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Fort Detrick

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Fort Detrick /ˈdiːtrɪk/ is a United States Army Medical Command installation located in Frederick, Maryland Historically, Fort Detrick was the center of the US biological weapons program from 1943 to 1969 Since the discontinuation of that program, it has hosted most elements of the United States biological defense program

As of the early 2010s, Fort Detrick's 1,200-acre 490 ha campus supports a multi-governmental community that conducts biomedical research and development, medical materiel management, global medical communications and the study of foreign plant pathogens It is home to the US Army Medical Research and Material Command USAMRMC, with its bio-defense agency, the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases USAMRIID It also hosts the National Cancer Institute-Frederick NCI-Frederick1 and is home to the National Interagency Confederation for Biological Research NICBR2 and National Interagency Biodefense Campus NIBC

Fort Detrick is the largest employer in Frederick County, Maryland


  • 1 History
    • 11 Detrick Field 1931–43
    • 12 Camp Detrick 1943–56
      • 121 World War II and BW research 1943–45
      • 122 Post-war years 1946–55
        • 1221 Testing performed on Seventh-day Adventists, 1940–1974
    • 13 Fort Detrick 1956–present
      • 131 Cold War years 1956–89
      • 132 Post-Cold War 1990–present
  • 2 Environmental contamination
  • 3 Tenant units and organizations
  • 4 On post historic sites
  • 5 In popular culture
  • 6 See also
  • 7 References
  • 8 External links


Five farms originally constituted what is today known as “Area A” with 800 acres 320 ha, or the main post area of Fort Detrick, where most installation activities are located "Area B" – known as "The Farm" and consisting of nearly 400 acres 160 ha – was purchased in 1946 to provide a test area west of Rosemont Avenue, then called Yellow Springs Pike In addition, the post's water and waste water treatment plants comprise about 16 acres 65 ha on the banks of the Monocacy River

Detrick Field 1931–43edit

Fort Detrick traces its roots to a small municipal airport established at Frederick, Maryland, in 1929 It was operated by a single person and the field was one of a string of emergency airfields between Cleveland, Ohio, and Washington, DC, until 1938 The field was named in honor of squadron flight surgeon Major Frederick L Detrick who served in France during World War I and died in June 1931 of a heart attack The first military presence there was the encampment, on 10 August 1931 two months after the Major's death, of his unit: the 104th Observation Squadron of the 29th Division, Maryland National Guard The Squadron flew de Havilland observation biplanes and Curtiss JN-4 "Jennies"3

A concrete and tarmac airfield replaced the grass field in 1939, and an upgraded Detrick Field served as a Cadet Pilot Training Center until the country's entry into World War II Detrick Field was formally leased from the City of Frederick in 1940 having previously been leased from the state for just two weeks per year The last airplanes departed Detrick Field in December 1941 and January 1942 after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor All aircraft and pilots in the 104th and the cadet program were reassigned after the Declaration of War to conduct antisubmarine patrols off the Atlantic Coast The 2nd Bombardment Squadron, US Army Air Corps was reconstituted at Detrick Field between March and September 1942, when it deployed to England to become the nucleus of the new Eighth Air Force headquarters Thereafter, the base ceased to be an aviation center

Camp Detrick 1943–56edit

On 9 March 1943, the government purchased 154 acres 62 ha encompassing the original 92 acres 37 ha and re-christened the facility "Camp Detrick" The same year saw the establishment of the US Army Biological Warfare Laboratories USBWL, responsible for pioneering research into biocontainment, decontamination, gaseous sterilization, and agent purification The first commander, Lt Col William S Bacon, and his successor, Col Martin B Chittick, oversaw the initial $125 million renovation and construction of the base

