La Oferta

July 25, 2024

The History Unveiled in the “Squadron Bottles” at the Top of the Mark in San Francisco

By Lina Broydo

Be curious. Be inquisitive. Be hungry for knowledge and the memories of the world’s history. While recently invited to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the regally stunning InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel, situated atop the city’s picturesque Nob Hill, being curious led me to a very unique find of a priceless exhibit in the hotel’s lobby lounge. Who knew? But now I know that while marking today’s celebration of the DDay, I learned about the day the Allied forces launched a combined naval, air and land assault on Nazi-occupied France. 

The ‘D’ in D-Day stands simply for ‘day’ and the term was used to describe the first day of any large military operation. Early on June 6th, 1944 Allied airborne forces parachuted into drop zones across northern France. Ground troops then landed across five assault beaches – Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. By the end of the day, the Allies had established a foothold along the coast and could begin their advance into France.

And here is the gem I discovered among the history behind the Squadron Bottles displayed in the glass armoire at the Top of the Mark lavish lobby, which has been a destination for active service people and veterans since World War II. The tradition of Top of the Mark’s Squadron Bottles began during that era. A visiting serviceman would buy and leave a bottle in the care of the bartender so the next soldier from his squadron could enjoy a free drink – the only requirement being that the soldier who finished the bottle had to buy a new one to leave behind. A journal, tucked safely behind the bar with the various Squadron Bottles, invited servicemen to leave their tributes and well wishes to their comrades.

The tradition was temporarily lost until 2009 when Lieutenant Mike Hall of the US Navy bought a bottle of whiskey and started a new journal. More than ten years later, the Top of the Mark has captured memories and toasts from everyone from World War II veterans to active service professionals and their families. 

Today, any service person or veteran can come in and get a free “Squadron Shot” while they enjoy panoramic views across the City and the Bay and soak up the elegant ambiance of one of San Francisco’s most beloved institutions.In addition, during WW II, soldiers would gather at the Top of the Mark before shipping out, believing one last toast to the Golden Gate Bridge would bring them home safely. Then wives and sweethearts would gaze tearfully out the windows in the lounge’s northwest corner (then known as “Weeper’s Corner”) as they watched their loved ones’ ships sail out under the Bridge.
And now you know the rest of the story….Photos courtesy of the Top of the Mark