NAS Wildwood Unique Partnership Celebrates US Coast Guard

Historic Hangar #1 at Naval Air Station Wildwood (NASW) Aviation Museum.
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Naval Air Station Wildwood (NASW) Aviation Museum announces a partnership with the Cape May Maritime Museum (CMMM). The focus of the partnership is the display of a fully restored USCG-36’ series motor lifeboat. These boats were in service between 1940 and the 1970’s and built in Curtis Bay, MD. This addition to the collection enhances NASW’s display of several USCG air, maritime and land assets. The lifeboat highlights NASW’s commitment to preserving the rich history of the USCG and provides an educational immersive experience. NASW will be the “on-land home” for the USCG-36538 from September to May, commencing in 2024. The lifeboat will operate as a floating museum in the Cape May County waters between May and September.

The late Master Chief Petty Officer Boatswain Mate Wayne Adams (1940-2022) of Cape May, NJ was the last officer in charge of the CG-36538 while stationed in Great Egg CG, NJ station until 1972. These lifeboats were replaced by the 44’ and presently the 47’ Steel Hull Motor Lifeboat. The 36’ class is remembered for daring rescues, piloted entirely from an open cockpit where crewmembers were exposed to the elements. The two-ton keel in the 20,000-pound craft enabled the boat to self-right itself in five to seven seconds and still operate. The most memorable rescue performed using a 36’ lifeboat was that of crewmembers of the USCG-36500 of the stricken SS Pendleton. The 2016 feature film, “The Finest Hours”, is based on this rescue in 1952. There are many Cape May connections to this rescue. The CMMM’s plan is to provide guided tours by the retired military, Coast Guard Auxiliary, and self-guided tours via mobile phone devices. There will be opportunities to board the boat.

NASW is committed to strengthening its current USCG exhibition. The display now includes dynamic exhibitions of a 41‘utility boat, helicopter, scout aircraft and a USCG Humvee vehicle used in Afghanistan. Additionally, there is an interactive video kiosk- display of the USCG role in water evacuations during the 9/11/2001 terrorist attack in New York, as well as USCG models and rare posters by renowned craftsmen and artists.

While this is a costly and lengthy restoration project on behalf of CMMM, the long-term goal is to be included on the New Jersey and National Registry of Landmark locations. Ed Melega, president of the CMMM noted; “Out of respect for those who have gone before us, and as a guide for those who follow, the Cape May area deserves the best effort from the CMMM. After all, Cape May City is home to the only recruit training center in the Country and Cape May County is listed a designated “USCG Community.” This partnership, including the unique on-water floating museum, will provide accessibility to the public twelve months of the year. This will increase the exposure from land to sea!” Tours of the local USCG-36538 restoration site are available upon request.  Email:

 Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum is located inside historic Hangar #1 at the Cape May Airport. The site was formerly Naval Air Station Wildwood, which served as a World War II dive-bomber training center. The museum is dedicated to the 42 aviators who perished while training at Naval Air Station Wildwood between 1943 and 1945. The museum is open from 10am-4pm Monday through Friday. For more information, visit or call (609) 886-8787.


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