World War II and BW research 1943–45edit

Main article: United States biological weapons program

During World War II, Camp Detrick and the USBWL became the site of intensive biological warfare BW research using various pathogens This research was originally overseen by pharmaceuticals executive George W Merck and for many years was conducted by Ira L Baldwin, professor of bacteriology at the University of Wisconsin Baldwin became the first scientific director of the labs He chose Detrick Field for the site of this exhaustive research effort because of its balance between remoteness of location and proximity to Washington, DC – as well as to Edgewood Arsenal, the focal point of US chemical warfare research Buildings and other facilities left from the old airfield – including the large hangar – provided the nucleus of support needed for the startup The 92 acres 37 ha of Detrick Field were also surrounded by extensive farmlands that could be procured if and when the BW effort was expanded4

The Army's Chemical Warfare Service was given responsibility and oversight for the effort that one officer described as "cloaked in the deepest wartime secrecy, matched only by the Manhattan Project for developing the Atomic Bomb"5 Three months after the start of construction, an additional $3 million was provided for five additional laboratories and a pilot plant Lt Col Bacon was authorized 85 officers, 373 enlisted personnel, and 80 enlisted Women's Army Auxiliary Corps WAAC members under two WAAC officers At its peak strength in 1945, Camp Detrick had 240 officers and 1,530 enlisted personnel including WAACs6

Post-war years 1946–55edit

The elaborate security precautions taken at Camp Detrick were so effective that it was not until January 1946, 4 months after VJ Day that the public learned of the war-time research in biological weapons7

In 1952, the Army purchased over 500 acres 200 ha more of land located between West 7th Street and Oppossumtown Pike to expand the permanent research and development facilities

Two workers at the base died from exposure to anthrax in the 1950s Another died in 1964 from viral encephalitis8

There was a building on the base, Building 470, locally referred to as "Anthrax Tower" Building 470 was a pilot plant for testing optimal fermentor and bacterial purification technologies The information gained in this pilot plant shaped the fermentor technology that was ultimately used by the pharmaceutical industry to revolutionize production of antibiotics and other drugs Building 470 was torn down in 2003 without any adverse effects on the demolition workers or the environment The facility acquired the nickname "Fort Doom" while offensive biological warfare research was undertaken there 5,000 bombs containing anthrax spores were produced at the base during World War II8

From 1945 to 1955 under Project Paperclip and its successors, the US government recruited over 1,600 German and Austrian scientists and engineers in a variety of fields such as aircraft design, missile technology and biological warfare Among the specialists in the latter field who ended up working in the US were Walter Schreiber, Erich Traub and Kurt Blome, who had been involved with medical experiments on concentration camp inmates to test biological warfare agents Since Britain, France and the Soviet Union were also engaged in recruiting these scientists, the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency JIOA wished to deny their services to other powers, and therefore altered or concealed the records of their Nazi past and involvement in war crimes9

Testing performed on Seventh-day Adventists, 1940–1974edit

The US General Accounting Office issued a report on September 28, 1994, which stated that between 1940 and 1974, DOD and other national security agencies studied hundreds of thousands of human subjects in tests and experiments involving hazardous substances

The quote from the study:

Many experiments that tested various biological agents on human subjects, referred to as Operation Whitecoat, were carried out at Fort Detrick, Maryland, in the 1950s The human subjects originally consisted of volunteer enlisted men However, after the enlisted men staged a sitdown strike to obtain more information about the dangers of the biological tests, Seventh-day Adventists SDAs who were conscientious objectors were recruited for the studies10

The Army purchased an additional 147 acres 59 ha in 1946 to increase the size of the original "Area A" as well as 398 acres 161 ha located west of Area A, but not contiguous to it, to provide a test area known as Area B In 1952, another 50276 acres 2035 ha were purchased between West 7th Street and Oppossumtown Pike to expand the permanent research and development facilities

