Camp Lejeune: There’s Something in the Water

An unusually high number of Marine families reported unexplained illnesses at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.


| June 2014



Beach at Camp Lejeune

People who lived at Lejeune as children had memories of highly unusual and unexplained illnesses.

Photo by Flickr/Wigwam Jones

While most of the great environmental disasters can be blamed on a big bad corporation, in the case of the mass poisoning at Camp Lejeune, the offender is a revered institution the United States Marines. In A Trust Betrayed (Da Capo Press, 2014), author Mike Magner's chilling investigations come together to weave the stories of the US military's poisoning of its soldiers and their respective family through contaminated water sources. The following excerpt is from "Baby Heaven."

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Camp Lejeune's Unexplained Illnesses

A woman with the ironic name of Mary Freshwater may have had the most ghastly experiences at Camp Lejeune. Freshwater died of leukemia in January 2013 at the age of sixty-eight. Shortly before her death, she told ABC News that she wasn’t the only one who had suffered—by then the stories of many others from Camp Lejeune were being publicized. Nevertheless, nothing could have prepared her for the horrifying reality she would face in 1977 and the years to come.

“I was very active with the Officers’ Wives Club,” Freshwater said in the ABC interview with Cynthia McFadden in June 2012. “We were at a party . . . one night. There were five of us in different stages of pregnancy. Every one of us lost their baby to a birth defect.”

Freshwater had had two healthy children before she and her husband moved to Camp Lejeune, but the third child, a son named Russell Alexander Thorpe, lived just one month after he was born on November 30, 1977—with an open spine. “It was really a shocker when he was born that way and then when he died, he died in my arms. He took his last breath,” she said. That was just a little after midnight on the last day of the year in 1977, she said.

Doctors told Freshwater she shouldn’t be discouraged from getting pregnant again. But her next child, a boy named Charles Warren Thorpe, died the day he was born—without a cranium. Freshwater then had a miscarriage of twins before giving up on expanding her family.