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EDGEWOOD ARSENAL, CHEMICAL WARFARE SCHOOL, MARYLAND U.S.A.

This cover has a roller cancel with a boxed SYDNEY/ 11 AM/ 8 8 APR 8/ 1946/ N.S.W. AUST with a slogan cancel SIGN YOUR NAME/ FOR SECURITY/ BUY BONDS NOW on a red 2½d embossed KGVI stamp, with 2 additional orange ½d Roo stamps. It was addressed to Colonel W. Hanes, Chemical Warfare School, Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland, U.S.A. The reverse was not seen (Figure 1).

Aberdeen Proving Ground, the U.S. Army's oldest active proving ground, was established on October 20, 1917, six months after the United States entered World War I, to provide the military a facility where design and testing of ordnance materiel could be carried out in close proximity to the nation's industrial and shipping centers. The installation comprises two principal areas, separated by the Bush River. The northern area is known as the Aberdeen Area, and the southern sector, the Edgewood Area -- formerly Edgewood Arsenal. The two areas were administratively combined in 1971.

Aberdeen Proving Ground is home to more than 50 tenants and a host of satellite activities. Among the major tenants are the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, U.S. Army Chemical and Biological Defense Command, U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense, Program Manager for Chemical Demilitarization, and major elements of the Army Research Laboratory.

Edgewood was established in November, 1917 as a chemical weapons research, development and testing facility. It provided chemical production and artillery shell filling facilities to respond to the chemical weapons which were being used in the fighting in Europe. The main chemicals produced were phosgene, chloropicrin and mustard. After the war, activity at the facility decreased. During the 1930s, the Edgewood Arsenal served as the center of Chemical Warfare Service activities. Workers developed gas masks and protective clothing, tested chemical agent dispersal methods, and trained Army and Navy personnel.

During World War II, President Roosevelt declared that the United States would not use chemical weapons offensively but would use them defensively. The Edgewood Arsenal continued to produce chemical agents and countermeasures in case they became necessary. However, the declaration was an effective deterrent, and the Axis powers did not use chemical weapons against military targets. Workers at Edgewood also tested and developed flame weapons and smoke screens.

After World War II, both Aberdeen and Edgewood experienced decreases in activity, with slight increases during the Korean Conflict and Vietnam War. Chemical production at Edgewood ceased, and the facility's focus shifted to research and development, especially for chemical weapon defensive measures. The Army Chemical and Biological Defense Command is home of the Army's nonmedical chemical and biological defense activities, including research, development, acquisition, and remediation issues associated with chemical and biological defense. It is this latter activity that has the responsibility for the destruction of the U.S. stockpile of chemical agents and munitions as well as non-stockpile weapons, munitions, and associated equipment and devices.

The Army has used portions of the Bush River Area since 1918 for training, testing and disposal activities as well as chemical storage. The 500-acre site consists of wooded areas, open storage yards, warehouses, and storage igloos. Current activities at the Bush River Area involve storage of bulk chemical agents and wastes. On 02 October 1998 the Army awarded a systems contract for the Aberdeen Chemical Agent Disposal Facility, which will destroy the mustard agent stockpile stored at the Edgewood Area. The $306 million contract has been awarded to Bechtel National, Inc. of San Francisco, Calif., for the design completion, construction, equipment procurement and installation, systemization, operation, and closure of the facility.

 Whereas Colonel W. Hanes, who presumably worked at the Wegewood Arsenal’s Chemical School Warfare School, has not been identified, a map of the area in Maryland, adjacent to the Chesapeake Bay is shown with the Edgewood area indicated by the open red arrow (Figure 2).

 
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