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Peterson Air Force Base
Part of Air Force Space Command.png Air Force Space Command (AFSPC)
eponym: 1st Lt Edward J. Peterson
location: El Paso County, Colorado
nearest city: Colorado Springs, Colorado
Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) headquarters moved[Clarification needed] to Peterson AFB Building 1 in December 1987[1] from the Chidlaw Building,[2] and the facility was renamed the Hartinger Building in April 2003[3] NORAD moved to building 2 (out of picture, at bottom) in January 1988 (renamed the Eberhart-Findley Building in 2012).[4]
Coordinates Latitude:
Built 1942
In use 1942-Present
Controlled by  United States Air Force
Garrison 21st Space Wing.png 21st Space Wing

Peterson Air Force Base is a U.S. Air Force Base that shares an airfield with the adjacent Colorado Springs Municipal Airport and which has the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) headquarters. Developed as a World War II air support base for Camp Carson, the facility conducted Army Air Forces training and supported Cold War air defense centers at the nearby Ent Air Force Base, Chidlaw Building, and Cheyenne Mountain. The base has been the location of the Air Force Space Command headquarters since 1987 and has had NORAD/NORTHCOM command center operations since the 2006 Cheyenne Mountain Realignment placed the nearby Cheyenne Mountain nuclear bunker centers on standby.


Peterson AFB has flight operations by the 302d Airlift Wing. Current units at the base are:

The base's Retiree Activities Office has the representative for the Air Force Retiree Council Area IV (Colorado, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming).[6]


Colorado military construction during the buildup of US training installations prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor included the 1940 Lowry bombardier school at Denver and Camp Carson south of Colorado Springs (HQ completed January 31, 1942). Sites "in the vicinity of Colorado Springs" were assessed in the summer of 1941 for a USAAF airfield,[7] and during April 1942 the Photographic Reconnaissance Operational Training Unit (PROTU) was activated in a leased facility[where?] at Colorado Springs.[8] On May 6, 1942, the site adjacent to the airfield of the 1926 Colorado Springs Municipal Airport was selected,[9] and the airport's airfield was subsequently leased as an "air support field"* for Camp Carson under the "air support base development program". In May 1942, units such as the 5th Mapping Squadron (from Bradley Field) arrived and used city facilities. The "Second Photographic Group Reconnaissance" (activated 7 May 1942 at Will Rogers Field)[10] transferred to Colorado Springs, and the "2nd Group … headquarters was situated in a former garage across the street from the Post Office, barracks were in the city auditorium…and the mess hall was located at the busy horseshoe counter of the Sante Fe R.R. station."[11] Land at the Broadmoor was used for maneuvers, and the 2nd Group initially operated without aircraft.[11] Personnel[specify]

were also "housed temporarily at Colorado College" and a youth camp near the Woodmen sanitorium.[12]  (the 14th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron was located at the Kaufman Building on Tejon St.)[13]

Army Air Base, Colorado Springs

"Army Air Base, Colorado Springs",* construction began after May 10, 1942, on "nothing more than a large patch of Colorado plain",[14] and the installation was placed under the Headquarters, United States "AAF [on] 11 Jun 1942".[9] The 373d Base HQ and Air Base Sq was activated[where?] as the base operating unit on 20 Jun 1942 (replaced by the 214th AAF Base Unit in 1944), and the base was assigned to the 2nd Air Force on 22 June. On July 7, 1942, "HQ PROTU" was on the "Army Air Base, Colorado Springs" and was ordered to provide "four to five months of training to each individual."[14] During airbase construction, the 20th Combat Mapping Squadron was activated on July 23, 1942, and used the Alamo Garage[15] on Tejon Street.[16] Runways were completed in August 1942,[12] and eponym 1st Lt Edward J. Peterson crashed 8 August 1942 on take off (1st Coloradoan killed at the airfield.)

Peterson Field

Peterson Field was the airfield named on December 13, 1942,[20] and included the runway used by both the municipal airport and the military installation:[21] "Army Air Base, Peterson Field", which had begun publishing the Wingspread base newspaper by July 11, 1942.[22] The "18 Dep Rpr Sq" was assigned to the military installation from 19 January-29 April 1943, and the installation was assigned to the Third Air Force (5 March-1 October 1943) and by the end of the 1943 summer had tar paper barracks, an officer's club, and a theater in a Quonset.[23] After the base transferred to Second Air Force on 1 October 1943, [9] in June 1944 Peterson Field began fighter pilot training[specify]

with P-40N Warhawks[20]  "In March 1943 the Third Air Force took over the photographic reconnaissance Operational Training Unit which had been operating at Peterson Field…under the direct control of the Director of Photography since April 1942."[24]

