BANGOR, Maine — A portrait of the young airman for whom Dow Field, later known as Dow Air Force Base, was named was unveiled Thursday at Bangor International Airport.
The painting depicting James Frederick Dow was donated to BIA by a niece, Ellen Cotton of North Yarmouth, according to David Bergquist of Hermon, a Dow Field historian.
It now hangs in a place of honor on a wall in the terminal next to a room that serves as the home of the Maine Troop Greeters.
“When we remember James Dow, we honor all our men and women in uniform who served here, who passed through here and those who now serve here and pass through here,” Bergquist said during the event, which coincided with a reunion of Dow airmen.
According to Bergquist, the painting given to BIA was one of four commissioned by Dow’s younger brother, Harold Dow, while he was stationed with the Army Air Forces in Europe shortly after World War II.
The artist, S. Boruschewsky, was a Russian being held in Germany as a prisoner of war at the time, the historian said, adding that the portraits were based on a photograph the younger Dow carried with him while in the military.
“Bangor has a great history. What occurred here in the middle part of the last century is a vital part of that history. It is a story that needs to be told,” Bergquist said before he and City Councilor Peter D’Errico, a former Air Force navigator stationed at Dow from 1957 through 1960, unveiled the painting.
“While today we may think of our times as challenging internationally, they pale in comparison to world events of the 1930s and ’40s. Europe was collapsing in the face of the Nazi juggernaut, while in Asia Japan continued its sweep into China,” Bergquist said.
“These were the times of James Frederick Dow and the establishment of an Army air base here,” he said.
According to Bergquist, Dow grew up in Houlton, where he was a gifted athlete who also was fascinated by aircraft. While enrolled at the University of Maine, he joined the Scabbard and Blade, a student military group, serving as its president in his senior year.
After graduation in 1937, Dow enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves and was first stationed at Fort Williams and McKinley, a shore artillery installation in Portland.
Because Dow wanted to fly, he signed up for flight training programs offered by the Air Corps, earning his wings in March 1940. He then was stationed at Mitchell Field on Long Island, New York, where his love of flight became the cause of his death.
In June 1940, Bergquist said, Dow and 10 other airmen were killed when the two aircraft they were flying collided in mid-air during a formation flying drill.
“The next day, France fell to Hitler and his German forces. A month later, the U.S. Army picked Bangor as a primary air defense site. Construction on what initially was known as the Bangor Army Cantonment began in early 1941.
In January 1942, the Bangor base was renamed Dow Field in honor of the young airman. During World War II, Dow Field served as a major port of embarkation for military aircraft and their crews bound for Fortress Europe, Bergquist said. More than 100,000 airmen and 7,000 bombers passed through Dow Field. Nearly 6,000 military personnel were stationed here during the war.
After the war, the base was deactivated but within a few years was put back into service as Dow Air Force Base in response to the Korean crisis, Bergquist said. During the Cold War era, Dow was a key installation in the U.S. Air Force’s Strategic Air Command.