Skip to main content
Edit entry 

Golden Gate National Cemetery


Detailed history

Golden Gate National Cemetery was one of seven national cemeteries established during the expansion of the National Cemetery System between the World Wars, specifically in 1934-1939. This first major expansion since the Civil War was due to an increased veteran population, combined with the rapidly depleting burial space at existing national cemeteries. Locations for the cemeteries were chosen primarily on the basis of where veterans lived. The other interwar cemeteries are Baltimore, Maryland; Fort Bliss and Fort Sam Houston, Texas; Fort Snelling, Minnesota; Fort Rosecrans, California; and Long Island, New York national cemeteries.
San Francisco National Cemetery, established in that city's Presidio in 1884 and in view of Golden Gate Bridge, was reaching capacity by the mid-1930s. In 1937 Congress authorized construction of a new national cemetery in the city's suburbs. San Bruno, 12 miles south, was selected. Instead of naming the cemetery after its location as was customary, Golden Gate was chosen; the misnomer has created confusion ever since. By the end of 1940, San Francisco National Cemetery was closed to burials.
The land occupied by Golden Gate National Cemetery originally belonged to a Native American group known as the "Buri Buri." The Spanish government acquired it around 1797. In 1827, the new Mexican government sold the land to José Antonio Sanchez, a decorated military officer known for his campaigns against Native tribes. His family retained the property after it became a U.S. territory, and by 1875 it was purchased by R.G. Sneath for a ranch. Thereafter it was sold to the Jersey Farm Company, which sold the approximately 162 acres to the federal government in 1938.
The U.S. Army Quartermaster began construction in June 1940 with assistance from the New Deal's Works Progress Administration (WPA), whose labor force graded the first four burial sections without heavy equipment. July 4, 1941 marked the cemetery's dedication, but the first three interments occurred on June 2, 1941. The cemetery has an L-shaped footprint with low-rolling hills interspersed with flat terrain features and a manmade mound that covers a reservoir where two large tracts intersect. The mound features a monumental flagpole circle and speaker's platform. The cemetery is distinguished by monumental entrance gates and a complex of buildings and structures built in a Mediterranean Revival style, completed in 1941. The symmetrical one-story granite buildings contain the administrative office, residential lodge, chapel, and maintenance functions. Golden Gate is one of seventy-eight VA national cemeteries that feature burial sections that use either upright headstones or flat grave markers.
In the early 1960s the cemetery started filling rapidly because large numbers of veterans from World War II, Korea, and eventually Vietnam were dying. Additionally, the cemetery's location as a major military port of embarkation meant it received many repatriated war dead from WWII through the Cold War. Original roadways in the cemetery were removed between 1962 and 1966 to accommodate the number of burials. However, the cemetery was at full capacity by 1966, decades sooner than anticipated. Attempts to expand the cemetery have failed.

Buried or commemorated

  • Jack Graves

    Military | First Lieutenant | Bombardier | 388th Bomb Group
    Shot down by fighters and crashed at Rottendorf in B-17 #42-39866, Killed in Action (KIA).

  • Charles Nichols

    Military | Technical Sergeant | Radio Operator, Radio Operator Gunner | 306th Bomb Group The Reich Wreckers
    Shot down by fighters on mission to Halberstadt on 11 Jan 1944 in B-17 #42-30782. Killed in Action (KIA). Sergeant Nichols and two others evaded until they were surrounded and shot by Security Forces in Belgium.


Date Contributor Update
03 April 2021 21:10:01 466thHistorian Created entry with name, latitude, longitude and history