CHULA VISTA -- Like several of his neighbors on Cedar Avenue, Gailand Polk first visited the San Diego area with the Navy in World War II and quickly returned after the war to enjoy the exploding job market and cool sea breezes.
He and other veterans have lived on this quiet block of stucco, pastel-painted houses as civilians for many years, and the street down the block is still named after famous admiral William F. "Bull" Halsey. Their respect for the seriousness of war and disdain for those who shrink from it remains as much a part of their lives as their well-tended lawns and overflowing tool boxes.
So, like many other voters in area, Polk supports the idea of a military invasion of Kuwait and Iraq if that is the only way to break the grip of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
"I say go over there and take care of the problem," said Polk, a supervisor with an aerospace company. He is particularly opposed to leaving Saddam in possession "of all those missiles and nerve gas."
Of Saddam's promised release of hostages, Polk said, "I'll believe it when I see it. . . . We've still got to get them out of Kuwait and put the people that belong there back there."
Shirley Urquidi, a homeowner who expressed concern about her grandson in the reserves, said she thought that the United States "ought to bomb the hell out of them until there is nothing left of that country."
Greg Cox, just retired as mayor of this San Diego suburb, said the military connections of its 134,000 residents do not necessarily mean "there is a desire to go to war." But if Saddam leaves the United States no alternative, there is strong support for at least "a quick, surgical strike," he said.
But opinion about the need for war is far from unanimous. "I don't think an attack will solve anything," said Vidal Fernandez, a Mexican-born exporter with pacifist religious beliefs.
In National City, a few freeway exits to the north, Gwenda Chambers, a manufacturing company office supervisor, said she also opposed use of U.S. troops and wondered why other countries were not supplying military support.
One block away, in her tidy yellow frame house, Yolanda Meza said, "I would want to ask a lot more questions before I did something."
Samuel Popkin, political science professor at the University of California, San Diego, said significant portions of the large Hispanic and Asian populations here support conservative Republicans.
But "I have not heard one black person yet who thought we ought to be there," said Vernon Sukumu, director of the Black Federation in San Diego. Many blacks have complained about the high percentage of low-income minorities in the armed forces risking their lives and some have asked, "Why don't we go to South Africa?" Sukumu said.
Irma Castro, executive director of the Chicano Federation in San Diego, said the Hispanic community, although its members are patriotic and concerned that they be perceived as Americans, was split between those who supported strong action against Iraq and those who feared another Vietnam War in which Hispanic soldiers would suffer many casualties.
Saddam's announcement of plans to release all the hostages, Castro said, "will be seen as very positive" and probably reduce the numbers of Hispanics supporting military action. Not all Cedar Avenue residents were interested in the issue. Some had other things on their mind. Several teenage boys were discussing a fallen adversary as they circled on their bicycles. "He's crying," one said. "He's going to tell his dad."
"Hey, his dad's a cop."