Fort Detrick, MD HistoryFort Detrick started as a small emergency airfield, Detrick Field, on the flight lane from Washington DC and Cleveland,Ohio. In the 1930s the 104th Observation Squadron of the Maryland National Guard was based at Detrick Field. The field was renamed for Major Frederick Detrick, the flight surgeon of the 104th and a World War I veteran, who died of a heart attack in 1931. Over the period of the 1930s the field was upgraded from bare grass to tarmac, and the facilities improved.
In World War II, the 104th was assigned to anti-submarine patrol for the Atlantic Coast, then transferred to another airfield. The 2nd Bombardment Squadron was reconstituted at Detrick, trained, and then transferred to the defense of England. In 1943 Detrick Field was transferred from the National Guard to the Army, which bought additional land around the field, renamed the site Camp Detrick and based the US Army Biological Warfare Laboratories (USBWL) there. USBWL was created out of a concern that the Axis powers were developing bioweapons, which the US had no defense against - these concerns were correct; the Axis had developed several bioweapons, which fortunately were not used in large amounts.
Since 1943 Detrick has been the site of US research into bioweaponry and biodefense, using experts recruited from around the world. During much of the Cold War Fort Detrick was the primary research center into bioweapons and defense against an expected Soviet threat. In 1969 the US halted bio weapon research and focused on biodefense, which activity continues today. Currently Detrick is a central research facility against state and non-state biothreats, and has added several public health missions, including the Defense Medical Logistics Center, and National Cancer Institute - Frederick.