The Navy at Schoodic Point

Schoodic Institute’s Schoodic Education and Research Center Campus is on the site of the former Naval Security Group Activity Winter Harbor.

The Navy first arrived on Schoodic Point in 1935, shortly after the National Park Service acquired 2,000 acres from the heirs of John G. Moore.  A Navy listening station at Otter Cliffs on Mount Desert Island was built in 1917 but became an obstacle to the Park Loop Road  being planned by John D. Rockefeller, Jr.  Mr. Rockefeller persuaded the Navy to relocate to Schoodic Point.

The purposes and uses of the listening station varied over the years, and the technologies evolved.  According to the site Cold War Relics:

The mission of sites like NSGA Winter Harbor was to use their Wullenweber Antenna Array in conjunction with ELINT satellites to triangulate the location of foreign warships.  Not only did this enable the US Navy to track foreign warships, but it provided ships equipped with cruise missiles with a means of over the horizon targeting…. The site’s Wullenweber Antenna Array was probably the feature by which it was most commonly identified.  Often called an Elephant Cage because of its ring shape and tall antenna poles, the Wullenweber was a Circularly Disposed Dipole Array (CDDA) that used vertical radiator elements in a ring with vertical reflector elements installed behind them in a smaller diameter ring for high frequency direction finding (HF/DF). 

When the Navy closed the base in 2002, it was a major economic blow to the community.  It left vacant housing in town, and dramatically reduced the school population.  See an  article by Sandra Dinsmore from the Working Waterfront, published in 2005.

An in-depth collection of history, photographs, and remembrances from the base are also available online.

From Northeast Historic Film, this is a film shot in 1967 on the 50th anniversary of the base.  It features two personnel from the early years at Otter Cliffs, the Commander from 1967, and aerial and ground footage of the base at Schoodic Point in 1967 (aerial footage starts at 6:56).

Jasper Sheehan, a student intern at Schoodic Institute, collected oral histories from former personnel at the base in 2013 and 2014.

An interview with Admiral Michael S. Rogers, former Commanding Officer of Naval Security Group Activity, Winter Harbor Maine:

An interview with Robert Dickie, formally stationed at Naval Security Group Activity, Winter Harbor Maine:

An interview with Meredith Sandstrom, formally stationed at Naval Security Group Activity, Winter Harbor Maine:

An interview with John Cripps, formally stationed at Naval Security Group Activity, Winter Harbor Maine:

An interview with Robert Vander Veer, formally stationed at Naval Security Group Activity, Winter Harbor Maine: