A HISTORY OF
FRANCIS E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE
AND ITS PREDECESSORS
FORT DAVID A. RUSSELL AND FORT FRANCIS E. WARREN
Major Stephen L. Holland
Francis E. Warren AFB, Wyoming February 1983
Revised in March 1987.
FOREWORD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . i
SECTION I: THE LAND AND NATIVE PEOPLE
CHAPTER 1: THE LAND. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1-1
By Captain Michael K. Cloud
CHAPTER 2: THE NATIVE PEOPLE . . . . . . . . . . .2-1
By First Lieutenant Virginia Lewis
SECTION II: WESTERN EXPLORATION AND SETTLEMENT
CHAPTER 3: WESTERN EXPLORATION BEFORE 1860 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3-1
By Captain John Betts
CHAPTER 4: THE ARMY BEFORE 1860. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 1
By First Lieutenant Terri Burnley
CHAPTER 5: THE FOUNDING OF CHEYENNE AND FORT RUSSELL . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 1
By First Lieutenant John Bradshaw
and Major Stephen L. Holland
SECTION III: THE ARMY YEARS
CHAPTER 6: FORT RUSSELL: 1867 1900. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 1
By First Lieutenant John Bradshaw
CHAPTER 7: FORT RUSSELL FORT WARREN: 1900 1940. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 1
By First Lieutenant Ralph W. Menzel
and Major Stephen L. Holland
CHAPTER 8: FORT WARREN: 1940 1947 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8-1
By First Lieutenant Edgar W. Blythe
SECTION IV: THE AIR FORCE YEARS
CHAPTER 9: AIR TRAINING COMMAND. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 1
By First Lieutenant James I. Player
CHAPTER 10: THE ATLAS PERIOD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 1
By First Lieutenant Garrett Voorhees
CHAPTER 11: MINUTEMAN REPLACES TITAN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 1
By Captain James McGrail
CHAPTER 12: MINUTEMAN Today. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 1
By First Lieutenant James Hebert
and Major Stephen L. Holland
CHAPTER 13: THE 80s AND PEACEKEEPER. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . 13 1
By Sgt James C. Mesco
Wyoming is situated between 41′ and 45′ north latitude, and between 104’03″ and 111’03″ west longitude. It is the ninth largest state in area, with 97,914 square miles of which 600 are water. Wyoming became part of the United States with the Louisiana Purchase (1803) and by treaties with Spain (1819), Great Britain (1846), and Mexico (1848).
With a mean elevation of 6,700 feet, Wyoming is second only to Colorado in altitude within the continental United States. The altitude varies from 3,125 feet in the northeast to 13,804 feet at the summit of Garnett Peak in the Wind River Range. From the northwest corner to a point in the middle of the southern boundary, the Conti-nental Divide crosses the state. These mountains were formed by the folding of the earth’s crust long ago. With erosion, the advance and recession of great seas, volcanic activity, dinosaurs, and many other natural occurrences, the area that is now Wyoming was formed as you see it today.
Wyoming has 62 million acres of soils which are divided into seven major groups: shal-low, stony mountain soils; limey valley alluvial soils; tight gray clays and loams on salty marine shales; friable grayish brown loams from fresh water shale; reddish brown loams on red shale, sandstone, limestone, and scoria; brown sandy loams on loess, limestone, and sandstone; and dune sands. With this great variety of soil, Wyoming is remarkably variegated. However, less than five percent of the soil has been scarred by the plow.
No other state has quite as much sagebrush as Wyoming, but sagebrush is not Wyom-ing’s only vegetation. The state has six major vegetation zones: alpine zone; timbered mountain slopes; foothills scrub; grassland; desert and basin, and river bottoms. The state is covered with a variety of vegetation from Englemann Spruce in the high country to sagebrush and grasses on the plains.
Wildlife varies with elevation and vegetation zones. Wyoming has an abundance of wildlife from elk, deer, moose, and bear in the mountains to prairie dogs and eagles in the plains and trout in the streams.
One of the first things that comes to a person’s mind when talking about Wyoming is the weather. The state enjoys a broad range of climate because of the wide range in altitude. Except for the mountains, semiarid is an appropriate designation for all other areas. The average annual precipitation is about 14.31 inches, with the mountains in the northwest receiving more than 40 inches. The Red Desert west of Rawlins, the northern part of the Big Horn Basin, and the area around Shoshoni, receiving less than 8 inches. Rains are normally light, however, torrential downpours and flash floods are not unknown.
Snowfall varies from 15 or 20 inches with large amounts in the mountains. Snow falls from November through May, with the frost free period running about 125 days in the agricultural areas. Severe winter storms are not common, but when they occur, they can be quite dangerous. The heaviest snows come in March, April, and May.
Besides the snowfall in the winter months, hailstorms and tornadoes appear in Wyoming. Evaporation is high because of the low relative humidity, high percentage of sunshine, and considerable wind. Wind is the most common weather phenomena in Wyoming with an average velocity of 13.8 miles per hour.
