Colorado Springs at 150 | The military’s impact on growth and development | Premium

Editor’s Note: In July, as Colorado Springs prepares for its 150th anniversary on the 31st, The Gazette prepared a series of articles on the history of our city. Return for a fascinating glimpse into the people and events that made Colorado Springs the landmark it is today.

There was no social distancing in Colorado Springs 76 years ago, when spontaneous celebrations erupted from Old Colorado City to the dirt road on the east side of town – Union Boulevard – as people kissed, kissed and danced in the streets to mark the end of the world war. II in Europe.

No event has brought more change to this bankrupt spa and tourist town with its booming gold industry. But the change in the Pikes Peak region has been more than bringing in military bases and contracts. The WWII treasures delivered to the Pikes Peak area were men and women like those the Gazette described in its Latest of the greatest story series late 2019 and early 2020.

“It brought a diverse group of people here in Springs, a large diverse group,” said the retired Army Command Sgt. Major Terrance McWilliams who now heads military programs for the El Pomar Foundation. “It helped define Colorado Springs.”

It hardly ever happened. As the clouds of war loomed over Europe, Colorado Springs stood at a crossroads. Penicillin took away one of the city’s industries, as a spa to recover from tuberculosis.

Another important pillar, gold, has been hit by federal price caps and diminishing returns on the Cripple Creek vein. Tourism was already on the decline thanks to the economic turmoil of the Great Depression, and with war on the horizon, this industry, too, was heading for a cliff.

Now, 17 months after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the economy may look familiar. But the city’s rulers have done what they still do when the economy heads south: find another path.

“It’s one of the things I love to talk about,” said Reggie Ash, who heads military programs for the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and EDC. “Colorado Springs has a rich military heritage that began in 1941. It was then that the business community came together and went to lobby the federal government for Camp Carson.”

The city’s newly formed Military Council seized a cheap ranch south of town and donated it to the War Office for free. These first parcels became the 135,000 acres of Fort Carson, one of the country’s major military centers.

But the city’s gift didn’t stop there. The city’s airport was handed over to the Army Air Corps with a lease of $ 1 per year which continues to this day.

The place was later named in honor of Lt. Edward Peterson, the first aviator to die in a training accident here.

Colorado Springs then ceded vacant land on the eastern outskirts of the city, Platte Avenue and Union Boulevard. Ent Air Base, now the Olympic training center, was named after Major General Uzal Ent, its first commander.

Residents of Colorado Springs, a conservative town known for its abstinence from alcohol, were initially wary of the troops who arrived.

But quickly, people here fell in love with the military. And the troops fell in love with them.

It is something that continues to this day.

“Colorado Springs is the # 1 place people want to be parked,” McWilliams said. “I attribute a lot of this to the culture of this community.”

Army divisions trained here and troops retreated after the war. If you enjoy some of the home cooking here these days, it’s at least in part thanks to the Italian and German prisoners of war who were accommodated at Fort Carson and immigrated after Victory Day, bringing their cuisine. native with them.

A secret to the success of the Pikes Peak area is the people drawn here first by the military who remain after removing the uniform.

Before World War II, Colorado Springs was a city of 33,000, eclipsed by its southern neighbor Pueblo, with 55,000 residents.

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Today, 76 years after the war, Colorado Springs has grown twenty-fold to nearly 700,000 residents. This group includes nearly 45,000 active duty soldiers, several thousand reservists and more than 100,000 veterans.

“This is who we are as a community. Said McWilliams. The army brought us the fusion of different cultures and ethnicities. They didn’t come with as much financial wealth, but they do have intellectual wealth and extensive experience in multiple skills.

Ash went through the numbers of this military population that began with WWII. Over 40% of the Pikes Peak region’s economy is tied to Pentagon paychecks and defense contractors.

It all came from a community desire to help the military weather the storm of WWII.

One last lap for Colorado Springs WWII Buffalo Soldier John Nichols

“The community has told the federal government that we want to be team players and be part of the war effort,” Ash said.

After the war, Colorado Springs continued to participate, donating land to the Air Force Academy, attracting the North American Aerospace Defense Command to Cheyenne Mountain, and consolidating its place in the space sector with Schriever Air Force Base.

To better align Schriever and Peterson Air Force bases with their missions, they will soon be renamed Space Force bases, according to Pentagon plans. Space Force is the newest branch of the armed forces and was established in December 2019.

Colorado will have the largest contingent of named bases for the new space service, as it is also home to Buckley Space Force’s base in Aurora, US Space Command, Space Operations Command, and most of the Space Force’s 13,000 troops. .

Colorado Springs is the provisional headquarters of US Space Command – which oversees all military missions in orbit – until 2026. In January, former President Donald Trump announced that US Space Command would be uprooted and moved to Huntsville, Alabama , after 2026. But the Federal Government’s Accountability Office is reviewing the decision and may eventually reverse the decision.

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With US Northern Command, Army Space and Missile Defense Command, and NORAD, no place in the United States can claim greater strategic importance than Colorado Springs.

In its first two years, nearly 200 Guardians were recruited into the Space Force after graduating from the Air Force Academy.

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And from the Air Force Academy cadets to the infantry troops who are still growing their basic training haircuts at Fort Carson, Colorado Springs are also helping to improve the future of the military.

It all came from a few Broadmoor cocktails in 1940, where the town fathers came up with their plan to give the military a gift.

And it came from those WWII troops that came here and fell in love.

The military during the war planted its roots elsewhere in Colorado. Camp Hale in the mountains, was closed after the war. Closure of La Junta and Pueblo air bases. Lowry Air Force Base in Denver, Fitzsimmons Army Medical Center and Rocky Mountain Arsenal are missing.

The air bases of La Junta and Grand Junction have also disappeared.

But there was something special about Colorado Springs that made a lasting bond with the military. And what might have ended after all those dancing in the streets 76 years ago continues to this day.

Ash, a retired Air Force colonel, came to Colorado with the Air Force after attending the University of Iowa.

“The Air Force brought my family here and we loved it here,” Ash explained. “It was something more than natural beauty. That’s the beauty of these people and this community.

Gazette reporter David Bitton contributed to this article.

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