First commander named to Arsenal

March 04, 2007

On March 6, 1918, Lt. Col. William H. Walker was made commander of the Gunpowder Reservation, a new installation established to help the U.S. military adapt to the new methods of gas warfare.

On April 22, 1915, the first gas attack in World War I introduced a new era of war. Two years later, the United States entered the war, but the country was unprepared. Immediate action was initiated, by the surgeon general's office to develop gas masks, by the ordnance department to develop a gas shell, and by the trench warfare section to procure the poison gas to fill the shells.

About 3,400 acres known as Gunpowder Neck were set aside from a large tract purchased by the government as a proving ground and initially named "Gunpowder Reservation." Construction of a filling plant was begun Nov. 15, 1917. A research laboratory also was built.

On May 4, 1918, the name was changed to Edgewood Arsenal, and on June 28, 1918, the entire organization transferred to the Chemical Warfare Service.

[Source: Harford Historical Bulletin, Number 27, Winter 1986. Research: Harford County Public Library librarians.]

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