Temperatures sometimes reach 100 0 in summer and can descend to a 50 0 in winter in high elevation areas.
As you can tell by this introduction to the natural settings of Wyoming, it is a very diverse state. Of equal diversity were its native people who lived here for hundreds of years prior to European discovery and exploration of the Wyoming area.
THE NATIVE PEOPLE
Over 20,000 years ago, America’s first Indians came from Asia by way of the Bering Strait to the Rocky Mountains. Most of these early settlers traveled southeastward along the eastern slopes of the Rockies. Wyoming at first was used merely as a stopover place. Archaeologists have found artifacts which indicate that Indians spent time at several locations including one near Laramie (7,900 years ago) and one near Cody (6,800 years ago).
Much of the Wyoming region was transformed into a desert area roughly 6,000 years ago. As a result, there was a great exodus from the area. For nearly 1,500 years the land that is now Wyoming was uninhabited. About 4,500 years ago as climatic conditions improved, a small Indian population came back into being. Eventually (about 500 AD) the Wyoming area had a booming population thriving on buffalo.
With its vast grassy plains and deep mountain valleys, Wyoming was the hunting ground of 12 great tribes: Crow, Blackfeet, Sioux, Ute, Bannock, Flathead, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Shoshone, Modoc, Nez Perce, and Kiowa. Some of these tribes established themselves here and bitterly contested the white man’s progress westward.
Members of the Crow Nation were the first known Indian inhabitants of Wyoming. They found the Big Horn country a rich hunting ground and a pleasant place in which to live. Later the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho pushed in from the east and southeast; Blackfeet and Flathead came from the south. Many bloody battles were fought before the Crow relinquished their homes, and like the tribes that displaced them, they continued sending war and hunting parties through the region long after white occupation began.
Certain warlike Plains tribes, chiefly Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho, controlled eastern Wyoming for generations before the white men came. Not content with holding the plains and fighting one another, they continually raided the mountain tribes.
The Shoshone, sometimes called Snake, were originally plains rangers; they were, however, driven to the mountains by the Atsina and Siksika before the coming of white man. The Shoshone were raided more often than any of the other tribes. Even the peaceful Crow singled them out to raid when they wished to compensate themselves for their losses to the Sioux. .
The ancient Plains population was too large to travel and pursue their way of Life as a single tribe. So for many reasons, not the least of which was good sense, they subdivided into small bands which were made up of unrelated families, or into clans consisting of persons related by marriage, and went their independent ways within prescribed boundaries. Usually they assembled upon notice for one or two grand tribal buffalo hunts, fall and spring, and once during the early summer for the annual games and Sun Dance. They also gathered on rare occasions for massive tribal defense.
Two types of dwellings were used by the Plains tribes: the better known, ingenious buffalo hide tipi, and the more permanent earth or bark lodges of a few small and generally stationary agricultural groups such as the Arikara, Mandan, Omaha, and Pawnee. Even then, all tribes employed the tipi while on the move. The buffalo hide tipi and all of its contents easily deserve a place among the world’s leading examples of classic mobile design. A tipi would be large enough to house an average family of five or eight persons; it could be set up by a woman in less than 15 minutes and taken down in three. The homes and furnishings of an entire camp could be packed upon horse or dog drawn travois and be on the move in 20 minutes. The tipi, along with a brush fence, carried its occupants through the worst winters using minimum fuel, and with rolled up sides became a vented summer umbrella. During the day its translucent walls admitted a pleasant light, and at night each dwelling transformed itself into a giant candle to illuminate the camp. It required no painting, save decoration, and was repaired simply by patching.
Since most Plains Indians moved with the buffalo during all but the winter months, their camps advanced within their own territory every few days, moving 10 or 15 miles each time. In so doing, some important side functions were served. The natural elements disposed of the sanitation problems after they moved on, and the migration itself was a source of constant excitement and adventure.
Generally speaking, a tribe hunted within its own domain, and the territorial boundaries became the only common hunting grounds; a situation which often led to some sudden and spirited engagements between tribes. Ordinarily small war and raiding parties were the only groups to invade the heartland of the dangerous neighboring areas—the exception being times when hunger drove entire tribal divisions to it.
By and large the Plains Indians lived on buffalo meat. The earth lodge tribes grew corn, squash, beans, and a few other vegetables, but the rest gathered only small seasonal amounts of wild berries, choke-cherries, turnips, and later a few other items obtained in intertribal trade, to add to their diet. On the somewhat rare mountain trips, antelope, elk, and deer meat was obtained, but it never replaced the buffalo. Most tribes did not eat fish.
The desired village sites for the nomadic tribes were those which offered a good water supply, ample wood, grazing, and forage for horses, protection from wind, and security from enemies. Level, wooded bottom lands cradled by bluffs or ridges were generally sought. At the tribal assem-blies, however, they camped on the flatter ground, pitching their tipis in a great circle with the main entrance to the east. The usual village plan was an informal assemblage of lodges. Relatives tended to live near one another, but when a new household was set up the owners were at liberty to place their lodges wherever they wished.
Except in winter, the location of a camp indicated something of its occupants. A camp near water and away from all timber was probably Sioux, who had a deep respect for ambush; a camp on open prairie, but near timber, would be Cheyenne or Arapaho; a camp situated among open timber, Kiowas or Comanches; while smoke issuing from the cover of a dense thicket Would indicate Osages, Omahas, or Pawnees.
During the spring months, tipis were repaired or renewed from new hides, which had been collected during the fall and winter. Leggings and moccasins were made from the “smoked tops,” and the smoking of hides for all uses began with the arrival of warm weather.
The society clubs put on their mesmerizing
dances, and the vital vision-seeking rites continued from late spring until the snow fell in October or November. In May the bands moved from their winter settlements to higher ground. This movement was traditional and not entirely the result of necessity. If food supplies were low, a buffalo hunt was planned to coincide with this migration. During the early summer months, individual family hunts were carried out, with men and boys hunting game for their household on a regular basis.
When not occupied with this, they constructed and repaired their weapons. Meanwhile, the women were busy gathering early roots and berries. Hide painting was done while the weather was bright and warm, and at this time sweet-smelling leaves were gathered and preserved, especially during the “Moon of the Ripe June Berries.” Limited tribal hunts were organized whenever a herd of buffalo was sighted.
The major part of the summer was given over to ceremonial affairs. It was the master season of celebration; there was vision seeking and cult performance, there were society elections and even such exotic occasions as female virtue feasts. The stupendous Sun Dance served as the monu-mental climax of the ceremonial season.
As the festival season ended for most tribes, a fall hunt was immediately organized. In some tribes, however, there was no formalized communal hunt as such, rather the great camp circle broke up, and the individual bands set out to hunt on their own.
Autumn was an equally busy time of year. Women gathered their auxiliary foods and dried buffalo meat in preparation for the approaching winter. Men hunted intensely so that the supply of meat would be adequate, and when the season drew to a close underground caches were prepared as winter insurance. Wood was gathered wherever possible to provide fuel for the winter.
The winter camp was regarded by the Indian as his true home. The intensity of war, hunting, and constant movement slacked off, and he settled down to a period of preparation for the more vigorous season to come.
During this period, the aged warriors spent their daylight hours in gambling, their long winter evenings in endless repetitions of stories of their noble performances in days gone by, and their nights in restful sleep. They knew how to capture the listener’s attention, and how to fix a story in his mind. Further, as the Indians had no written records, the maintenance of their historical accounts depended totally on oral tradition. Each tribe had its historians who considered it their sacred duty to instruct selected young men carefully in the traditions of the nation, just as their own teachers had taught them. The pupils gathered in the lodges, and the old men would repeat in words and actions the captivating tales again and again, until at last the hearers had committed them to memory. It was in this manner that sacred stories, elaborate rituals, and all the tribunal history were handed down.
The women enjoyed the winter too, for the hectic taking down and putting up of the tipis ended, as did the packing and unpacking of bags and ponies. The stormbound days and longer evenings of winter made it the ideal time for the women to manufacture and repair clothing, and they were forever busy with their rolled skins and awls. Sinew taken from the buffalo was the Indian’s thread. Splitting it for size was a task requiring great skill. Each of those taken from the different parts of the body had its own properties, which made it best for specific uses. The Women had been diligently trained in sewing from early childhood, and produced some of the finest sewn art bark in the world. Beads, porcu-pine quills, bird quills, grasses, paints, ermine tails, fringes of other fine furs, small animal and bird bones, bars of metal, bells, braided hair, and fleeces appeared as if by magic from the hide container which the seamstress had added to and repacked at every move throughout the year.
The Indian woman was not, as commonly thought, a drudge or sleeve. Though, indeed, women did the hard work. They cooked, brought wood and water, dried the meat, dressed the robes, made the clothing, collected the lodge’s poles, packed the horses, cultivated the ground, and generally performed all the tasks which might be called menial; but no one thought of them as servants in this. Their position was respected and their crafts were highly valued. A man’s offer to help with the difficult female tasks would always be scorned. He had his place, and the woman had hers. The wives were always consulted on intimate family affairs and often in more general matters. They also shared jointly with their husbands in sacred rituals. A few women were even admitted to the band councils, and gave advice there. The privi-lege was unusual, and only granted to women who had performed a deed comparable to those of the leading men of the tribe.
The Indian ladies readily endorsed the idea of polygamous marriages. Battle deaths often left a plurality of husbandless women behind. With more wives in a home, there was less labor involved in their chores. In most tribes, tradition gave a woman’s husband first claim on her younger sisters as his additional wives, and if there were no sisters, the original wife sometimes turned to other families to obtain a second wife for him. In any case she remained number one, there was less work for her to do and she always had somebody to talk to when her husband was away on his hunting or warring trips.
Men could not marry until they had earned the right. According to the ancient Crow law of marriage, no man could wed a woman belonging to the same clan as his own. Children always belonged to the clan of their mother, and the law prevented the possibility of inbreeding, because when they married they had to mate with those of another clan. Sometimes new blood was infused by unions with members of other tribes, this way the race did not decline. Indians were high on the praises of the law that permitted some men to marry under 25 only if they had counted coup. That is, they had to have touched an enemy during combat with something held in their hand.
