What You Need to Know about Aberdeen Proving Ground
On the shores of Chesapeake Bay lies the Aberdeen Proving Ground. It is located in Harford Country, Maryland—approximately forty miles away from the state’s largest city, Baltimore. It was founded on October 20, 1917, six months after the United States joined the First World War. It is still up and running today, making the place the country’s oldest active proving ground.
Its establishment stemmed from the lack of suitable areas for war equipment testing. After the country got involved in the First World War, the military had to look for a place where they could test the necessary gear without causing any harm. Unfortunately, the Sandy Hook Proving Ground in Newark, New Jersey, did not fit the bill because it was close to the suburbs and harbor of New York. Because of this, the then-secretary of war Newton D. Baker tasked Col. Colden L. Ruggles to look for the right base, which had to be near industrial areas. His assignment led him to a farming land situated near the Chesapeake Bay. One Congressional act and two presidential proclamations later, the land’s farmers obliged to the military’s request after much hesitation.
The northern Aberdeen area and the southern Edgewood Area make up the 72,229-acre proving ground. The two areas are about fifteen road miles away from each other; thanks to the Bush River separating them. Fun fact: the Aberdeen Proving Ground used to be two different military bases until its merger with the Edgewood Arsenal in 1971. The Aberdeen section served as a testing site for military equipment. In 1918, it began to conduct ordnance training, earning the nickname Home of Ordnance. On the other hand, the Edgewood Arsenal was previously a center for researching, producing, and testing chemicals for warfare. The production and transportation of chemical weapons on the site came to a halt in 1969 as it shifted its gears to defense.
The Second World War saw the expansion of the two sections; employment was growing by the numbers in order to keep up with demands of the conflict. The heavy workload mellowed down upon the war’s conclusion. The proving ground’s pioneering scientists and researchers were the brains behind plenty of breakthroughs. One example of such innovation is the inception of gas masks back in the 1920s. They were also responsible for the birth of ENIAC, the first digital computer.
At present, it functions as a military research, training, and testing center. The Aberdeen Proving Ground is Harford County’s biggest employer, responsible for the jobs of more than 7,500 civilians and 5,000 military workers. It is also considered to be one of Baltimore’s largest employers.
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