Storied chapel resurrected
December 8, 2012
CAMP SENDAI, Japan - It has been nearly two years since the 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami struck the east coast of Japan, crumbling the landscape and then washing it away. The event is now remembered as "3/11," a term and event congruous to America's "9/11." The natural disaster claimed more than 18,000 lives, created countless dollars worth of damage and temporarily caused mass destruction for the people of this beautiful island nation. The people were resilient and started rebuilding as soon as the storm waters receded. One such casualty of the storm is the storied Old Schimmelpfennig Chapel located on modern-day Camp Sendai on the northern end of Japan.
In order to preserve its historical presence, the Japanese are rebuilding the chapel. Initially, the chapel served as a place of worship for the U.S. service members stationed on Camp Sendai from September 1945 to November 1957. It was the very location where retired U.S. Army General, Gen. George W. Casey, Jr., was baptized, shortly after his birth in Sendai, July 22, 1948. Casey was the commander of Multi-National Iraq from 2007 to 2011 and later the Army Chief of Staff. The following 50 years, the chapel served as a concert hall for the Japanese Northeast Army Band, a fitting place for music where the visual and audio beauty was on par with each other. It became a historical monument shortly afterwards where it maintained its status until it was destroyed in March 2011.
The original building was constructed of brick and mortar with elaborate details such as steep gables and stained glass windows. While the construction seemed able to stand the test of time, the chapel construction met its match with the massive earthquake that shook the Japanese island last year. With an opportunity to rebuild, the construction is being upgraded to utilize modern building techniques such as a concrete foundation with steel I-beams for support.
Gracing the new veneer is a classic piece from the past; the copper steeple from the original chapel, now tinted a beautiful shade of green from weathering and age. The "church topper" is presently awaiting its debut, sitting on the ground between the new chapel and the twisted remains of the old chapel where it once perched for decades. Once completed, the new chapel will be called "Casey Chapel" in honor of the general's military career that began right here on Camp Sendai.