Jeffrey Alan Lockwood wrote in 2009 that the biological warfare program at Ft Detrick began to research the use of insects as disease vectors going back to World War II and also employed German and Japanese scientists after the war who had experimented on human subjects among POWs and concentration camp inmates Scientists used or attempted to use a wide variety of insects in their biowar plans, including fleas, ticks, ants, lice and mosquitoes – especially mosquitoes that carried the yellow fever virus They also tested these in the United States Lockwood thinks that it is very likely that the US did use insects dropped from aircraft during the Korean War to spread diseases, and that the Chinese and North Koreans were not simply engaged in a propaganda campaign when they made these allegations, since the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of Defense had approved their use in the fall of 1950 at the "earliest practicable time" At that time, it had five biowarfare agents ready for use, three of which were spread by insect vectors11

Fort Detrick 1956–presentedit

Cold War years 1956–89edit

Camp Detrick was designated a permanent installation for peacetime biological research and development shortly after World War II, but that status was not confirmed until 1956, when the post became Fort Detrick Its mandate was to continue its previous mission of biomedical research and its role as the world’s leading research campus for biological agents requiring specialty containment

The most recent land acquisition for the fort was a parcel of less than 3 acres 12 ha along the Rosemont Avenue fence in 1962, completing the present 1,200 acres 490 ha

On Veterans Day, November 11, 1969, President Richard M Nixon asked the Senate to ratify the 1925 Geneva Protocol prohibiting the use of chemical and biological weapons Nixon assured Fort Detrick its research would continue On November 25, 1969, Nixon made a statement outlawing offensive biological research in the United States Since that time any research done at Fort Detrick has been purely defensive in nature,citation needed focusing on diagnostics, preventives and treatments for BW infections This research is undertaken by the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases USAMRIID which transitioned from the previous US Army Medical Unit USAMU and was renamed in 1969

Many former laboratories and some land made available by the disestablishment of the offensive biological warfare program were ultimately transferred to the US Department of Health and Human Services during the 1970s and later The National Cancer Research and Development Center now the National Cancer Institute-Frederick was established in 1971 on a 69-acre 28 ha parcel in Area A ceded by the installation

In 1989 base researchers identified the Ebola virus in a monkey imported to the area from the Philippines8

Post-Cold War 1990–presentedit

In 1990, Hazelton Research Products' Reston Quarantine Unit in Reston, Virginia suffered a mysterious outbreak of fatal illness among a shipment of crab-eating macaque monkeys imported from the Philippines The company's veterinary pathologist sent tissue samples from dead animals to the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases USAMRIID at Fort Detrick, where a laboratory test known as an ELISA assay showed antibodies to Ebola virus Thereafter, a team from USAMRIID euthanized the surviving monkeys, bringing the carcasses to Ft Detrick for study by the veterinary pathologists and virologists, and eventual disposal under safe conditions The Philippines and the United States had no previous cases of Ebola infection, and upon further study researchers concluded it was another strain of Ebola, or a new filovirus of Asian origin, which they named Reston ebolavirus REBOV after the location of the incident12

Further information: United States biological defense program

In 2009, author H P Albarelli published the book A Terrible Mistake: The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA's Secret Cold War Experiments about Frank Olson's death and the experiments conducted at Fort Detrick The book is based on documents released under FOIA and numerous other documents and interviews to the police and investigators1314

In the 1980s and 1990s Jakob Segal made a claim that Fort Detrick was the site where the United States government "invented" HIV15

USAMRIID had been the principal consultant to the FBI on scientific aspects of the 2001 Anthrax Attacks, which had infected 22 people and killed five16 While assisting with the science from the beginning, it also soon became the focus of the FBI's investigation of possible perpetrators see Steven Hatfill In July 2008, a top US biodefense researcher at USAMRIID committed suicide just as the FBI was about to lay charges relating to the incidents The scientist, Bruce Edwards Ivins, who had worked for 18 years at USAMRIID, had been told about the impending prosecution The FBI's identification of Ivins in August 2008 as the Anthrax Attack perpetrator remains controversial and several independent government investigations which will address his culpability are ongoing Although the anthrax preparations used in the attacks were of different grades, all of the material derived from the same bacterial strain Known as the Ames strain, it was first researched at USAMRIID The Ames strain was subsequently distributed to at least fifteen bio-research labs within the US and six locations overseas

