World War II brought a rapid increase in industrial production of war machinery and the inscription and training of troops. A tightly-knit campaign from a determined group of city businessmen promoted Colorado Springs to politicians and military brass for a new military installation. Land incentives and the efforts of the boosters were successful—the U.S. Army announced on January 6, 1942, that they would establish an Army training camp just south of the city.
The magnitude of the Army’s decision was grandiose and audacious: a $30 million contract to house 30,000 soldiers, to be built within 6 months. This investment was about the same as the total assessed property value for the existing city and would nearly double the local population. The camp would be named in honor of frontiersman Brigadier General Christopher “Kit” Carson.
Such a monumental undertaking in the region was unprecedented. At the time, the project was called the greatest boom period in history for the city. The first sections were turned over to the 89th Infantry Division on June 2, 1942. Maximum troop numbers reached 43,000 in 1943, and all told, 104,165 men trained at Camp Carson during World War II. The fate of Camp Carson looked bleak after the war. Drawdown expanded, and the facility nearly closed as the number of troops dwindled to 600 in 1946.
However, at the end of the Korean War, the Army consolidated facilities. In 1954 the post designation was upgraded from Camp to Fort and again hosted a Division. By 1956 it was the single largest contributor to the Colorado Springs economy, employing 2,000 civilians, purchasing local supplies and utilities, and hiring contractors for construction improvements. Colorado Springs and Fort Carson, “The Mountain Post,” have evolved in a mutually-dependent relationship ever since.
Fort Carson saw dramatic growth in the 21st century with troop levels reaching Vietnam-era highs, prompting expansion construction in the biggest boom ever undertaken on the post. This also led to much off-base housing in nearby Security-Widefield. The fort alone is responsible for about 10% of the economic activity in the Pikes Peak region and is a popular post for soldiers who can easily assimilate while off duty and blend into a community supportive of the military. The many services offered veterans provide a welcoming community and subsidies that serve to attract over 50,000 military retirees to the region.
Generously Submitted by Dr. John Harner, Professor of Geography & Environmental Studies, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs