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World War II Effort in Colorado
The New Deal
Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal” politics came to a close near the end of 1939, and American’s momentarily forgot the depression as they centered their newest worries on Nazi occupied Europe. With the untimely bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, the United States was immediately drawn into the war effort. Patriotism sprang up over night, and the lethargic state of Colorado took advantage of a great boom which would ease the state’s depressed economy for years to come.
Lowry Air Base
The Grand Purchase
At the beginning of the war, most Coloradans realized that Military buildup was necessary in helping the economy. The use of Denver’s Fitzsimons Army Hospital, an intake unit for wounded soldiers and Lowry Air Base, an aerial photography instruction school, became Colorado focal points to the war cause. A few years’ later Colorado Springs merchants lobbied for a military post, and convinced military officials to seal the deal after purchasing the Cheyenne Valley Ranch for the military post. Since military installations created a wealth of job opportunities to the local economy, a few other cities began to make a demand for military presence like La Junta, Leadville, and Pueblo. Yet of all the military installations, Colorado Springs’s Fort Carson prospered the most.
Equality on the Front Lines
Women and Minorities were also benefactors of a positive war effort. Before the war, many citizens were still struggling from the effects of the depression. By the first year of the war, a large percentage of able-bodied men had already been drafted into the military, leaving behind an abundance of single females, to take their place in the industry. Many left their jobs from behind the department store counters to learn the new trades once given to men and earn better wages than ever before. African American and Hispanic males also benefitted from the absence of a white male dominated society and took up better wage paying positions in canning factories and ammunition plants. Some even prospered after the war by opening businesses such as restaurants and night clubs.
A Thriving Economy
Throughout the state, there was a new exuberance. Though trodden with the weariness of the war front, Coloradans still held their heads high. The economy was in full swing, and for most, the memories of the depression era were no longer a reality, merely a memory that made Coloradans that much stronger. With the defeat of Japan, and eventually the Nazi regime, soldiers came home from the war found Colorado thriving with a revitalized economy mainly due to the expansion of military presence. Many soldiers stationed in Colorado eventually came back to the state where they had once served and settled down adding to the melting pot of Colorado’s economy.
War World II Manpower
Remington Arms Plant was a major World War II ammunitions plant that was known to have produced nearly 10 million rounds of ammunition a day. Employing nearly 20,000 workers, the plant also employed qualified women and African Americans.
John Galen Locke was nominated Grand Dragon of the Klu Klux Klan in 1923 for the entire state of Colorado. He championed the klan issues which at the time included no tolerance to African Americans and those of Jewish descent. Locke backed powerful politicians such as Lawrence Phipps who in turn contribute large amounts of funding to the institution. Locke’s power rose to its height until 1925.
(Colorado: A History of the Centennial State. Abbot, Leonard and Noel. Page 297-315)
In April 1942, a little over two years before the Tenth Mountain Division officially obtained its name, the U.S. Army began the unprecedented construction of a training facility for its newly acquired ski and mountain troops. Located near Pando in Colorado’s Sawatch Range, the site eventually known as Camp Hale sits at an elevation of 9,250 feet. Immense challenges in its creation and subsequent training included ongoing racial conflict, the high altitude and blustery winters. However, thanks to contributions from civilian workers and the Women’s Army Corps and support from neighboring communities, the camp trained soldiers who helped defeat the Axis powers in World War II. Veteran David R. Witte brings to life this enduring story.
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