Brunswick Naval Museum & Memorial Gardens

The Chapel

The History of the NASB Chapel

When the Air Station was built in 1942 to train British and Canadian pilots, it included a chapel.  Although small, it was sufficient for the number of personnel stationed here.  The Station closed in 1946.  When it reopened in 1952, thousands of U.S. Navy personnel, often with families, were transferred to NASB.  The small chapel was no longer adequate for the needs of the Station but it was not until 1964 that anything could be done about it.

 

When Senator Margaret Chase Smith was paying a visit that year, she asked the commanding officer if there was anything he needed that she might be able to help with.  He said that he needed a new chapel.  Within a short time it was approved and in 1965 the current building was completed.  At the time it did not include any gardens – just grassy areas between the wings of the complex.

 

In 1968, Ms. Anne Frances Hodgkins of the Harpswell Garden Club visited the commanding officer, CAPT. Charles L. Wyman and told him that the southern grassy area should be made into a garden dedicated to the aircrew personnel from NASB who had given their lives while flying operational or training flights from the Station or from deployed sites.  He rightfully answered that he could not use taxpayers’ money to plant flowers.  Ms. Hodgkins stated that the entire project, including future maintenance, would be accomplished by the Garden Club with financial support from the local community.  On 16 June 1968 the Memorial Garden was dedicated and in 1969 the first memorial plaques were enshrined – for the two crews from VP-26 who were shot down off the coast of Vietnam.  Over the years many more plaques were added and today they contain the names of ninety NASB sailors who died while flying missions during the cold war.  Most of the squadrons that were stationed here are represented.  Since many of the crewmen were lost at sea, this garden may be the only place where friends and family members can pay their respects.

 

In 1972, Ms. Hodgkin again approached the CO and suggested that another garden be constructed in the northern grassy area.  This one would be dedicated to the unique relationship that existed between the Navy personnel of NASB and the members of the greater Brunswick community.  It would be called the Friendship Garden and was dedicated on 28 May 1972.  It is fitting that the first plaque in the Friendship Garden would be for Ms. Hodgkins who passed away just a short time after its dedication.

 

These gardens are unique to any military reservation in the United States and it is fitting that they, and the former Navy Chapel that will depict naval aviation’s sixty-eight year relationship with the mid-coast area, will be preserved and protected.