September 27, 2007 in Nation/World

Navy’s swastika-shaped barracks to get makeover

Tony Perry Los Angeles Times
 

CORONADO, Calif. – The U.S. Navy has decided to spend as much as $600,000 for landscaping and architectural modifications to obscure the fact that one of its building complexes looks like a swastika from the air.

The four L-shaped buildings, constructed in the late 1960s, are part of the amphibious base at Coronado and serve as barracks for Seabees.

From the ground and from inside nearby buildings, the controversial shape cannot be seen. Nor are there any civilian or military landing patterns that provide such a view to airline passengers.

But once people began looking at satellite images from Google Earth, they started commenting on blogs and Web sites about how much the buildings resembled the symbol used by the Nazis.

When contacted by a Missouri-based radio talk-show host last year, Navy officials gave no indication they would make changes.

But early this year, the issue was quietly taken up by Morris Casuto, the Anti-Defamation League’s regional director in San Diego, and U.S. Rep. Susan Davis, D-Calif.

As a result, in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, the Navy has budgeted up to $600,000 for changes in walkways, “camouflage” landscaping and rooftop photovoltaic cells.

The goal is to mask the shape. “We don’t want to be associated with something as symbolic and hateful as a swastika,” said Scott Sutherland, deputy public affairs officer for Navy Region Southwest, the command that is responsible for maintaining buildings on local bases.

Navy officials say the shape of the buildings, designed by local architect John Mock, was not noted until after the groundbreaking in 1967 – and since it was not visible from the ground, a decision was made not to make any changes.

It is unclear who first noticed the shape on Google Earth. But one of the first and loudest advocates demanding a change was Dave vonKleist, host of a Missouri-based radio-talk show, The Power Hour, and a Web site, www.thepowerhour.com.

In spring 2006, he began writing military officials, including then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, calling for action.

In December, the now-defunct San Diego Jewish Times wrote about the buildings and the controversy. Soon Casuto and Davis got involved.

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