World War II


ON A CRISP FEBRUARY MORNING, I stroll along El Prado, the palm- and portico-lined pedestrian pathway that gives San Diego’s Balboa Park its classic Old-World charm. Most of my fellow camera-slung tourists are here for the first-class museums housed inside Spanish Colonial buildings, whose ornately carved yellow-orange facades perfectly complement the bold, blue sky. I, however, have come not for artifacts and artwork, but to catch glimpses of the park’s little-known wartime tenure as the world’s largest naval infirmary. Through the course of World War II, some 172,000 of the most seriously wounded sailors, Marines, and (occasionally) soldiers were shipped from all theaters to these sunny climes for treatment at Naval Hospital San Diego, which specialized in rehabilitating injured veterans

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