Franklin D. Roosevelt


On April 22, 1942, FDR and a caravan of cars left the White House at 3:45 p.m., turned left on Rt. 15, passed through downtown Frederick, MD, and arrived at the Catoctin Mountains.  After looking at both sites, the president agreed with his advisers that Camp#3 was the best and most logical choice.

Security experts were already impressed with the Catoctin choice.  There was natural foliage for both land and aerial camouflage. The natural wood buildings were all but invisible from the air because of the dense forest surrounding the camp.  A low flying plane would have great difficulty seeing much among the trees, a security official said.

President Roosevelt called it his “Shangri-La,” but for security reasons, it wasn’t explained or identified to the media until much later. Early press conference transcripts showed that reporters didn’t pursue the matter either. “Shangri-La was a beautiful, mythical mountain enclave where people had found the elixir of longer life and were trying to live it,” one reporter said, suggesting it appeared as a setting in the Himalayan Mountains in Tibet. It fascinated FDR. It came from popular novelist James Hilton’s book, Lost Horizon, which the president was reading at the time.