Folks strolling along the southern end of the Bremerton Marina breakwater on Saturday morning could be forgiven for seeing double.
That’s because “The Lone Sailor” sculpture that sits there was joined by the man that artist Stanley Bleifeld used as his model for the world famous work paying tribute to all the personnel of the sea services.
The original is a centerpiece of the United States Navy Memorial along Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.
Dan Maloney returned to Bremerton last week for a friend’s wedding and took some time to visit his likeness. Twenty-eight years ago, Maloney was a Petty Officer 1st class serving at the New London Submarine Base and Bleifeld had a home and studio in Westin, Conn.
During their first session together, which only lasted about 15 minutes, Maloney put his foot on a cleat at the base and draped his arm casually over his knee and Bleifeld eventually made a maquette, or scale model, called “Liberty Hound.”
“Quite frankly, that’s my favorite version because any sailor will tell you that liberty is the best part about being in the navy,” Maloney said.
That version, though, was deemed to be too casual for a national memorial and the only existing version of it today sits in Jacksonville, Fla., whereas “The Lone Sailor” can be found at the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C. and other cities across the country including, of course, Bremerton.
For “The Lone Sailor,” Maloney went to Bleifeld’s home for another brief session.
“It was a day just like today, kinda crisp and sunny,” Maloney said. “I had my hands in my pockets again and at some point in time we got it just right and Stan kind of just said, ‘Good, good, good. Don’t move, don’t move.’ “
A photographer circled Maloney snapping frame after frame from which Bleifeld later made the sculpture. Several other sailors modeled for Bleifeld, but the version with Maloney’s likeness was the one that was eventually chosen.
“They approved it and everybody loved it,” Maloney said. “It wasn’t without controversy, though, because for some of the old chiefs, and especially guys I worked with, the lone sailor is technically out of uniform. You’re not supposed to have your hands in your pockets and you’re not supposed to flip your peacoat collar up. But, anybody that’s ever worn one of these things has done just exactly what the lone sailor’s doing, right?”
When the sculpture was unveiled Oct. 12, 1987, thousands of veterans and VIPs were on hand.
“My VIP, my mom, was there because I was at sea at the time,” Maloney said. “She told me that when they unveiled this there wasn’t a dry eye among any of those veterans. They all saw themselves and that’s the beauty of ‘The Lone Sailor’ statue. Because anybody that’s ever served sees themselves and I guess that’s a tribute to my absolute averageness.”
Maloney likes to downplay what he describes as a very small role in the sculpture and instead likes to highlight the Navy Memorial itself. He says that to play up any sort of personal connection is inappropriate and he would rather talk about the connections that everyone can understand.
“We’ve got a lasting legacy now forever for anybody that’s ever been to sea in defense of the country and that makes me very, very happy,” he said.
For Maloney, “The Lone Sailor” has an emotional impact and resonance for those who have served and others that was described eloquently by Pulitzer Prize winning author Herman Wouk. The writer described the gaze of the sailor as not just looking toward home and the horizon, but past those places toward a day when war is not necessary and peace abounds.
“That’s what we all want,” Maloney said. “There isn’t a professional soldier or warrior that wants to go to war. We believe, especially here in America, in peace through strength. We’ll answer the call if need be and we’ll fight with valor and we’ll vanquish our foes, but we want peace. Peace on earth.”
Maloney moved to Bremerton in the mid 1980s and his youngest son was born here. After helping to build the USS Alabama on the East Coast, Maloney travelled with the boat through the Panama Canal to Sub Base Bangor. He continued to serve on the Alabama, doing strategic deterrent patrols out of Bangor, and eventually went to the Trident Training Facility where he taught for three years. He became a mustang and was sent to Pearl Harbor in 1992. Maloney retired as a Lieutenant Commander and now works as a civilian manager working on submarine modernization.
As he stood near the statute depicting him as a young sailor, Maloney gazed over at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and spoke fondly of the people that work there, noting, in particular, the fine work they did in replacing the front end of the USS San Francisco with the front end of the USS Honolulu.
“The people working here, I get chicken skin just thinking about it,” he said. “The dedicated people at the shipyards, and I get to work with the same kind of people at Pearl Harbor, it blows me away. There’s a lot of bad talk about America in the back and forth and the economy’s bad. Obama and Romney are fighting it out and it’s turning into a pretty ugly debate. But, I don’t have doubts about the strength of this country. You know, this is just a hiccup. We’re fine. We’re fine.”