World War II - CSPM

World War II

WWII marked the end of an era for Colorado Springs. The pleasant tourist town of less than 40,000 residents changed forever. Locating Camp Carson (Fort Carson in 1954) six miles south of town resulted in the largest building boom this community has ever known. WWII also meant shared sacrifices for locals including salvage drives, Victory Gardens, and rationing of commodities including: some foods, gasoline, metal, rubber, silk, nylon, and more. This toy wagon produced for Firestone was made of wood when metal was scarce.

– From the CSPM Curator of History

Robert Chapman was working alone at the Gazette Telegraph when a breaking news story came in over the wire, the Imperial Japanese Army had launched an attack. Robert Chapman was the first person in Colorado Springs to find out about the December 7, 1941 raid on Pearl Harbor. Colorado Springs, like the rest of the nation and the world, plunged into warfare.

With rapid war mobilization occurring across the country local communities, including Colorado Springs, sought ways in which to contribute to national needs. The newly constructed Ent Air Base needed to equip rooms and so the newspaper published an advertisement requesting furniture donations. The Broadmoor Hotel dedicated 10 acres of land to a Victory Garden campaign. One of the most extensive campaigns the city organized was to collect scrap metal. Newspapers published curbside collection schedules and residents were encouraged to scrap any non-essential material, so things such as toys were scrapped and replaced with wooden pieces. The American Legion chopped up a German World War I cannon they owned and sent it to Pueblo. There was even discussion of scrapping the city’s iconic sculpture of its’ founder, William Jackson Palmer.

One of the ways in which the European theatre most closely touched Colorado Springs was through the hosting of prisoners of war (POWs) at Camp Carson. At the end of the war in 1945 over 10,000 German prisoners were housed at the military installation. The first POWs to arrive in Colorado Springs, on May 2, 1943 was a group of 368 Italians. Prisoners’ time was spent on mainly agricultural work. They were, however, paid for their labor and given ample time off. The prisoner of war camp at Camp Carson became its own little city. Inmates set up stores to purchase goods, competed in sporting events, put on theatrical performances for one another, and even published their own German language newspaper Die PW Wocke (The Prisoner of War.) As many as 5,000 of the Germans held at Camp Carson returned to the United States after the war, and three even returned to Colorado Springs.

World War II overtook the lives of those in Colorado Springs. From new military installations to food and clothing rations, no resident could have lived untouched from the effects of the war. Colorado Springs did its part to support the effort on the front and to handle the effects at the war at home.

Generously Submitted by Patrick Lee, CSPM Museum Technician

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