June 25, 2024 The Best Source of News, Culture, Lifestyle for Culver City, Mar Vista, Del Rey, Palms and West Los Angeles

Sketching The Westside

The 405/10 freeway transition is artistry in concrete. The lanes soar and curve gracefully. You almost feel you’re floating…flying…†bursting earthly bonds.†Only the elegantly-towering 110/105 surpasses it, and that has 30 additional years of structural experience. Reyner Banham, famous German urban critic, thought it was “…a work of art…as a pattern on the map, as a monument against the sky, and as a kinetic experience as one sweeps through it.†It is the “Marilyn Jorgensen Reece Memorial Interchange.†Who?

Ms. Reece was born in South Dakota. She came to Los Angeles in 1948 with her newly-earned degree in Civil Engineering. She went to work for the State Division of Highways (now Caltrans) as a junior engineer. After the required six years of experience, she took the State exams and became California’s first fully-licensed female Civil Engineer. Her career was highly successful but her crowning achievement was the San Diego/Santa Monica interchange. Built in 1964, it was the first in California to be designed by a woman engineer. Kudos to Ms. Reece!

Multiple freeways bracket Downtown, funneling traffic in and out of the area. Signs at the Santa Monica/Harbor (10/110) transition say “Dosan Ahn Chang Ho Memorial Interchange.†Who?

Dosan Ahn Chang Ho

Ahn Chang Ho was born in Korea in 1878. He and his wife Helen came to the United States in 1902, the first married couple of Korean descent to be admitted.

He added “Dosan†(meaning “Island Mountain†) to his name as a commitment to help his fellow Koreans to “stand tall†and find their place in America. He more than fulfilled that promise. Living in San Francisco, then Riverside, and finally Los Angeles, in each community he brought Koreans together and helped them develop and recognize their strengths and honor their unique heritage.

He was also a major force for Korean independence, achieved in 1945. A “Founding Father†of the Republic of Korea and a strong advocate for Korean-Americans, Dosan Ahn Chang Ho is a name we should recognize. (And his son, actor Philip Ahn, is a name movie fans may recognize as well.)

Down the 405, past LAX at the 105 Interchange is a name that deserves our respect and awareness: Sadao Munemori.

Born in Los Angeles of Japanese immigrant parents, Munemori joined the Army just before Pearl Harbor. He became a member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, all Asian-Americans and the most-decorated unit in World War II for its size and time in combat. He served in Italy and France. His family was interned at Manzanar.

In action on April 15, 1945, his squad leader was badly wounded. Munemori took command and, crawling forward under fire, destroyed two machine gun nests. Crawling back to his squad, he saw an enemy grenade land in their foxhole. Too late for any other action, Sadao threw himself on the grenade, taking the blast with his body to protect his fellow soldiers. He was 23. For his courage and selfless sacrifice, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously.

Next time you travel through these interchanges, take a moment to remember who they honor: a pioneering woman engineer of great skill, a man of peace who led his people forward into freedom, and a young man who gave up his life so that others might live. These people deserve to be remembered.

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