaped buildings, with the other three being added after the single-L architecture was approved.

An investigation by Israeli American researcher Avrahaum Segol in 2007, however, told a different story. Segol found documentation that the four-L swastika-like design was indeed known to the Navy and signed off by them before construction. An article published in the San Diego Union in October 1968, before ground was broken, stated that the four-L structure was to be built, contradicting the Navy’s claim that only one “L” was planned.

“Information in the San Diego Union article makes picture clear that a perspective rendered by Architect Firm of Hendrick and Mock displayed ‘layout of four L-shaped buildings’ proving a … Swastika to be visually recognizable at all times.” Segol wrote in a letter to the Navy in 2007, in which he pleaded that the building be restructured or torn down.

After further protest from the Anti-Defamation League in San Diego, the Navy agreed to spend $600,000 of their 2008 budget on “camouflaging” the building to change its appearance from the air. The New York Times reported at the time that the Navy admitted the swastika likeness was known as far back as the ’60s but had chosen not to do anything about it.

β€œThere was no reason to redo the buildings because they were in use,” a spokeswoman for the base, Angelic Dolan, told the paper. Dolan pointed out that no planes fly over the navy base, so until Google Earth came along the shape wasn’t considered an issue.

β€œYou have to realize back in the ’60s we did not have the internet,” she said. β€œWe don’t want to offend anyone, and we don’t want to be associated with the symbol.”

That promised fix did not happen in 2008, or ever.

In 2010, the Navy sent a letter to Segol with plans to make the structure a square, and included blueprints on what the finished work would look like, with four new wing additions. That also never happened, though a $14 million dollar interior renovation project was completed on three of the four buildings in 2015, but the controversial exterior shape stayed the same.

(SFGATE requested comment from the Navy on current plans for the structure, but had not heard back at time of publication.)

Some have argued that as the troubling symbol is only visible from above, and no drones or aircraft are permitted to fly in the area, then simply removing or blurring the overhead shot from Google Maps and other mapping sites would be a sufficient fix β€” something that occurs on other sensitive military bases across the world for various reasons.

One far-flung rumor online states that the swastika likeness is intended, alongside two neighboring buildings to the southwest that appear like bomber planes attacking the Nazi symbol.

Aerial view of Naval Base Coronado, San Diego

Google Maps

While it may seem like an architectural idiosyncrasy, or a quirk of Google Earth, to many the fact that the symbol of white supremacy sits at the center of the U.S. Navy’s base is nothing less than a hate crime, still clearly visible from the skies today.

The notorious history of California’s swastika-shaped building

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