Bomber Commands

The 4th Heavy Bombardment Processing Headquarters ("4 H Bomb Processing HQ") was activated on 10 Jun 43 (the 1st B-29 landed at Peterson Field in the summerof 1943),[23] and bomber training by the 214th AAF Base Unit (Combat Crew Training School, Heavy) B-24 Liberator)[not in citation given] began after the 383rd Bombardment Group relocated from Geiger Field, Washington[20] on 26 October 1943. In 1944 (11 June - 20 October), the XXI Bomber Command was assigned to Peterson; and the "HQ and HQ Sq" of XXII Bomber Command was assigned 14 October 1944 – 13 February 1945, and by 17 August 1944, 4 bomb wings (313th through 316th) were assigned to the base—the last left on 7 June 1945.[9] The 263rd AAF Base Unit became the Peterson "base operating unit" on 8 March 1945 (transferred to Andrews Field on 17 March 1946).[9]:8,471 The Army Air Forces Instructor School[specify]

opened at Peterson Field in April 1945,[20] and the base was one of several that transferred to Continental Air Forces on 16 April  (VIII Bomber Command arrived 17 August 1945.)
Post-war surplus
The base was inactivated 31 December 1945 after the 13th Bombardment Wing (17 October) and VIII Bomber Command (c. 15 December) departed, and site management by the base operating unit[specify]
ended on 17 December.[9]  In 1946, Peterson's last AAF Base Units were discontinued: 260th AAF Base Unit (Fighter Wing) in January, the 202nd AAF Base Unit (Special) in February, and the 268th AAF Base Unit (Instrument Instructor Unit) in March and the 201st (Headquarters Base Unit) in April (the  72nd Fighter Wing was at the base from "4 Jan 46-9 Apr 46".)  The 703rd AAF Base Unit (Hq, 53d AACS Group) moved to Kelly Field in February.  Designated surplus on 29 July 1946,[9]  "the U.S. Government returned control[specify]
of the [air]field to the City of Colorado Springs").[1]  Many of the base buildings were torn down[1]—WWII buildings remaining in 1996 were "the terminal, now the Peterson Air and Space Museum, the Broadmoor hangar, and the Spanish House" next to the museum,[25] along with Building 391, Building 365, supply warehouses and office buildings, and aircraft hangars and maintenance shops.[12]  In 1946, Tonopah AAF (Nevada, on 1 October), Clovis AAF (New Mexico, 16 October), and Casper AAF (Wyoming, on 15 December) became detached installations of the inactive base for a short period.		
     During planning for the new United States Air Force, Colorado's Arlington Auxiliary Army Airfield became a detached installation of the surplus base (1 January -c. 10 October 1947), and the "468th Construction Co (15th AF)" became the inactive base's operating unit in February 1947. The base with new construction was activated 29 September 1947 – 15 January 1948, then was "surplus"[9] until after the notice in November 1950 to reactivate Air Defense Command. The "23 Photo Sq   19 May 43-9 Aug 48" remained throughout both inactive/surplus periods, and the "4600 Maint & Sup Sq" was established at the surplus base on 1 December 1950).[9]

USAF installation

The military base at the municipal field reactivated as an "off-base installation of Ent AFB, 1 Jan 1951" and was operated by Ent's 4600 Air Base Group. After being assigned to Peterson on 1 March 1952,[9] the 4602d Air Intelligence Service Squadron had subordinate organizations at the "Defense Force Headquarters [on] Hamilton Air Force Base, California, at Kansas City, Missouri,[specify]

and at Stewart Air Force Base" New York[26]  The 4600th Group became a wing on 8 April 1958 (moved to Peterson on 18 October 1972,[27]:40 and the 4600th had a flight training squadron "14 Oct 74-15 Mar 75".[9]  The 4600th was replaced by the 46th Aerospace Defense Wing on 1 April 1975[27] and in January 1968, Air Training Command's 3253d Pilot Training Squadron at Peterson Field began light aircraft indoctrination for cadets (moved to USAFA on 21 March 1974).[28]  The military base at Peterson Field gained its own base commander[specify]
on 28 February 1975.

Primary installation

Designated Peterson Air Force Base on March 1, 1975, when Ent AFB was being closed, Peterson was the last of the April 1945 Continental Air Forces airbases to be named an air force base. Also on March 1, Peterson assumed several functions from Ent AFB, which became the "Ent Annex" of Peterson, 18 July 1975 – 7 February 1978[9] (Peterson's off-base "Temporary Military Facility" was opened for space training by 1986.) During the first part of the reorganization that broke up ADCOM,[27]:46 the base "transferred to the Strategic Air Command" on October 1, 1979[1] (units transferred included the 47th Comm Sq to AFCS and the 46th Wing & 4602nd Computer Services Sq to SAC.)[27]:47 ADCOM HQ offices at the Chidlaw Building became the Aerospace Defense Center at Peterson on December 1, 1979 (space surveillance stations transferred to Stategic Air Command).

