Fort Detrick

Fort Detrick is a U.S. Army Medical Command installation located in Frederick, Maryland, USA. Historically, Fort Detrick was the center for the United States' biological weapons program (1943-69).

Today, Fort Detrick's campus supports a multi-governmental community that conducts biomedical research and development, medical material management, global medical communications and the study of foreign plant pathogens. It is home to the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC), with its bio-defense agency, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID). It also hosts the National Cancer Institute-Frederick (NCI-Frederick) and will be home to the planned National Interagency Biodefense Campus.

Fort Detrick is the largest employer in Frederick County, Maryland.


Five farms originally constituted what is today known as “Area A”, or the main post area of Fort Detrick, where most installation activities are located.

Detrick Field (1931-1943)

Fort Detrick traces its roots to Detrick Field, the small municipal airport established at the site in the 1930s. The field was named in honor of Squadron Surgeon Major Frederick L. Detrick who served in France during World War I and died in June 1931. The first military presence there was the encampment, on 10 August 1931 (two months after the Major's death), of the 104th Aero Squadron of the Maryland National Guard. Detrick Field was a cadet pilot training center until December 1941. The 2nd Bombardment Squadron, U.S. 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.

Camp Detrick (1943-1956)

The U.S. Army Biological Warfare Laboratories, responsible for pioneering research into decontamination, gaseous sterilization, and agent purification, were established at Detrick Field, re-christened Camp Detrick, in 1943.

Biological warfare research

During World War II, Camp Detrick became the site of intensive biological warfare (BW) research using various pathogens; this research was originally overseen by pharmaceuticals executive George W. Merck. 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 II.

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

Biological tests performed on Seventh-day Adventists
The U.S. 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 who were conscientious objectors were recruited for the studies.

Fort Detrick (1956-2008)

Camp Detrick became Fort Detrick in 1956, continuing its mission of biomedical research and its role as the world’s leading research campus for biological agents requiring specialty containment.

On Veterans Day, November 11, 1969, President Richard 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 signed an executive order outlawing offensive biological research in the United States. Since that time any research done at Fort Detrick has been purely defensive in nature, focusing on diagnostics, preventives and treatments for BW infections. This research is undertaken by the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), transitioned from the Biological Laboratories and re-named in 1969.

Many former laboratories and some land made available by the disestablishment of the offensive BW program were ultimately transferred to the U.S 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 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 Philippines.

About 7,900 people work at Fort Detrick. The base claims to be the largest employer in Frederick County and that it contributes more than $500 million into the local economy annually. 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 country.

Conspiracy theories

In the 1980s and '90s, some AIDS conspiracy theorists, notably Jakob Segal, claimed that Fort Detrick was the site where the United States government invented HIV.

Also, there are theories that notable Fort Detrick scientist Frank Olson was murdered in an experiment involving unwilling ingestion of LSD.

2001 Anthrax Attacks

On August 1, 2008 the Associated Press reported that a top U.S. biodefense researcher committed suicide just as the F.B.I. was about to lay charges relating to the 2001 Anthrax Attacks. The scientist, Bruce Edwards Ivins, 62, who worked for the past 18 years at the government's biodefense labs at Fort Detrick, Md., had been told about the impending prosecution. The laboratory has been at the center of the FBI's investigation of the anthrax attacks, which infected 22 people and killed five.

Although the anthrax preparations were of different grades, all of the material derived from the same bacterial strain. Known as the Ames strain, it was first researched at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), Fort Detrick, Maryland. The Ames strain was then distributed to at least fifteen bio-research labs within the U.S. and six locations overseas.

2001 Anthrax Attacks suspect Bruce Edwards Ivins, 62, who worked for the past 18 years at the government's biodefense labs at Fort Detrick, Md. committed suicide after being told of his impending prosecution by the F.B.I.. The laboratory has been at the center of the FBI's investigation of the anthrax attacks, which killed five people.

Tenant units and organizations

Each branch of the U.S. 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 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. 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, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as well as USAMRIID.

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

U.S. Department of Defense

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

U.S. Department of Agriculture

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Historic sites on Fort Detrick

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

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 U.S. government bought it and it was used as the Ft 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)


See also

External links

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