Fort Detrick Named for Maryland Flight Surgeon

  • Published
  • By Capt. Wayde Minami
  • 175th Wing Public Affairs
The Maryland National Guard's 104th Observation Squadron arrived at the airport in Frederick, Md., for its 1931 annual field training in a state of mourning. Two months earlier, on June 3, the squadron flight surgeon, Dr. (Capt.) Fredrick L. Detrick, had died after a sudden series of heart attacks.

The men of the 104th had great affection for their surgeon, and following his unexpected passing, the squadron voted unanimously to name the airport "Detrick Field" in his honor. Maj. Gen. Milton A. Reckord, adjutant general of Maryland, agreed and the field was so named. General Reckord also issued orders posthumously promoting Dr. Detrick to the rank of major.

The name-sake of what would eventually become Fort Detrick, Md., had been born on April 21, 1889, in the town of New Market, Md., where his family had lived since the American Revolution.

Dr. Detrick joined the military March 12, 1918, as a lieutenant in the Medical Reserve Corps. After a month of training at Camp Wadsworth, S.C., he was assigned to the 28th Aero Squadron, 3rd Pursuit Group. He embarked for the war in Europe aboard a military transport ship on July 13.

The 28th Aero Squadron arrived at the front at Vaucouleurs, France, on July 15, and Dr. Detrick joined them soon thereafter. The squadron engaged in operations in the Toul Sector, including the Battle of St. Mihiel and the Meuse-Argonne offensive.

Following the armistice, Dr. Detrick returned to the U.S. He arrived at Camp Dix, N.J., on July 5, 1919, where he was soon discharged. After returning to Maryland, he entered private practice in Baltimore and later worked at Johns Hopkins University Hospital.

The Maryland National Guard's 104th Observation Squadron was organized in 1921, and its medical detachment received federal recognition in June 1922. A year later, on May 5, 1923, Dr. Detrick joined the Maryland National Guard as a captain in the Medical Reserve Corps assigned to the Medical Department Detachment, 29th Division Aviation (29th Division Aviation consisted of the 104th Observation Squadron, the 104th Photo Section and the Medical Department Detachment).

Although he didn't live to see it, Detrick Field became a familiar location to the men of the Maryland National Guard.

It was the site of the 104th's annual summer encampments from 1931 through 1934, and again in 1939 and 1940. In September 1941, seven months after being mobilized into federal service just prior to World War II, the squadron became a fulltime resident of Detrick Field. The squadron was stationed there until just after the Pearl Harbor attack, when it was transferred to Atlantic City, N.J., to fly anti-submarine patrols.

In 1943, the Army officially recognized the military facility as Camp Detrick, and in 1956 it received its current designation, Fort Detrick.

Today, Fort Detrick, Md., is home to the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, the National Cancer Institute, and 37 other tenant organizations. Its primary missions include biomedical research and development, medical materiel management and global telecommunications. It also has the distinction of being the only major federal military installation named in honor of a member of the Maryland Air National Guard.