In June 2008 the Environmental Protection Agency said it planned to add the base to the Superfund list of the most polluted places in the country8 On 9 April 2009, "Fort Detrick Area B Ground Water" was added to the list which currently includes 18 other sites within Maryland

The Forest Glen Annex of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Silver Spring, Maryland was transferred to the command of Fort Detrick in 2008 as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure process17

As of 2008update about 7,900 people worked at Fort Detrick The base has been the largest employer in Frederick County and contributed more than $500 million into the local economy annually18

Environmental contaminationedit

Fort Detrick Area B is a 399-acre proving ground and was a disposal area for chemical, biological, and radiological material until 1970 Only very recently, in 2009, it was listed as a superfund site on the National Priorities List with four so called "source areas": chemical waste disposal pits, a landfill, the Area B-Grid and the Area B-20 South burn area There are 30 additional possible areas Groundwater has been known to be contaminated with volatile organic compounds trichloroethylene since 1992, as well as tetrachloroethene TCE, both onsite and offsite19 Eight 55-gallon drums of TCE buried in Area B in 1968 are believed one source of the contamination20 Groundwater plume modeling is difficult due to underlying karst formations No "Records of Decision" how each site will be remediated have been signed by EPA and Army19

In 2012, the United States National Research Council published a report after reviewing two investigations of potential health hazards at Fort Detrick: a 2009 public health assessment conducted by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and a cancer investigation in Frederick County by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Frederick County Health Department21 The report found neither study could show whether people were harmed by contaminated groundwater from Area B It is unlikely that additional studies could establish a link, because no data on early exposures were collected and data cannot be obtained or reliably estimated now21

In May 2014, a developer who had bought 92 acres near the Center for Biological Research sued the US Army for negligence in its chemical disposal practices, which led to levels of TCE of up to 42 times the federal maximum contaminant level20 A US attorney representing Fort Detrick argued in July 2014 that nonexistent EPA regulation at the time is an exception to the Federal Tort Claims Act and "protects the Army’s waste disposal practices"22 The $37 million lawsuit was dismissed in January 201523

After the Army denied claims of health problems in 106 Fredrick families and individuals in February 2015, the residents filed a class action lawsuit, seeking $750 million for wrongful death and pain and suffering in August 201523

The installation has released a report on some of the findings in relation to the spillage of waste The public Fort Detrick website provided a copy of the archive from the meeting of an environmental committee 1

Tenant units and organizationsedit

Each branch of the US military is represented among Fort Detrick’s 7,800 military, federal and contractor employees Four cabinet-level agencies are represented by activities on the garrison: The US Department of Homeland Security, the US Department of Agriculture, the US Department of Health and Human Services, and the US Department of Defense The offices and laboratories include the Agriculture Department's Foreign Disease and Weed Science Research Institute, the National Cancer Institute, the Naval Medical Logistics Command and the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center Currently under construction is a biotechnology campus that will house civilian and military research centers including units of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases NIAID, as well as USAMRIID18

The following units and organizations military and otherwise are located on the Fort Detrick installation:

