In the months following America’s entry into World War II, officials in Washington, urged by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, searched the countryside surrounding Washington for an area that would be suitable for the President to use as a retreat.
In 1942, President Roosevelt selected Camp Hi-Catoctin as the site for his retreat. Construction was completed by the summer and the President first used the facility in July 1942. President Roosevelt named the camp “Shangri-La” after the fictional utopia in James Hilton’s novel “Lost Horizon.”
President Roosevelt visited Shangri-La frequently and hosted the first Head of State visit with Winston Churchill to discuss the war efforts.
During the Roosevelt administration, Sailors from the crews of the President yachts staffed Shangri-La. Support personnel such as telephone operators, stewards, cooks and security forces would precede each visit and remain on camp. In 1952, after President Truman decommissioned the President yachts, the Naval Administrative Unit took control of Shangri-La.
In the early 1950’s, the first Navy Seabees were assigned to Shangri-La. Builders, utilitiesmen and construction electricians took over routine maintenance and repairs. Although there have been vast improvements made at the Camp over the years, Navy Seabees continue to maintain the electrical and utility systems, perform other craftsman duties and keep the grounds in an impeccable condition.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who continued to use the Catoctin Mountain retreat, renamed Shangri-La “Camp David” after his grandson, David Eisenhower.
Throughout the 1950’s and early 1960’s, more Navy billets were added. Storekeepers, commissary men, and yeomen were assigned to handle routine supply and administrative functions. A barber and laundryman were added to support personnel. Navy hospital corpsmen were assigned to handle routine and emergency medical needs.
During President John F. Kennedy’s administration, Naval Support Facility Thurmont offered the First Family the opportunity to ride horses and walk through the scenic outdoors.
President Lyndon Johnson used NSF Thurmont for conferences and meetings with foreign leaders.
President Richard Nixon, who frequented NSF Thurmont with his family, held several national and internationally significant conferences at Camp, including the June 1973 visit of Soviet Union Secretary General Brezhnev.
President Carter and his family also frequented the Camp, and held a now-famous meeting here. During February 1978, he invited Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. During their stay, he helped negotiate a peace between Egypt and Israel, which later became known as the Camp David Accords. More than 50 years later, the Accords are still in place.
During President Ronald Regan’s administration, he and his wife frequented NSF Thurmont, where he hosted many of his weekly radio broadcasts.
President George H.W. Bush, who had been previously-invited to Camp as Vice President, continued to enjoy time with his family at NSF Thurmont during his administration.
President Bill Clinton both visited the camp with his family and continued the tradition of gathering Middle East leaders for conferences at NSF Thurmont.
President George W. Bush, who had visited NSF Thurmont during his father’s administration, had a special affinity for Camp. President Bush invited leaders from Great Britain, France, Italy, Egypt, Japan, Spain, Brazil, Denmark United Arab Emirates and Pakistan as guests to this unique location.
NSF Thurmont continues to play a prominent and essential role in meeting the challenges of the Presidential mission and provides an environment of safety for the President, First Family and their guests.