Turning back to the winter season, and concluding our thoughts on that time, it brought a special and unending period of excitement to the young. During the day there were new games, dances and feasts, visits and frolics; pleasures of every kind. At night by the flickering fires of the tipis the storytellers prepared, rehearsed, and presented their marvelous recitals. Importantly, it was the season for love making, and it was said that winter was the time when love ruled the camp.
Obviously, the Plains Indians of the early 1800’s were an industrious, unburdened, moral, sensitive, and contented people. They had evolved a way of life which produced a healthy and productive society—devoid of disabling mental distress and having no need for drugs and excesses to dull the senses. The very young child was free to play with reckless abandon, but the rest of the community maintained a careful balance each passing day between industry, pleasure, and religion.
But times were changing and the life of the Plains Indians was destined to be changed forever. The white man was exploring westward and the impending clash between two civilizations would leave both changed.
WESTERN EXPLORATION BEFORE 1860
Louis Joseph and Francois de la Verendrye are credited by some historians as the first explorers of Wyoming. However, there is no conclusive evidence that the Verendrye’s had more than a glimpse of Wyoming s Big Horn Mountains from their positions in South Dakota’s Black Hills before they went back to Canada. Since the evidence is so flimsy the Wyoming State Landmark Commission gives the credit to John Colter, a one time member of the Lewis and Clark expedition.
John Colter is typical of those early explorers of the Wyoming area. He came west with Lewis and Clark, but left his $5.00 a month job to accompany another expedition, which followed closely behind Lewis and Clark. Colter helped build Manuel’s Fort at the mouth of the Big Horn River in Montana. The fort was a trading post and Colter wanted to expand the trade so he ventured southward to contact the Crow Indians. Most historians credit Colter with making this 500 mile journey alone and in the dead of winter. During this excursion he covered much of northwestern Wyoming. The most fascinating of his discoveries was an area where some 3,000 geysers and hot springs spurted intermittently. But like most explorers with fantastic discoveries he was derided and the area became known as Colter’s Hell.
More travelers followed Colter. In 1811 the Pacific Fur Company’s overland party passed through Wyoming on their way to Astoria. Robert Stuart with six other Astor partners and employees crossed Wyoming in the winter of 1812 1813. This party spent a few weeks in cabins west of Casper before they were frightened off by a group of Indians. They spent the rest of the winter just east of Torrington. William H. Ashley and his group explored and trapped in the area of the Sweetwater and Green River Valleys in 1824. Jedediah Smith discovered South Pass in 1824 while working for the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. This pass was the gateway through the Rockies. Many others followed these early fur traders and explorers. Lawson, in his History of Wyoming, notes that there may have been as many as 200 of these “mountain men” in Wyoming by the 1830s. These early explorers disappeared without making much of an impression on the history of Wyoming other than a few place names.
In 1832 Captain Benjamin L. E. de Bonneville first led a group of wagons across Wyoming. In 1833 he mapped Wyoming and discovered oil east of the Wind River Mountains. William Sublette and Robert Campbell built Fort Williams in 1834 to control the fur trade with the Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Sioux Indians. It was later renamed Fort Laramie. By this time the fur trade was already dwindling and the mountain men were giving way to missionaries, scientists, sportsmen, and finally immigrants.
Dale L. Morgan dates the era of immigration from the date the “first avowed homemaker,” Joel Walker, went west in 1840. Lawson gives a concise description of the major trails through Wyoming. The principle route was up the North Platte River to Fort Laramie, at the junction of the Laramie and North Platte Rivers. The route then followed the North Platte to present day Casper, then the Sweetwater River to the Continental Divide at South Pass. West of South Pass the trail split. Some travelers went southwest to Fort Bridger, which had been built on Black’s Fork of the Green River in 1843. Others used what became known as the Sublette Cutoff or several other variations once the gap in the mountains had been passed.
One of the largest groups to migrate through Wyoming, the Mormons, passed by in 1847. In 1855 a group of 55 settled at Jim Bridger’s Trading Post on the Green River. They bought the fort and renamed it Fort Supply. Many Mormons remained in the southwest corner of Wyoming while the rest pushed on to Utah. This part of Wyoming might have been a part of Utah had the government not learned that the Mormons had set up an independent state there. What has been called the Mormon War followed. Colonel Albert Sidney Johnson was dispatched with five regiments to subdue the Mormons. The war was really no more than the pressure of an advancing armed force, which caused the settlers to vacate their settlements without a fight and to retreat westward. The Mormons that had purchased Fort Supply were among those who retired in the face of Johnson’s troops to resettle in Salt Lake City. The Mormon Handcart Brigade left a colorful picture of people enduring great hardship to reach their promised land. But other than this the first Mormon attempt at settlement left little imprint on Wyoming.
