Camp Lehigh was a United States Army installation used by the Strategic Scientific Reserve during World War II in New Jersey. After the war, it became one of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s bases, and a bunker was added to house Arnim Zola's brain after his body died.
Camp Leigh was established in 1914 as a base of the United States Army. By 1943, Camp Lehigh was used by the Strategic Scientific Reserve as a military training facility for the candidates for Project Rebirth.
Abraham Erskine pressured himself to find a perfect candidate for a Project, in the wake of the failure of Johann Schmidt's procedure. Erskine reminded Chester Phillips that he never wrote down the actual formula of the serum so Schmidt had no choice but to keep him alive, so now it was Erskine's choice to find a suitable candidate.
Eventually, Erskine picked Steve Rogers, who was brought to the camp as Erskine's primary candidate, although everyone realized that he didn't match with the rest of the candidates. Peggy Carter introduced herself as the overseer of every operation carried out by the SSR and rapidly established her authority. Phillips then gave a speech to the recruits, being distraught by Rogers' frail appearance, and explained the purpose of the Project Rebirth, trying to create an army of super-soldiers to take down Adolf Hitler's forces
The candidates began a hard week of training under the supervision of Michael Duffy, and while Gilmore Hodge was Phillips' personal favorite, Rogers was constantly obstructed by his colleagues. However, Rogers impressed everyone with his different approach to situations, such as when he managed to retrieve Camp Lehigh's flag from a pole for the first time in history by simply letting the pole fall instead of climbing it.
Phillips, disagreeing with Erskine's choice of Rogers as his primary candidate, tried to make him change his mind, and choose Hodges as the best soldier, but Erskine dismissed him, describing Hodges as a bully. To prove that Rogers was not a suitable candidate as he lacked bravery needed for a soldier, Phillips threw a fake grenade among the candidates during a training exercise. Rogers used his body as a shield to protect everyone from the possible explosion while Hodges hid, causing Phillips to acquiesce to Erskine's decision for Rogers' inclusion.
Erskine visited Rogers the night before the project's start-up, and Rogers wondered why he was chosen. Erskine told Rogers how the Nazis managed to seize political power in Germany, and how Hitler found about him and his work. Hitler coerced Erskine sending Schmidt, who became the first test subject for Erskine's formula, that, at the time, was not finished. Erskine then tried to drink a toast with Rogers, before realizing that Rogers could not drink alcohol before being administered with the serum, so Erskine ended up drinking both sips after making Rogers promise that he would be a good man whatever happened during the procedure.
Following World War II, Camp Lehigh was transformed into one of the first S.H.I.E.L.D. facilities, with the main office disguised as an ammunition bunker. It is suggested the office was strategically built within 500 yards of a barrack, which is against army regulations to allow anyone with knowledge of the United States Army to notice something was not right with this building.
Peggy Carter, Howard Stark, and Chester Phillips personally run the facility, together with Hank Pym and Arnim Zola, who was recruited during Operation Paperclip. S.H.I.E.L.D. supervised the research of the Tesseract and Pym Particles.
Eventually, Zola as diagnosed with a terminal disease, so in order to preserve his mind and serving the purposes of HYDRA, Zola devised a method to save his mind in a series of computers, establishing a large room underneath the S.H.I.E.L.D. bunker at Camp Lehigh. Zola transferred his mind to two hundred thousand feet of data banks, and the room became essentially his brain. From this room, he designed an algorithm to be used as the targeting software for Project Insight, that was later transferred to the Lemurian Star.
Steve Rogers and Natasha Romanoff arrived at Camp Lehigh, the source of the files contained retrieved in the Lemurian Star, and Rogers revealed it was the military base where he was trained during World War II. Rogers had flashbacks of his time there while wandering through the base, nostalgically remembering how he trained as hard as he could before being administered the Super Soldier Serum.
Romanoff found no traces of heat signatures or signals that could reveal the exact source of the data and guessed that whoever wrote the file must have used a router to hide his signal. However, Rogers noticed a building that should not have been there, an ammunition bunker located near the barracks against army regulations.
As they entered the bunker and turned on the lights, Rogers and Romanoff noticed it was actually a S.H.I.E.L.D. office, and wandered inside finding a room displaying portraits of Howard Stark, Peggy Carter and Chester Phillips. Rogers approached a suspicious bookshelf, feeling the wind was blowing behind it, and wondered what was the need to hide an elevator in an already secret office as he moved the bookshelf and revealed an elevator. In the basement, the two entered a room with a large number of old computers, with Romanoff guessing the technology was too old to be the source of the files.
However, Romanoff suddenly noticed a small flash drive port, and placed the flash drive in it, activating the central computer. Suddenly, the system started to speak, pointing a camera to them and calling both Rogers and Romanoff by their real names and revealing their years of birth. Romanoff wondered if it was some kind of a recording, but the system said it was not, and revealed his actual identity as that of Arnim Zola.
Rogers revealed that Zola was a scientist who worked for Red Skull, but who had died years before. Zola then explained how his mind was transferred to the computers as he received a terminal diagnosis in 1972, and how he was recruited by S.H.I.E.L.D. during Operation Paperclip. Zola also explained how he used his position within S.H.I.E.L.D. to rebuild HYDRA inside the organization, and fulfilled its original belief, world domination while removing the freedom of humanity. However, as World War II taught them that they would resist if freedom was taken by force, HYDRA fed crisis and war in the world in order to make humanity willingly surrender its own freedom, shaping history and changing it.
Romanoff could not believe that S.H.I.E.L.D. had been unable to stop them, and Zola admitted they resorted to eliminate all threats to HYDRA, such as Howard Stark or Nick Fury, whose assassinations were organized by HYDRA. Zola said that the world was finally so chaotic that humanity was to sacrifice its freedom to gain its security and HYDRA will purify the world to establish a new world order.
Rogers angrily asked about the contents of the flash drive from the Lemurian Star, and Zola answered it was an algorithm to provide the insight needed for Project Insight, acknowledging it was fascinating, though they would be dead by the time he explained it. Suddenly, the doors of the room started to close, and though Rogers tries to stop them by throwing his shield in between, he was too late. Romanoff detected a short-range missile thrown by S.H.I.E.L.D., and Zola revealed he had been stalling them.
Romanoff quickly retrieved the flash drive out of the port and Rogers managed to locate a small opening on the ground, where he entered with Romanoff and protected her with his shield from the explosion. Both survived the explosion, and Rogers cleared a path out of the debris to escape the facility as a group of STRIKE agents led by Brock Rumlow arrived to retrieve them. As Rumlow saw a footprint indicating they managed to survive and escape, he contacted HYDRA in order to call in their asset.
To be added
- In the comics, Camp Lehigh was located in Virginia, few kilometers outside Arlington.
- In Captain America: The First Avenger, Camp Lehigh is mentioned to be situated in New York, however, in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it is explicitly stated to be located in Wheaton, New Jersey.