Camp Leach

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Camp Leach was the name the U.S. military used for the segment of the Washington, DC main campus of American University during World War I and World War II.

During both wars, the university allowed the U.S. military to use parts of its grounds for weapons development and testing. In 1917, 24 days after the United States declared war on Germany, the university offered its property to the war effort. The military divided the campus into two segments, Camp American University and Camp Leach. The two camps were considered at the time to be "the largest laboratory this side of the sun or other burning stars."

Thus, during World War I, Camp American University and Camp Leach became the birthplace of the United States' chemical weapons program. About 100,000 soldiers and 2,000 chemists were employed on the campus. At the far corner of the university, the military also tested some of its weapons. When the war had ended it was reported that $800,000 (in 1918-dollars) worth of World War I munitions were buried in a pit in the same corner of the university.

In 1993, a construction worker stumbled upon some of the buried munitions. The next day it was reported in the Washington Post that World War I bomb shells had been unearthed near a Senator's house bordering the university grounds. This led to a major cleanup effort by the military in the 1990s and subsequently again in the 2000s (decade) on the site, which included a corner of the university and several neighboring residences, including the residence of the Embassy of South Korea, which occupies a significant percentage of the site. As no buildings have been built directly atop the site, the military announced that the effects of neither the residual chemicals nor the cleanup program will have any effects on students living on the campus.

References[edit]

AU Weekly Past article