The Oregon Trail was the most famous route through Wyoming. The Mormons were among the even greater numbers who traveled this path. The trail would have been more appropriately named the Oregon Utah California Trail as most of the travelers here actually headed for California or Utah. Several other trails became prominent as Wyoming entered the 1860s and communications expanded. One such trail is the famous Overland Trail, which saw many stagecoaches careen along its path.
A great deal has been written about the trails and the mountain men of Wyoming. Their impact is limited in the period prior to 1860. But the travelers spent only about 30 days in Wyoming leaving little besides ruts, names and dates on trailside cliffs, place names, and a few graves. The mountain men and travelers left no significant impact on modern Wyoming other than some colorful episodes in history. These people had helped make Wyoming known to many people, but as Larson points out, as yet very few except the Indians were interested in making Wyoming their home. However, the increasing numbers of people on the trail required the Army to protect immigrants from the Indians.
THE ARMY BEFORE 1860
As Americans moved west across America, they were protected by the US Army. Indian attacks necessitated the existence of the Army, which endured many hardships and dangers.
The Indian Wars during the year’s 1776 1865 have sometimes been given second billing, when compared with the wars immediately before and after these years. In reality, the wars provided the US Army with a second war zone, at a time when America was fighting Great Britain and Mexico, as well as during the Civil War. The Army did other things besides fight during these years; the Army was involved with the Lewis and Clark and the Pike Expeditions, and it also transplanted Indian tribes, which it had defeated.
As the frontier went west, so did the US Army. In between the Seminole Wars was the Black Hawk War in the middle west; this involved the Sauk and Fox tribes. This was in the early 1830s in Illinois and Wisconsin. Black Hawk, a great leader, could claim that he conducted good training schedules for American Army Commanders. Black Hawk and his band were forced across the Mississippi by the Army. Black Hawk was unable to get help from across the Canadian border. The Sauk and Fox tribes had nowhere to go; they were pushed against the Sioux, who would be the Army’s greatest enemy until the Indian Wars came to an end.
The frontier had now crossed the Mississippi and was going west. Fifty years of Indian Wars were still ahead. In the 1830s and 1840s, the Army had forts stretched across over 6,000 miles. It was impossible to keep the peace with settlers continually intruding onto Indian land, along with miners, trappers, and others.
The Army that guarded the frontier was made up of many kinds of men: the young, old, drunks, bums, and European immigrants Irishmen and Germans, and men who had been unable to make a living either in business or farming. Some of the soldiers could hardly speak English. Halfway decent health was about the only requirement for entrance.
The men’ s reasons for enlisting were as varied as the types of soldiers themselves; young boys joined up in the hopes of becoming literate; there were some regiments which did teach the men. Women drove some men to enlistment; some men wanted to get away from a woman. Some enlistees used false names in their attempt to avoid capture for some misdeed. A desire for adventure and a seemingly easy way to get away from the labor and drudgery of farm work were the lures for some.
The soldier’s life in the west has been idealized. Camraderie did exist between the men, and sometimes between the men and their mounts, but life on the post was far from ideal. Between campaigns, the soldiers on the outpost patrolled the area half hoping to see an Indian to get it over with.
The soldiers were just not fighters; they were farmers, construction workers, cattle herders, and drovers. A typical day, between campaigns, was as follows:
Inspection, policing of the area.
0730 Sick Call.
Equipment, arms cleaned.
0900 Dress Parade.
Hours of Drill.
2100 Roll Call.
2130 Lights Out.
As for being tedious, post life could be brutal as well. Drunkenness or stealing was swiftly punished. Walking a post all day for a week was one of the milder sentences. Floggings were not infrequent. One soldier who drank to excess was dunked into an icy river for 15 minutes every morning for 10 days. Three drunks were tied to the back of a wagon and put back on after they fell off and were dragged. A court of inquiry convened after the three died 12 hours later and determined that poison whiskey was their downfall. The severe discipline caused backlashes; sergeants were sometimes found murdered, probably by their own men.
The quality of the food the soldiers ate was very poor; ignorance of and a lack of proper storage resulted in the spoilage of much of the food. In addition to this, most of the men who cooked had little or no idea about preparing what little food they had to work with.
There were very few women out west; some of the soldiers would have affairs with the Indian women, which often caused trouble. Soapsuds Row was populated by laundresses who were sometimes the wives of noncommissioned officers. Occasionally, officers’ wives accompanied their husbands. The presence of women at the forts was upsetting to some men, who thought they were too much trouble.
Many of the soldiers received very little training for their jobs. They were unable to ride or shoot well, and these were skills of paramount importance considering their situation. Some of the horses were more experienced than their riders; they would keep drilling even after the rider had fallen off. The ability to live off the country was also sadly lacking in many of the men; they were not used to the guerilla tactics used by the Indians.
There was some basis to the camaraderie romanticized in novels and movies. In each company there were 40 50 enlisted and from 1 2 officers. The soldiers customarily spent their entire term in the same company, even if they enlisted more than once. Officers being moved was a rarity. The men in the company worked and played together; horse races and boxing matches enabled the companies to compete against each other. Out in the field, the officers and enlisted developed a rapport with each other. Despite the closeness which could develop between the men in a company, class distinction was very evident. An enlisted man had to have his First Sergeant’s permission to even talk to an officer.
