Prior to the creation of the U.S. Air Force in 1947, both the Army and Navy maintained their own aerial units. The Army leased most of the city airport in 1942, built new barracks and renamed the site Peterson Field to train pilots during the war. The city then leased the old Methodist Sanatorium complex on east Boulder Street to the Army for an aerial photography reconnaissance unit in early 1942.
The Army Air Forces established Ent Air Force Base and moved the Second Air Force to the old sanatorium site in June, 1943. The U.S. Air Force continuing to use Ent until 1949. With increasing concerns about the Soviet Union during the Cold War, the Air Force Air Defense Command was established in 1951, and the Ent Air Force Base was reopened as its headquarters. The facility oversaw a network of radar stations built along the coasts and in Canada. With the increasing threat of intercontinental ballistic missiles, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) formed in September, 1957, to control all continental air defense, headquartered at Ent in the one permanent building, the old Methodist sanatorium built in 1926.
When NORAD began, the Army Air Defense Command’s mission was to defend the U.S. against air attack, originally using antiaircraft guns near major cities, later using guided antiaircraft missiles. It moved from the Pentagon to Ent in January, 1951. The Navy assisted in air defense by operating radar ships off the coasts for early detection and making fighter aircraft available. This command moved its headquarters to Ent in September, 1954. Also based at Ent in the 1950s was the Air Weather Service and a communications squadron, creating the first major consolidation of air defense services for the country in one place.
A Combat Operations Center west of the headquarters opened in 1955, then a permanent administration building behind the headquarters was built in 1957. The remainder of the base was built out in barrack-like structures. As the Air Force consolidated facilities, Ent Air Force Base closed in 1976. The city and Department of Defense organized a land swap in 1978 whereby Ent was exchanged for land adjacent to Peterson Air Field. In 1978, the old Ent Air Force Base became the Olympic Training Center, with some military barracks repurposed for athletes, and the U.S. Olympic Committee headquarters moving into the old NORAD building.
Generously Submitted by Dr. John Harner, Professor of Geography & Environmental Studies, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs