MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP
In 1941, construction began on an 11,000 acre site in North Carolina. The first phase of the construction was on New River, North Carolina for a barracks for the Marines. The headquarters for the base was at Montford Point, but one year later moved to Hadnot Point. In 1942, Camp Lejeune received the name it now bears, after John A. Lejeune, the 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps. Located in Onslow County near Jacksonville, it now boasts of 246 square miles, including 14 miles of beach and two deep-water ports. As well as the main base, there are also six satellite camps. These include Camp Johnson, Courthouse Bay, Camp Geiger, Marine Corps Air Station New River, and Stone Bay, and the Greater Sandy Run Training Area.
Over the years, the camp has been home to the II Marine Expeditionary Force, 2nd Marine Division, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, and more. The mission of the base states that they are there to “maintain combat-ready units for expeditionary deployment.” The state-of-the-art training facilities at the base are able to prepare Marines for humanitarian missions as well as combat. Altogether on the base, there are 180,000 people, including employees, families, and those on active duty. The base is like a fully-functional town, with shopping, schools, banks, dining, entertainment, and more. Not only does Camp Lejeune have extensive training facilities, but it also has a military prison on base. It can house up to 280 prisoners, but only those who have been incarcerated for a period of 30 to 90 days. The Base Realignment and Closure Commission has recommended that the prison be shut down, but it is still unknown as to when this will happen.
Camp Lejeune has seen its share of scandal, with one of the major issues being how the base handled pollution. This issue of contamination was so serious that the military has been sued up to $4 billion as a result. For thirty years, from 1957 to 1987, the families on the base were exposed to toxic levels 3400 times what was legally allowed. Although over 70 types of toxic chemicals were discovered in the area, the three main culprits were trichloroethylene, perchloroethylene, and benzene. Not only that, but these dangerous chemicals were buried underground near drinking water wells despite an order for their safe disposal. In the 80s, the wells were put out of operation as the real danger of the contamination became difficult to ignore. In direct violation of the order to shut them down, the wells were put back in use. It is thought that up to half a million people may have been exposed to cancer-causing chemicals over the years, affecting both workers and their children.
Another event that marred the history of Camp Lejeune was the Camp Lejeune Incident. In 1969, a racially-motivated fight broke out among the white and black Marines at the camp when they were at a nearby club. The result of the fight was the death of Corporal Edward E. Blankston and the injury of 15 others. The Marines had been celebrating before being deployed to Spain. There were about 150 black Marines at the club and 100 white Marines. Tension had been building throughout the evening because of small incidents, but it did not escalate until a black Marine attempted to cut in on a white Marine who was dancing with a black female Marine. The incident led to changes in the military’s policy towards race relations.