I only had a few days in San Diego, but I knew I wanted to visit the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery when I was there. I don’t get many opportunities to visit military cemeteries, but I always appreciate the opportunity to do so. Not only are the cemeteries very moving, but there’s something in the simplicity and repetition of the gravestones that is very calming.
Whenever I see lists for the “best” cemeteries around the world, they invariably include Sydney, Australia’s Waverly Cemetery, mostly because it has an amazing view over the ocean. However, I think you could certainly add Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery to the list. It’s located on Point Loma, a peninsula that marks the most western edge of San Diego. It’s fairly narrow, and the main road that runs down the peninsula cuts the cemetery in half. So the eastern half faces Coronado/San Diego, and the western side faces the Pacific Ocean. It terms of visiting the cemetery, both sides are equally interesting, but I really liked the western side specifically because it looks out into the vast sea beyond – very tranquil and almost minimalist in nature.
The cemetery is quite old, being established in 1882, although many people were re-interred here from previous conflicts. Although the headstones are all mostly the same size, you can see people buried here from a variety of different conflicts, including the Mexican-American War, the Indian War Campaign, the Spanish-American War, WWI, WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, as well as Iraq. Spouses and children of military personnel were allowed to be buried here, and some are here in their own graves, and others (maybe?) as part of their husband’s/father’s grave (if written on the back of the same headstone). Most of the headstones have a small cross carved at the top of it, but I did find some Stars of David, crescent moon and star, and some stones with no religious symbol at all.
There weren’t many people here when I was visiting, but I imagine it would be a great place to go walking if you just wanted some time out to be with your thoughts.
Quality of Monuments: Most of the monuments here are the simple white marble slab headstones that go on and on over many rows. There are columbaria for cremated remains, and large monuments to commemorate the large number of deaths from a single event, such USS Bennington Monument, which honours the deaths of 62 sailors who died from a boiler explosion aboard their ship.
Cemetery Grounds: The grounds are quite large and extensive, and the landscape is of rolling hills that go down towards the sea. The cemetery is very well maintained.
Visitors: There weren’t many people when I was here, although quite a number of people would stop by the roadside to take a few pictures, either on their to or from the Cabrillo National Monument.
Photographer Notes: Coming early or late in the date would be best for long shadows that would help give some definition to the uniformity of the site. Wide-angles work for getting the scope of the cemetery (and its interesting trees) in.
Cemetery: Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery
Location: Point Loma, San Diego, California. If driving, take Catalina Blvd. If taking the bus, take Route 28 (the bus runs every 30 minutes at best). There are multiple bus stops along the cemetery route.
Hours: sunrise to sunset, 7 days a week