There was a time when Loring Air Force Base outside of Limestone, Maine, was at the very front line of the Cold War. After all, it was the military base on U.S. soil that was closest to Europe.
Carved out of the North Woods of Maine and named after Air Force Maj. Charles J. Loring Jr., a Medal of Honor recipient during the Korean War, the base was home of the 42nd Bomb Wing flying B-36 Peacemakers and later B-52 Stratofortresses and KC-135 Stratotankers.
It also was home for a Nuclear Weapons Storage Area and was the first U.S. site specifically constructed for the storage, assembly and testing of atomic weapons.
I knew about the B-52s because a friend of the family was retired Air Force and the huge jets occasionally flew over my home in Aroostook County. And the KC-135s make sense to keep the B-52s flying. But I had no idea growing up that there had been a Nuclear Weapons Storage Area there, too.
The idea that there was work done there on atomic weapons is pretty stunning, really, given how very remote and rural the region remains to this day. But then again, that may be the point, to be remote and out of the view of everyone, including others in the military.
But things have changed, of course, as the base was closed to military use in the mid-1990s and reverted to civilian uses.
Some of the most remote areas of the former base – perhaps some of the area where the work on atomic weapons was carried out – now is a wildlife refuge. I didn’t realize that until I read today’s DownEast.com trivial question.
What wildlife refuge is located on part of the former Loring Air Force Base?
Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge. It was established in 1998 when 4,700 acres were transferred from the U.S. Air Force to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The refuge also administers some 2,400 wetland conservation easements throughout Aroostook County.