Studies have linked the kinds of volatile organic compounds found at Lejeune to such birth defects and cancers as spina bifida, cleft lip and palate, anencephaly, childhood leukemia and childhood lymphoma. Blakely decided to make copies of every child and fetal death certificate she could find between the years 1950 and 1990 with a connection to the Marine base.
"What I was going to do with them, I didn't know," she says.
Many of the certificates listed the cause of death as unknown. Other records listed such conditions as anoxia, premature placental separation, prematurity and respiratory problems.
Most — like Baby Girl Ward, who was born May 30, 1955, at the U.S. Naval Hospital on base — had agonizingly short lives.
According to the death certificate, the girl — daughter of Maj. Charles C. Ward, who won the Silver Star for rescuing a downed pilot during the Korean War's vicious Chosin Reservoir campaign, and his wife, Margaret — was premature, and suffered from congenital heart disease and a "horseshoe" kidney — a condition in which the kidneys are fused. She lived only 15½ hours; the official cause of death was cerebral anoxia.