US Department of Defense

  • US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command USAMRMC
    • US Army Medical Materiel Agency USAMMA
    • US Army Medical Materiel Development Activity USAMMDA
    • US Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity USAMRAA
    • US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases USAMRIID
    • Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center TATRC
    • US Army Center for Environmental Health Research USACEHR; currently part of USAMRICD
  • 114th Signal Battalion
  • 21st Signal Brigade
  • 302nd Signal Battalion
  • 6th Medical Logistics Management Center 6MLMC
  • Company A, 53rd Signal Battalion SATCON
  • Air Force Medical Logistics Office AFMLO
  • Air Force Medical Support Agency, Global Medical Support Training and Exercises AFMSA/SGPX
  • National Center for Medical Intelligence NCMI, formerly the Armed Forces Medical Intelligence Center AFMIC
  • Chemical Biological Medical Systems CBMS, Joint Project Management Office
  • Company B, 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Marine Division Marine Forces Reserve
  • Defense Contract Management Agency, DCMA Baltimore
  • Detachment 1, 301st Signal Company Cable & Wire
  • Joint Medical Logistics Functional Development Center JMLFDC
  • Joint Readiness Clinical Advisory Board JRCAB
  • Medical Communications for Combat Casualty Care MC4
  • Naval Medical Logistics Command NMLC
  • Technology Applications Office TAO
  • US Army Information Systems Engineering Command, Fort Detrick Engineering Directorate

In addition, Fort Detrick is the support facility for the Raven Rock Mountain Complex24

US Department of Health and Human Services

  • The National Cancer Institute at Frederick NCI-Frederick1 a satellite facility of the NCI

US Department of Agriculture

  • Foreign Disease Weed Science Research Unit

US Department of Homeland Security

  • National Bioforensic Analysis Center NBFAC
  • National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center NBACC

On post historic sitesedit

Fort Detrick has three sites and four structures on the National Register of Historic Places:

  • The Nallin Farm House circa 1835
  • The Nallin Farm Springhouse and Bank Barn pre-1798
  • The One Million Liter Sphere, the "Eight Ball" 1947–48

In addition, the following sites on the installation are of historic interest:

  • A rocky knoll overlooking Frederick, and located near the Old Farm Gate northwest gate of Ft Detrick, was the site of historic structures The Novitiate Academy of Frederick built an impressive estate, Saint Joseph’s Villa, on the hill in 1895 This was located there because of Restoration Spring just to the north at the base of the hill The Academy moved to New York in 1903 and the Villa was subsequently demolished Dr Rudolph Rau, a Frederick surgeon, bought the land in 1911 and constructed an imposing white mansion with colossal columns, a third-floor ballroom and carriage house This estate, "Wide Pastures", also included an extensive Italianate woodland and terraced garden This property was sold in 1929 to Robert Bright who used it as a summerhouse until 1943 Three years later, the US government bought it and it was used as the Fort Detrick post commander’s residence until it too was demolished in 1977 Today, only retaining walls and some flagstone paths remain, but photos of both the Novitiate Academy building and Dr Rau's mansion can be seen as part of interpretive signage at the site
  • Building 470, a pilot plant known as "Anthrax Tower" 1953; demolished in 2003

In popular cultureedit

  • In the 2009 video game Prototype, Fort Detrick is the headquarters to the secret military organization Blackwatch, which deals with biological warfare attacks They are one of the enemy factions against the player character Alex Mercer
  • The opening sequence from the 1995 film Outbreak presents the four Biosafety Levels within the USAMRIID Research Facility at Fort Detrick
  • In "Amplification", episode 24 of season 4, of the CBS television series Criminal Minds, the BAU responds quickly after a serial killer releases a new strain of a deadly anthrax virus in Annapolis, Maryland that threatens the public and puts a member of the team at risk The killer targeted Fort Detrick because they rejected his services
  • Fort Detrick is featured in several episodes of the television series The X-Files as Fort Marlene, a play on words of the name of German actress Marlene Dietrich
  • Fort Detrick is mentioned several times in the 2007 alien invasion film The Invasion
  • Fort Detrick is mentioned briefly as the site of an important viral outbreak in The Bourne Legacy
  • Fort Detrick is the destination for the crew of the USS Nathan James to mass-produce a cure for the Red Flu in The Last Ship episode "No Place Like Home" season finale
  • Fort Detrick is mentioned in the ABC television series Scandal episode "Like Father, Like Daughter" aired on October 16, 2014
  • Fort Detrick is mentioned several times in the fourth season plot of The Americans It was also used as a setting in season 5