The class distinction extended to post life as well. In posts big enough to have schools, there were two; one for the children of officers, another for the enlisted men’s children.
Desertion was costly to the government; bounty jumpers enlisted and then deserted, costing the government one half million dollars in eight years. By 1849 four fifths of the Army was stationed on the frontier.
The Army was divided into arms, such as the cavalry and the infantry. There was a rivalry between these groups and a class distinction much as there was between the officers and enlisted. The cavalry was the elite group; they thought of the infantry as being low because the latter walked. When there was a shortage of horses however, the dragoons had to walk and join the lowly ranks of the infantry. The Indians also looked down upon the infantry; men who walked were like squaws. In spite of their contempt for the infantry, the Indians feared the rounds of the infantry rifles and cannons more than the cavalry charges. The so called lowly infantry killed more Indians and won more battles than the elite cavalry.
The dragoons were allowed to wear a mustache, the only arm of the service which could do so for a while. Their uniform consisted of a blue jacket, light blue or white pants, and a cap with an orange band, which was later yellow. In full dress, the cap was replaced with a tall horsehair-plumed cap. Their mount’s color varied according to which company the rider belonged to. There were black, gray, chestnut, and roan companies. Partly from tradition, and also to make them more visible to the commander, the members of the band and the trumpeters rode gray or cream colored horses.
In the early to mid 1800’s, the Plains area was inhabited by many tribes of Indians: Cheyenne, Blackfeet, Sioux, Pawnee, Ute, Comanches, and Apaches. The Army’s job was to protect the people traveling across the plains. The Army watched over the wagon routes and investigated and surveyed new lands.
The soldiers were not used to the tactics used to fight the Plains Indians. Civil War fighting, which generally took place in wooded areas, was entirely different from Plains fighting. Harsh terrain, heat, and lack of water on the Plains worked against the soldiers. The Indians could spot them easily and attack.
The Indian Wars lasted from 1848 1860. In the 1850s there were 22 “wars”, from Florida to Arizona, and from the Missouri River to Oregon. Thirty seven of the expeditions the Army sent out in 1857 were involved with fighting.
Despite many battles, which pitted the inexperienced soldiers against the survival wise Indians, the Indians were unable to hold out in a prolonged fight. They had no industrial foundation. Many fights ended with the Indians in retreat with their supplies depleted. A clash between the whites and Indians was inevitable, considering the viewpoints of both sides. The Indians believed that they were superior to whites; each tribe thought itself superior to any other tribe. The white men saw the Indians as savages; this belief, coupled with the farmer’ s desire to cultivate the open land, led to clashes.
The enlisted troops thought that the move west was favored by God. The soldiers were there to protect the chosen from the subhumans. When either group was angered it retaliated by attacking the nearest “enemy.” Each side felt that its attacks were justified.
The government’s dealings with the Indians were looked upon with disfavor by the soldiers. In trades involving the exchange of rations for hunting grounds, the Indians were often cheated. The Indian Bureau, made up of civilians, provided nonhostile tribes with weapons so they could hunt and as compensation for the loss of hunting territory. Soldiers were shot at with these “hunting” rifles. There also were not enough soldiers to keep settlers off the reservation lands.
The Army’s work out West enabled many improvements and discoveries to be made. The military roads, which were built, were the base work for the highways to come. The Army had the first steamboat on western waters, and they brought cattle to the area. Because of the Army’s presence, it was possible for the West to be recorded, i.e., mapped.
The Army also made other improvements possible. It not only protected the immigrant trails and the few settlers, it also protected the thing that would truly open the west to settlement: the railroad.
THE FOUNDING OF CHEYENNE AND FORT RUSSELL
Expansionism and the railroad were the roots of Cheyenne and its adjacent military installation. In the 1850s and 1860 the railroad became an extremely important topic with the government. The concept of spanning the continent began with the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 and the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The Overland Astorians, seeking a practical commercial route to the Pacific Ocean, crossed Wyoming as early as 1811 1812. In 1832, an article in “The Immigrant” suggested that a transcontinental railroad be built. Asa Whitney, a Boston merchant, took this idea a little bit farther in 1845 when he presented a package to Congress explaining how a transcontinental railroad could be built and a means to finance the building through land grants. Congress, in 1853, passed a law providing for a ‘Survey for a Railroad Route from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean.” The survey was conducted by the War Department and several routes were considered. The next issue for Congress to decide on was where it should be built first, not whether it should be built. Sectionalism and local interests had great political impact on the location issue. This decision was somewhat simplified with the secession of the South. On 1 July 1866, President Lincoln signed the Railroad Act, which was the charter of the Union Pacific Railroad Company.