The 1st Space Wing replaced the 46th Aerospace Defense Wing on 1 April 1983, then the 1SW transferred host unit responsibility to the 3d Space Support Wing activated on 15 October 1986 (on 15 May 1992, the personnel and equipment of both the 1st SW and 3d SSW merged to become the 21st Space Wing.) [29] Army and other units transferred from the former Ent AFB Federal Building to Peterson Building 2 (renamed the Eberhart-Findley Building on October 2012).[4] Peterson's Space Analysis Center was at the corner of Academy & Fountain Blvds by 2004 before moving on base to bldg 1470, and in 2004 the Space Operations School used a building along I-25 at Woodmen Drive.

The Cheyenne Mountain Realignment moved NORAD/USNORTHCOM operations to Peterson AFB in 2006 (Peterson's NORAD COC Backup Facility was operational on 16 November 1982[4]) from the Cheyenne Mountain nuclear bunker which was placed on warm standby, and in 2006 the 76th Space Control Facility was constructed at Peterson[30] (the squadron activated 22 January 2008.) Peterson was the base of operations for the MAFFS aircraft that fought the 2012 Waldo Canyon fire and 2013 Black Forest fire at Colorado Springs.

External images gallery
JFK's Air Force One at Peterson during 1963 Chidlaw Building/Cheyenne Mountain visit
MAFFS aircraft at PAFB


* Despite the number of vintage records with "Army Air Base, Colorado Springs", Mueller in 1989 (p. 471) claims the military installation next to the municipal airfield was initially named "Air Support Command Base" in May 1942 but does not identify an Air Support Command headquarters ever being at the air base, nor that base was even assigned to a one of the support commands. The "special air support bases" were those with the "five air support command headquarters"[8]:136a which were activated at "Mitchel Field, Will Rogers Field, Savannah Army Air Base, Hamilton Field, and Bowman Field "early in September 1941" under Air Force Combat Command.[8]:74

