Army Bases

Fort Carson, Colorado

In 1941 the nation was climbing out of its worst depression. Poland and Norway had been crushed by Hitler's blitzkrieg, as had the Netherlands, Belgium and France. Great Britain, putting up the greatest resistance in its history, faced the prospect of starvation by blockade. Japan declared its alliance with Germany and Italy.

There were signs all over the world that the struggle would soon spread. The United States, leaning steadily to the side of Britain, was sending supplies to that country in increasing amounts.

In an unprecedented act of faith, the people of the United States had returned Franklin D. Roosevelt to a third term as President, indicating their willingness to go all-out in an effort to aid Britain. Only the year before, Congress had passed the Selective Service Act calling for Conscription of an Army with a potential strength of four million men.

Following Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the United States declared war on the Axis powers.

Officals in Washington, D.C., in charge of selecting new military installations, lost no time. Less than one month later, on January 6, 1942, it was officially announced that Colorado Springs had been selected as the site of an Army camp.

The announcement was especially welcomed by Russell D Law, Douglas C. Jardine, J. Raymond Lowell, and Dr. George J. Dwire. These four men had poured more than a year of determined effort into ensuring the city would be selected.

The backers of the camp could testify to the fact that military installations are hard to win. An Army post has to be wanted. The requesting community must provide incentives to the military to have a post built at its doorstep rather than elsewhere. In addition, that community has to guarantee not only the soil on which future soldiers will live and train, but also a lifetime of water, utilities, and a multitude of other necessities.

The Pikes Peak Region had the primary inducements - miles of prairie for large-scale training maneuvers and a climate which would permit year round training.

There was never any doubt in the minds of the four visionaries that Colorado Springs could provide for an Army training camp, but much had to be done to convince the townspeople and the federal government.

The first step was to persuade the citizens of Colorado Springs to buy land which, if the city was successful in its bid, would be offered to the government for a contonment area. The best choice seemed to be the 5,533 acre Cheyenne Valley Ranch, just south of Colorado Springs. It was ultimately purchased by the city for $36,500.

At the same time, city planning engineers moved to gain additional water resources and power-generating facilities for a camp.

Almost immediately, squabbles arose among the town's residents over whether the proposed camp would bring disaster to the town's water supply. A few irate citizens protested that their peaceful town would never be the same.

However, many saw a need for dramatic change. A survey in 1940 indicated that 1,500 homes in Colorado Springs were vacant. Additionally the war in Europe threatened the town's tourist trade, its prime source of income. Without change, the economic future of the city looked bleak.

Next, the War Department had to be persuaded. Despite intense competition for the camp, Law, Jardine, Lowell, and Dwire counted heavily on the fact that the climate of Colorado Springs was ideal for year-round training. Where else, they maintained, were the summers so invigorating and the winter snows so temporary?

Even though they offered what they believed were strong incentives, the tightly-knit committee needed help. Two men whose abilities were uniquely suited to the needs of the committee, J Chase Stone, a New Yorker by birth and a banker whose diplomacy proved invaluable, and Charles L. Tutt, then head of the Broadmoor Hotel, contributed heavily to the team effort.

The group became a formidable organization for selling Colorado Springs. No avenue was left unexplored, no detail overlooked to increase the appeal of Colorado Springs.

Appeals went out to Coloado Senators Alva B. Adams, a member of the War Department Subcommitte on Appropriations, and Edwin C. Johnson, later Governor of Colorado. The help of Assistant Secretary of the Interior Oscar Chapman, also a Coloradan and newly-elected Representative J. Edgar Chenoweth was also solicited.

Not until all investigations were completed did the War Department decide in favor of Colorado Springs, and then only after the disaster at Pearl Harbor made a decision imperative.

On February 22, 1942, Colorado Springs newspapers reported that the camp would be called Camp Carson in honor of Brig Gen. Christopher "Kit" Carson, the famous frontiersman. THe original military reservation consisted of 60,048 acres of land, 5,533 were donated by the city of Colorado Springs, 29,676 were purchased from private owners, 262 were acquired from the Department of the interior and 24,577 were leased from the State of Colorado.

Despite threats of closure after the war, the camp was declared a permanent fort in 1954, and in 1964 it was enlarged to more than twice its original size.