The Lone Sailor

The Lone Sailor

The Lone Sailor is a seven-foot tall bronze sculpture by American artist and World War II veteran Stanley Bleifeld. It is located on the granite Memorial Plaza which forms the amphitheater of the United States Navy Memorial, located in downtown D.C. on Pennsylvania Avenue (MAP), across the street from the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration Building, and a block east of the FBI Headquarters Building. On this bike ride I stopped by to see and admire the statue, and to learn a little more about it.

The Lone Sailor is intended to be a composite of the Navy bluejacket, past, present and future, and represents all people who ever served are serving now or who are yet to serve in the U.S. Navy. The process of conceptualization, modeling, sculpting, and casting went through five initial images based on four different models, and took over a year of work before culminating in the final version as it now stands at the Memorial. After giving up on honor guard models, Bleifeld asked New London Submarine Base for someone more typical. They sent Petty Officer 1st class Dan Maloney. Bleifeld felt he had the appearance he had been looking for, and used him as the sculpture’s model. However, the name of the lone sailor as read on the statue’s seabag is a fictitious one, William Thompson.

As part of the casting process, the bronze for The Lone Sailor was mixed with artifacts from eight U. S. Navy ships, provided by the Naval Historical Center. The ships span the Navy’s history, yielding small pieces of copper sheeting, spikes, hammock hooks and other fragments from the post-revolutionary frigates Constitution (“Old Ironsides”) and Constellation; the steamer Hartford, flagship of Admiral David G. Farragut in the Civil War era; the battleship USS Maine; the iron-hulled steamer/sailing ship USS Ranger; the World War II-era cruiser USS Biloxi and aircraft carrier USS Hancock, and the nuclear-powered submarine USS Seawolf. One last addition was a personal decoration from today’s Navy, one given to sailors in war and peace, the National Defense Service Medal. These bits of metal are now part of The Lone Sailor.

The unveiling of the statue took place at the formal dedication of the Memorial on October 13, 1987, the 212th birthday of the Navy. Since that time, the immense popularity of the Lone Sailor led to the Navy Memorial’s Statue Outreach Program which began in 1997 with the placement of replicas of the Lone Sailor statue at other locations. Today there are a dozen replicas of the statue placed throughout the U.S. They are located in: Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Bremerton, Washington; Burlington, Vermont; Charleston, South Carolina; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Great Lakes, Illinois; Jacksonville, Florida; Long Beach, California; Norfolk, Virginia; San Francisco, California; Waterloo, Iowa, and; West Haven, Connecticut. So, if you can’t come to see the original in D.C. any time soon, you can visit one of the other Lone Sailors at one of these other locations.

 

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