Camp Lehigh was a military base 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. The camp was destroyed in 2014 in an explosion that was meant to kill Captain America and Black Widow.
Camp Leigh was established in 1914 to serve as a base of the US Army. By 1943, Camp Lehigh was used by the Strategic Scientific Reserve as military training facility for the candidates sent by Abraham Erskine and Chester Phillips for Project Rebirth.
Erskine pressured himself to find a perfect candidate, as his Super Soldier Serum brought out the inner qualities of the individual. The forced use of the serum on Johann Schmidt haunted Erskine, but he would not let pressure force his decision. Erskine reminded 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 found a young 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. Agent Peggy Carter introduced herself as the overseer of every operation carried out by the Strategic Scientific Reserve, and rapidly established her authority when questioned for being both English and a woman.
Colonel Phillips gave a motivational speech to the men, being distraught by Rogers' sickly and frail appearance, and explained the purpose of the Strategic Scientific Reserve and of Project Rebirth, trying to create an army of Super-Soldiers to "personally escort Adolf Hitler to the gates of Hell."
The candidates, including Phillis' personal favourite Gilmore Hodge, began a hard week of training under the supervision of sergeant Michael Duffy, with Rogers being 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 himself, 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 HYDRA's leader, Johann Schmidt, and how he was the first test subject for Erskine's formula, that, at the time, was not finished. As the serum amplified the inner characteristics of the individual, Rogers' strong morals and values made him the most suitable candidate.
Erskine then tried to drink a toast with Rogers, before realizing that Rogers could not drink alcohol before being administred 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 a main office disguised as an ammunition bunker. One of the rooms displayed framed portraits of the organization's founders: Howard Stark, Peggy Carter and Chester Phillips.
Brain of Arnim Zola
Arnim Zola, recruited into S.H.I.E.L.D. during Operation Paperclip, was diagnosed with a terminal disease. 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 become 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 had 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 agains 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. Romanoff recognized Stark, but asked who Carter was, something Rogers did not reply.
Rogers approached a suspicious bookshelf, feeling the wind was blowing behind it, and wondered what was the need to hide a 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 amount 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. The computer asked if the user wanted to initiate the system, and Romanoff typed the answer: Y-E-S. As she typed, Romanoff smiled and uttered the quote "Shall we play a game?", referencing the movie WarGames, a reference that Rogers managed to catch as he had seen the movie.
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 who Zola was, a scientist who worked for the Red Skull, but who had died years before. However, Zola corrected him, first by acknowledging that he was a Swiss citizen, and that now he was more alive than ever. Zola 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 continued his speech by saying 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.
- 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.