As people across the nation pay tribute this Memorial Day to those lost in the line of duty, here in Bangor, Mainers can pay tribute at any of the 10 war memorials installed around the city — from a Civil War memorial that’s one of the oldest in the nation, to newer memorials that offer personalized ways to honor the fallen. Where are these memorials? Who do they memorialize? And who are some of the specific Bangor-area individuals, lost in combat, whose lives and service we can learn about?
There are a number of Bangor-area Civil War veterans buried at Mount Hope Cemetery, including many who died in combat, such as Maj. Stephen Decatur Carpenter, a Bangor native whose death in battle in 1864 spurred the creation of the Soldier’s Monument, a granite obelisk that stands near the State Street entrance to the cemetery. The monument is one of the first Civil War memorials in the country, and Carpenter was initially buried beneath it, though his remains were later moved to a different plot in Mount Hope.
The Grand Army of the Republic lot was dedicated in 1907 to accommodate the many Civil War veterans who passed on in the early 20th century — the Soldier’s Monument lot had become full. The GAR lot features a recreation of a Civil War fort and several naval cannons, alongside more graves of the fallen.
Also buried at Mount Hope is Maj. Gen. Daniel Chaplin, the Mainer who led the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery Regiment. Chaplin attained the rank of Colonel in July 1862, less than 18 months after enlisting in the army as a private. In June 1864, he led the 1st Maine in a charge against Confederate fortifications during the Siege of Petersburg, Virginia, which resulted in the greatest single loss of life by a Union Regiment in a single action. Seven officers and 108 men were killed, and another 25 officers and 464 men wounded. Chaplin survived the charge, but died two months later at the Battle of Deep Bottom.
In 1962 a third Civil War memorial was dedicated at Mount Hope — the Second Maine Memorial, raised in honor of Second Maine Regiment of Volunteers. The first Maine men to see action in the war, the Second Maine lost more than 800 men over the course of 10 battles, from Bull Run to Chancellorsville. Both the GAR lot and the Second Maine memorial were funded by a bequest from Col. Luther Peirce, a Bangor native who joined the Second Maine and fought at Bull Run and other battles, and who is also buried at Mount Hope.
Thirty years after the Civil War, the Spanish-American War was one of the least bloody conflicts in U.S. history. Maine — or, at least, a ship with the state’s namesake — played a major role in the war, as the supposed bombing of the U.S.S. Maine by the Spanish in Havana, Cuba kickstarted the fight. In Bangor, the U.S.S. Maine and the Spanish-American War are memorialized with a granite structure at Davenport Park at the corner of Cedar and Main Streets, with the ship’s shield and some of its scrollwork affixed to it.
World War I
The War Memorial in Norumbega Parkway, between Central and Franklin streets in downtown Bangor, was raised in 1939, about 20 years after World War I ended, and two years before the U.S. became involved in World War II. It honors Maine’s war dead during World War I with the impressive statue of Lady Victory, which was funded by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and sculpted by Charles Tefft. That’s the artist who also sculpted Hannibal Hamlin in Kenduskeag Parkway, and the Peirce Memorial on Harlow Street, next to the Bangor Public Library.
World War II
The State of Maine World War II Memorial was raised at 405 Perry Road, the site of the Cole Land Transportation Museum, in 1997, dedicated to the more than 41,000 Mainers who served in the war, and the 2,551 who gave their lives in combat. The statue of a soldier driving a jeep was made in the likeness of Charles A. Flanagan, a Bangor native killed in action in November 1944. In 2012, a second memorial was raised at the Cole Museum, honoring specifically the more than 110 Bangor men who died in World War II.
In addition to the World War II Memorial at the Cole Land Transportation Museum, there’s a naval memorial, the Bangor Victory Platoon plaque, located at Davenport Park on Cedar Street. The plaque honors 56 Mainers — all of them aged 17 — who all joined the Navy in August 1943, and who all served together on the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Wasp. All came home, except for SN 1st Class Gilbert Soucy, a Portage native who was killed in action on March 19, 1945, as Wasp supported the Marines on Iwo Jiwa.
Among the most eye-catching of war memorials in Maine is the Korean War Memorial at Mount Hope Cemetery, which honors the 245 Mainers killed during the Korean War. The memorial, erected in 1995 by the Burton-Goode-Sargent Chapter of the Korean War Veterans of America, features two rows of flags, a polished granite slab bearing the names of the Maine Korean War dead, and the Victor’s Walkway, paved with inscribed stones.
The Cole Land Transportation Museum is also the site of the Maine Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which was dedicated on Memorial Day 2004 in memory of Maine’s Vietnam War dead, including 14 from Bangor. The memorial features a granite stone engraved with all 339 killed or missing in action, and a statue of an injured Vietnam soldier being carried by another soldier and a nurse. The injured soldier is a portrayal of Eric Michael Wardwell, a Bucksport native killed in combat in September 1967 in Vietnam. A Huey helicopter and an M-60 Tank are also installed outside at the museum, as is a Purple Heart Memorial, honoring all veterans of all wars.
Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
Presently, there is no public memorial to either the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan and the more than 50 Mainers who have died during both ongoing conflicts. There have been a number of events honoring fallen soldiers, but a statue, plaque or other structure has not yet been raised.
That said, Mainers have found unique and equally moving ways to honor lost soldiers in the post-Sept. 11, 2001, conflicts. The Summit Project, for example, provides a living memorial to the state’s newest war casualties, with an annual event over Memorial Day Weekend. Engraved stones, each memorializing a soldier who died in service, are taken by motorcycle convoy from Portland to Baxter State Park, where hikers then carry each stone to the summit of Mount Katahdin. Other stones have been carried to the top of Cadillac, as well as to the summits of Everest, Kilimanjaro and Denali.