The Railroad Act provided a great deal to the Union Pacific and to the US Govern-ment. Large subsidies of land were provided for building the railroad on the central route that was scouted out earlier in the mid 1850s. One clause determined the location of Cheyenne and Fort David A. Russell. This clause specified that a location be selected as the “east base of the Rocky Mountains. This site was to be determined by a presidential representative. The construction allowance was to change from $16,000 per mile for the flat prairie lands to $48,000 from this site across the mountains. In return, the government was guaranteed the use of the railroad for mail service and military transport.
General Granville M. Dodge was the chief engineer of the Union Pacific in May 1866. He had resigned from the Army specifically to join the Union Pacific. General Dodge, Mr. Jacob Blinkensderfer, Jr., the presidential representative who was to establish the east base of the Rockies for the railroad, and their party, met General C. C. Augur, the Commander of the Department of the Platte, on Crow Creek in Wyoming. General Augur’s assignment was to establish a military installation near the point established as the east base as determined by General Dodge’s party.
General Dodge’s own account of his location of the route across the mountains west of present day Cheyenne is of interest.
“While returning from the Powder River campaign, I was in the habit of leaving my troops and trains with a few men examining all the approaches and passes from Fort Laramie south over the secondary range of mountains known as the Black Hills (Laramie Mtns.) the most difficult to overcome with proper grades of all the ranges, on account of its short slopes and great height. It was on one of these trips that I gave it the name of Sherman, in honor of my great chief. Its elevation is 8,236 feet, and for years it was the highest point reached by any railroad in the United States. The circumstances of this accidental discovery may not be uninteresting.
“When I reached the Lodge Pole Creek, up which went the Overland Trail, I took a few mounted men and with one of my scouts as guide, went up the creek to the summit of Cheyenne Pass, striking south along the crest of the mountains to obtain a good view of the country, the troops and the trains at the same time passing along the east base of the mountains on what was known as the St Vrain and Laramie Trail.
“About noon, in the valley of a tributary of Crow Creek, we discovered Indians, who, at the same time discovered us. They were between us and our trains. I saw our danger and immediately took means to reach the ridge and try to head them off, and follow it to where the cavalry could see our signals. We dismounted and started down the ridge, holding the Indians at bay with our Winchesters when they came too near. It was nearly night when the troops saw our smoke signals of danger and came to our relief. In going down to the train we followed this ridge until I discovered it led down to the plains without a break. I then said to my guide if we saved our scalps I believed we had found the crossing of the Black Hills. * * * I reported the result of my examination on November 15, 1866, to the company, and on November 23, 1866, the company adopted the lines which I had recommended.”
On 4 July 1867, General Dodge selected a site for a town and named it Cheyenne. The same day, General Augur selected a spot right outside of Cheyenne. This site was officially named Fort D. A. Russell after General David A. Russell, a Civil War hero who had died in battle at Chantilly, Virginia. General Augur directed General John D. Stevenson, 30th Infantry, to assume command of all of the military in the area, the detachments assigned to escort and protect the railroad workers, and to preserve the law and order in Cheyenne in the absence of civil authorities.
General Stevenson proceeded immediately to plan and build the Fort. Fort Russell was not built like the stereotypical frontier post because of the lack of stockade around the post. The primary reason for this was the lack of Indian hostilities in the area. Temporary log huts were initially built for enlisted men in September 1867. These were replaced by permanent company quarters in October and November. The Fort was constructed “at fabulous expense of the cheapest possible materials” with some of the buildings prefabricated in Chicago. The Army was extremely thrifty and utilized the troops for building and repairing the fort. The individuals involved in building would receive 35 cents a day for this additional duty. This fee was raised to 50 cents a day in July 1884.
Officers lived in tents until their quarters were completed in February 1868. The first houses were built of rough boards placed in the upright position with the cracks battened. On the inside, planed boards and battens (a mud mixture used to fill cracks) were used instead of plaster. As a result, houses were extremely drafty and cold in the fall and winter months. The officers’ houses had five rooms, were a story and one half and built double. There was a parlor, dining room, and kitchen on the first floor and two bed rooms on the second.
A major supply depot was founded a mile and one half east of Fort Russell by Colonel Elias B. Carling in August 1867. The official name was Cheyenne Depot, but it was better known as Camp Carlin, after its founder. The camp’s purpose was to serve as an outfitting post for the Indian campaigns. This depot became the second largest quartermaster depot in the United States. The camp supplied 12 Army forts (some up to 500 miles away). The camp itself had 16 large warehouses besides all of the shops needed to support the camp and the other posts that it served. At one time the camp had 100 wagons and five pack trains, which were operated by 1,200 men and 3,000 mules and horses.
FORT RUSSELL, 1867 1900
Fort Russell’s initial duty was to be at the beck and call of the Union Pacific. The troops accompanied every railroad surveying party and construction gang for the purpose of protecting them against the Indians. The Indian Treaty of 1865 obtained the title to the lands that the railroad crossed from the Cheyenne and Arapaho Indian Tribes. As a result, it removed the major threat of Indian hostilities in the Cheyenne area. An isolated incident occurred in 1867 just east of Cheyenne when a crew was killed by Indians. With the completion of the Union Pacific by the Gold Spike ceremony on 10 May 1869, Indian hostilities on the railroad halted completely. Squatters were also removed from railroad lots by the troops.
