Camp American University

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Camp American University 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.[1][2] [3]

During both wars, the university allowed the U.S. military to use parts of its grounds for weapons development and testing.[3] 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.[1] The two camps were considered at the time to be "the largest laboratory this side of the sun or other burning stars."[4]

Thus, during World War I, Camp American University became the birthplace of the United States' chemical weapons program.[1] It may have been "the largest research and development facility for chemical weapons anywhere in the world during the First World War".[5] About 100,000 soldiers and 2,000 chemists were employed on the campus.[6] 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.[3][6][7]

In 1993, a construction worker stumbled upon some of the buried munitions.[6] 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.[7] This led to major cleanup efforts in the 1990s[2] and 2000s (decade) on the site, which included a corner of the university and several neighboring residences, one of them the Embassy of South Korea.[3][6][7][8][9]

As of 2009, an estimated $170 million had been spent over a sixteen-year period, searching for chemical weapons in the Spring Valley neighborhood where Camp American University was located.[5]


  1. ^ a b c Gross, Daniel A. (Spring 2015). "Chemical Warfare: From the European Battlefield to the American Laboratory". Distillations. 1 (1): 16–23. Retrieved March 20, 2018.
  2. ^ a b Gordon, Martin K.; Sude, Barry R.; Overbeck, Ruth Ann; Hendricks, Charles (1994). Final Report: A Brief History of the American University Experiment Station and U. S. Navy Bomb Disposal School, America University (PDF). U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. Retrieved 13 April 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d Albright, Richard D. (2012). Cleanup of chemical and explosive munitions : locating, identifying contaminants, and planning for environmental remediation of land and sea military ranges and ordnance dumpsites (2nd ed.). Amsterdam: Elsevier/William Andrew. pp. 137–240. ISBN 978-1-4377-3477-5. Retrieved 13 April 2017.
  4. ^ The American University Courier. 1921-01-01.
  5. ^ a b Ruane, Michael E. (October 6, 2009). "Detector Joins Hunt for WWI Munitions in D.C." Washington Post. Retrieved 13 April 2017.
  6. ^ a b c d Ashooh, Emma (December 7, 2015). "A Hidden History: American University's Role in World War I". American Word. Retrieved 13 April 2017.
  7. ^ a b c Acharya, Sally (August 9, 2010). "Digging up the dirt from World War I" (PDF). News at AU. Retrieved 13 April 2017.
  8. ^ Vogel, Steve (October 30, 2007). "Army Digging To Recover Old Gas Shells". Washington Post. Retrieved 13 April 2017.
  9. ^ Karas, Rachel S. (November 29, 2012). "House coming down on former chemical weapons site in D.C." Washington Post. Retrieved 13 April 2017.