Fort Carson was established in 1942, following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. The city of Colorado Springs purchased land south of the city and donated it to the War Department. Construction began immediately, and the first building, the camp headquarters, was completed Jan. 31, 1942.
Camp Carson was named in honor of the legendary Army scout, Gen. Christopher “Kit” Carson, who explored much of the West in the 1800s.
At the construction’s peak, nearly 11,500 workers were employed on various construction projects at the new camp. Facilities were provided for 35,173 enlisted men, 1,818 officers and 592 nurses. Nearly all of the buildings were of the mobilization-type construction with wood-sided exteriors. The hospital was of the semipermanent-type concrete block and had space for 1,726 beds with an expansion capability to 2,000 beds.
The 89th Infantry Division was the first major unit to be activated at Camp Carson. During World War II, more than 100,000 Soldiers trained here. Along with three other infantry divisions — the 71st, 104th and 10th Mountain — more than 125 units were activated at Camp Carson, and more than 100 others were transferred to the Mountain Post from other installations. Nurses, cooks, mule packers, tank battalions, a Greek infantry battalion and an Italian ordnance company — literally Soldiers of every type — trained at Camp Carson during the war years.
Camp Carson was also home to nearly 9,000 Axis prisoners of war — mostly Italians and Germans. The internment camp at Camp Carson opened on the first day of 1943. These POWs alleviated the manpower shortage in Colorado by doing general farm work, canning tomatoes, cutting corn and aiding in logging operations on Colorado’s Western Slope.
Between 1942 and 1956, pack mules were a common sight at Camp Carson. The first shipment arrived by train from Nebraska in July 1942. The mules were used by field artillery (pack) battalions to carry equipment, weapons and supplies over mountainous terrain.
The most famous of these animals was Hambone, the pride of the 4th Field Artillery. For 13 years he carried first sergeants up Ute Pass to Camp Hale. Camp Hale, located near Leadville, was where the Army conducted cold weather and mountain warfare training. Hambone died in March 1971, and was buried with full military honors.
Activity at Camp Carson was greatly reduced following the end of World War II. By April 1946, the military strength at the Mountain Post had dropped to around 600. It appeared Camp Carson would be closed.
With the onset of the Korean War, however, activity once again increased. Many Reserve and National Guard units were called to active duty and stationed at Camp Carson.
Camp Carson became Fort Carson in 1954. In the 1960s, mechanized units were assigned to the Mountain Post. At this time, additional training land was purchased, bringing the post to its current size of 137,403 acres. An additional training area, comprising 235,300 acres, was purchased in September 1983. Named the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site, this training area is located about 150 miles to the southeast and is used for large force-on-force maneuver training. Comprehensive maneuver and live-fire training also occurs downrange at Fort Carson. Exercises and deployments continually hone the skills of Fort Carson Soldiers. When not deployed, Soldiers train annually at Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site and the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California.
Additionally, units participate in joint exercises around the world, including Central and Southern Africa, Europe and Southwest Asia. Since 2003, most Fort Carson units have been deployed in support of the global war on terrorism. In 1999, Fort Carson became the home of the first Active Component-Reserve Component Division in the U.S. Army when the 7th Infantry Division was reactivated. In 2006, the 7th ID was inactivated when Division West, First Army, was activated, with the mission to be responsible for the readiness and training of Army Reserve and National Guard units west of the Mississippi. In 2009, Division West moved to Fort Hood, Texas. At the same time, the 4th Infantry Division, which had just returned to Fort Hood from deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, relocated back to Fort Carson, where it had been previously headquartered from 1970 to 1995.
In 1999, Fort Carson became the first U.S. Army installation to privatize its Family housing. JA Jones LLC assumed responsibility for all Family housing, building new houses and renovating the old. In 2008, the current management company, Balfour Beatty Communities, assumed the responsibility for Fort Carson’s housing.
Throughout its history, Fort Carson Soldiers and units have been active, supporting various community events throughout Colorado. Soldiers from the Mountain Post have conducted firefighting missions in the national forests, search and rescue missions throughout the state, and various other emergency operations. The Mountain Post supports more than 250 community events, such as parades, concerts and fairs every year.