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Toro, MSgt. Radames; Barrios, MSgt. Ramon A. (1 August 1993--Third Edition). "Chapter 1: Command Overview". Space Operations Orientation Course. Peterson AFB, Colorado: 21st Crew Training Squadron. "At the end of the war in 1945, the U.S. Government returned control of the [Peterson] field to the City of Colorado Springs and many of the military buildings were torn down. In 1948…the 15th Air Force, then headquartered at Ent AFB… One year later, the 15th Air Force relocated to March AFB California, and…the Air Force portion of Peterson Field were placed on inactive status. … Operational control at this time was provided by the 4600 Air Base Group… On October 1, 1979, control of [Peterson AFB] was transferred to the Strategic Air Command. … During December 1987, 2500 USSPACECOM and AFSPACECOM personnel relocated to their new Headquarters on Peterson AFB from the Chidlaw Building in Colorado Springs…"  (p. 3)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2
  5. 2006 Base Guide. Peterson Air Force Base Website. Retrieved February 15, 2008, See p. 41/51 in electronic file, or p. 44 on printed version.
  6. Peterson Air Force Base - 21st Space Wing Retiree Activities Office. (2004-10-01). Retrieved on 2013-09-18.
  7. Stratton, Major James H.; Cox, Lt L.E.; Harmon, Lt H.C. (Aug 1941). Report on Sites for Military Airfield in the Vicinity of Colorado Springs, Colorado (Report). available at USAFA Special Collections; Harmon, Harold C. Series One--Site Selection and Development; Box 1 Folder 1. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Futrell, Robert F. (July 1947). Development of AAF Base Facilities in the United States: 1939-1945 (Report). ARS-69: US Air Force Historical Study No 69 (Copy No. 2). Air Historical Office. 
  9. 9.00 9.01 9.02 9.03 9.04 9.05 9.06 9.07 9.08 9.09 9.10 9.11 Mueller, Robert (1989). Air Force Bases (Report). VolumeI: Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982. Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-53-6. "Between 1 Jan 1951 and 28 Feb 1975 the base commander of Ent AFB also commanded Peterson Fld." 
  10. Organization History (First Installment): Second Photographic Group Reconnaissance (Report). Special Collections, USAF Academy Library (item 128.31:17). "From Activation 7 May 1942 to 31 DEC 1942" 
  11. 11.0 11.1 Prinzo (Corporal, 2nd Grp payroll clerk) (c. 1945). "[description of sites used by 2nd Photo Grp]".  (quoted by First Installment)
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Nash, Jeff (2012-04-30). "April 28 marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of Peterson Air Force Base". Retrieved 2013-10-09.  (republication of 2007 series of Space Observer articles)
  13. Thole, David (Google books). Flying Lightning: The History of the 14th Fighter Squadron. Retrieved 2013-10-09. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 HQ Memo to HQ PROTU, July 7, 1942 (quoted by First Installment)
  15. St. John, Philip A.. The Liberator Legend: The Plane and the People.,+Colorado+Springs%22&source=bl&ots=tXWPeHfr3S&sig=pVYTglF8L-RA6fYw4heOAogtZ8A&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Nk1nUYPyIsbvygH-mIHgDg&ved=0CEwQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=%22Army%20Air%20Base%2C%20Colorado%20Springs%22&f=false. Retrieved 2013-04-11. 
  16. "Colorado Springs Area Telephone Directory" (phone book image). 1940.…0.0…1c.1.8.psy-ab.Kti3nTjY16s&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_qf.&bvm=bv.45107431,d.aWc&fp=ba0e4b184784c0e5&biw=1600&bih=793. 
  17. Army Air Forces Installations: 15 July 1944 (Map).  (included at 7 unnumbered Futrell pages between pages 156 and 157) NOTE: The map shows the "COLORADO SPRINGS HQS 2AF" south-southwest of "PETERSON FLD", but perhaps is not-to-scale. The June 1944 AAF: The Official Guide to the Army Air Forces also identifies the "2nd Air Force"at "Colorado Springs" under "Brig. Gen. U. G. Ent", so perhaps the general was in command of the tent camp that later was named for him. Also, since Futrell p. 128 vaguely states the 2AF HQ was at a "leased facility", citing "Hist. 2d AF, 1943, v. 1, pp. 129-155", perhaps that source names the specific leased facility (e.g., city building at the tent camp.)
  18. "Hist. 2d AF, 7 Dec. 1941 to 31 Dec. 1942, v. 2, p. 370; OCE, Hist. Branch, Mil. Constr. in the United States Under the Direction of the [illegible] and the C of E, v. 2, p. 258." (cited by Futrell Ch. IV, pp. 126 & 232)
  19. Arnold, Henry H.--Foreword (June 1944--Special Edition for AAF Organizations) [May 1944]. AAF: The Official Guide to the Army Air Forces. New York: Pocket Books. 
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 Nash, Jeff. "Peterson Air Force Base: From tiny air field to sprawling complex". Retrieved 2013-08-15. "October 1943. The 383rd Bomb Group relocated here from Geiger Field, Wash., and formed a combat crew training school utilizing the B-24 "Liberator" heavy bomber." 
  21. [full citation needed] This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website
  23. 23.0 23.1 Didion, Joan (August 14, 1965). "John Wayne: A love song". pp. 76–9. "In the summer of 1943…at Peterson Field [there were] tar-paper barracks and the temporary [air]strip and…they brought in the first B-29… There was an Officer's Club, but no swimming pool; all the club had of interest was artificial blue rain behind the bar. …sat on folding chairs in the darkened Quonset Hut which served as a theater" 
  24. Quotation by Futrell Ch. IV, p. 131, which cites the source(s) on p. 234: Hist. 3d AF, Flying Training 1941 to 1944, v. 1, p. [tbd]; Narrative Hist. Rpt., Peterson Fld., 29 Apr. 1942 to 1 Oct. 1943, v. 2, pp. 2-4, in AFSHO 287.50-1, v. 2.
  25. Gates, SSgt Andrew (September 1996). "Medal of Honor grove highlights Air Force heroes". Peterson AFB: 21st Space Wing public affairs. pp. 16–17. "Medal of Honor grove, an anchor point for the base's historic district" 
  26. "4602d AISS Unit History Sampler" (transcribed excerpts of Secret History of 4602D Air Intelligence Squadron). Retrieved 2013-10-09. "The 4602d Air Intelligence Service Squadron was activated and organized under authority of Air Defense Command General Order Number 20, dated 28 February 1952, at Peterson field [sic] [a sub-base of] Ent Air Force Base, Colorado Springs, Colorado with an authorized strength of thirty-four (34) officers and ninety-seven (97) airmen. Under this General Order, three (3) flights, designated as Flights A, B and C were organized to be located at the three (3) Defense Force Headquarters at Hamilton Air Force Base, California, at Kansas City, Missouri, and at Stewart Air Force Base, new York, respectively." 
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 27.3 compiled by Johnson, Mildred W (31 December 1980) [Feb 1973 original by Cornett, Lloyd H. Jr]. A Handbook of Aerospace Defense Organization 1946 - 1980. Peterson AFB: Office of History, Aerospace Defense Center. pp. 18, 40. Retrieved 2012-03-26. 
  28. A Brief History of Keesler AFB and the 81st Training Wing (Report). A-090203-089. p. 173,198. Retrieved 2013-07-08. 
  29. Peterson AFB. Global Security Website. Retrieved December 6, 2006

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