See alsoedit

  • Deseret Test Center
  • Fort Terry
  • Human experimentation in the United States
  • Operation Paperclip
  • Porton Down
  • Kurt Blome
  • William C Patrick III, veteran bioweaponeer
  • Erich Traub


  1. ^ a b "ncifcrfgov" ncifcrfgov 2012-01-31 Retrieved 2012-07-31 
  2. ^ "National Interagency Confederation for Biological Research NICBR" Detrickarmymil 2012-05-31 Retrieved 2012-07-26 
  3. ^ Capt Wayde Minami "Fort Detrick Named for Maryland Flight Surgeon" 175wgangafmil Retrieved 2012-07-31 
  4. ^ Covert, Norman M 2000, "A History of Fort Detrick, Maryland", 4th Edition: 2000
  5. ^ Clendenin, Lt Col Richard M 1968, Science and Technology at Fort Detrick, 1943–1968; Technical Information Division
  6. ^ Covert 2000, Op cit
  7. ^ Clendenin 1968, Op Cit
  8. ^ a b c d Davis, Aaron, Michael E Ruane and Nelson Hernandez, "Lab And Community Make For Uneasy Neighbors", Washington Post, August 2, 2008, Pg 10
  9. ^ Peter Knight, Conspiracy Theories in American History: An Encyclopedia, Volume One ABC-CLIO, 2003
  10. ^ Staff Report prepared for the committee on veterans' affairs December 8, 1994 John D Rockefeller IV, West Virginia, Chairman at gulfweborg
  11. ^ Jeffrey Alan Lockwood, Six Legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War Oxford, 2009
  12. ^ Preston, Richard 1994 The Hot Zone New York: Random House p 300 ISBN 978-0679437840 
  13. ^ "A Terrible Mistake:The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA’s Secret Cold War Experiments" – by H P Albareeli Jr 2009 publisher by Trine Day LLC accessed August 14, 2010 at aterriblemistakecom Archived July 12, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ "Son probes strange death of WMD worker" – Scott Shane writing for The Baltimore Sun September 12, 2004, accessed January 20, 2009 at sfgatecom
  15. ^ Johnson, I 21 February 1992 "German scientist couple presses theory that AIDS was created at Fort Detrick" Baltimore Sun Retrieved 25 January 2017 
  16. ^ "Anthrax scientist commits suicide as FBI closes in" Associated Press Archived from the original on August 5, 2008 Retrieved 2008-08-01 
  17. ^ "Fort Detrick 2010 Post Guide" PDF 2010 p 6 Archived from the original PDF on 10 October 2011 Retrieved 26 July 2014 
  18. ^ a b Wood, David, "Variety Of Research Carried Out At Fort Detrick", Baltimore Sun, August 2, 2008
  19. ^ a b "Fort Detrick Area B Groundwater" Mid-Atlantic Superfund EPA 7 January 2015 Retrieved 31 August 2015 
  20. ^ a b Matthew Hay Brown 10 May 2014 "Developers file $37 million federal suit over Fort Detrick contamination" Baltimore Sun Retrieved 13 May 2014 
  21. ^ a b National Research Council 2012 "Review of Studies of Possible Toxic Effects from Past Environmental Contamination at Fork Detrick" Washington, DC: The National Academies Press Retrieved 13 May 2014 
  22. ^ Sylvia Carignan 1 August 2014 "US attorney requests dismissal of developer's case against Fort Detrick" The Fredrick News Post Retrieved 2 August 2014 
  23. ^ a b Sylvia Carignan 20 August 2015 "Kristen Renee Foundation leaders, local residents sue Fort Detrick for wrongful death and pain and suffering" Frederick News-Post MD Retrieved 30 August 2015 
  24. ^ "Internet Archive Wayback Machine" 2006-04-29 Retrieved 2012-07-26 dead link

External linksedit

  • National Cancer Institute-Frederick website

Coordinates: 39°26′08″N 77°25′38″W / 394356°N 774272°W / 394356; -774272

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