Fort Russell served as a stabilizing factor in the Wyoming area and in Cheyenne. As additional duties the Fort provided escort parties for travelers and immigrants, scouts after stolen livestock, and aid to the city of Cheyenne whenever they needed help. The first occasion that Cheyenne called for help occurred when General Dodge wanted to rid Cheyenne of the bad element of people that had followed the railroad workers. This group was comprised of gamblers, saloon girls, saloon keepers, and gunslingers who were dead set on taking advantage of the railroad workers. General Stevenson drove this group out of town, told them how he wanted to see Cheyenne run, and then he let them came back to town, if they wanted to. They took the hint and conducted themselves in a more civilized manner.
Once the Union Pacific tracks were safe from the Indian threat and Cheyenne had turned into a peaceable town, the role of Fort Russell changed to chat of a depot for the distribution of troops in this area. Fort Russell’s location adjacent to the railroad lines and telegraph communications made it ideal for this role.
The peace commissioners set up a treaty with the Indians at Fort Laramie in 1868 that gave the Sioux the lands north of the Platte River and east of the summit of the Big Horns. This area was joined with their permanent reservation in the Dakota Territory. The treaty also provided for the abandonment of three forts in that territory and that no white man could legally enter the area. In effect, the treaty set up the Sioux War of 1876.
The Sioux War began in February 1876 when Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse refused to go back to their reservation. The War Department immediately responded by placing General George Crook, the Commander of the Department of the Platte, in charge of the campaign. Fort Fetterman became the concentration point for the Big Horn Expedition. The best cavalry units were brought up from Fort Laramie and Fort Russell. The units from Fort Russell were Company E from the Second Cavalry, and Companies E, F, and M, from the Third Cavalry. General Crook gave command to Colonel J. J. Reynolds who attacked the Indians at Powder River on a bitterly cold day in March 1876. Colonel Reynolds’ troops were turned back and routed. The campaign was terminated on March 27 and by March 29, seven companies of cavalry left for Fort Russell. Colonel Reynolds’ Powder River campaign was labeled a failure in Army terms, and this caused an investigation and an ensuing report on the campaign. He was blamed on the grounds of poor leadership and cowardice. He did have a lapse in his decision-making ability; but credit should also be given to the ferocity of the Indians, perhaps the best light cavalry in the world at that time.
In late May 1876, troops from Fort Russell were called into action again and they joined General Crooks’ command at Fort Fetterman. This force moved northward into the Powder River country and engaged the Indians in battle at the Rosebud River on June 17. Camp was set up at Camp Cloud Peak in northern Wyoming. It was at this encampment they received word of Custer’s defeat at the Little Big Horn. General Crooks’ command pursued the Indians between the Big Horns and the Black Hills; but the Indians, after Custer’s defeat, did not mount much of a threat. After a treacherous journey chasing the Indians with General Crook, the troops returned to Fort Russell on 2 November 1876. The era of major Indian campaigns was over.
Colonel Reynolds and Captain Noyes, a.company commander, had charges filed against them by General Crook for the failure of the Powder River campaign. Colonel Reynolds was
found guilty by court martial in Cheyenne. President Grant pardoned him and he then retired. Captain Noyes was tried at Fort Russell from 24 April 1876 to 29 April 1876. The trial
was moved to Cheyenne when a suitable enlisted man could not be found to act as a clerk for the court martial. The regular clerk was an alcoholic and could not perform his duties.
Captain Noyes was found guilty of making an error in judgment, released, and then given command of a battalion of five companies in the Second Cavalry.
After the Sioux Campaign, Fort Russell settled back into routine duty. Discipline was a major concern among the commanding officers. The cavalry soldiers had lost proficiency in performing their everyday post duties; and their days were filled with drill and training. The only interruption in camp life came with Indian uprisings, civil disturbances; field maneuvers, scouting parties, and patrols in the summer.
Winter was the happiest time of the year for the troops. The Indians had gone back to their reservations and the troops were at home. Dancing, dramatic presentations, and social activities were the common recreational activities in town and on the post during the winter.
Housing on base was overcrowded for both the officers and the enlisted men. It was not uncommon to see two families living in the same quarters. Senior officers reporting to the post could turn out a junior officer and take his house. This was known as “falling bricks” because of the domino effect that it created. This could only be accomplished one time during a tour, and as a result whole officers rows would switch occupancy quickly.
Alcoholism was a major problem at Fort Russell, as it was at numerous other Army posts. The post chaplain was very much involved in the abstinence movement because of the amount of men that were in the guardhouse. At one time 41 troops had signed a total abstinence pledge; but these men eventually reverted to their old ways. Fines, disgrace through incarceration, and dishonorable discharges were the punishments levied on personnel because of drunkenness.
The Post Traders Bar was looked upon with contempt due to the concept that the sale of alcoholic beverages advocated drunkenness. A soldier was killed at the Traders Bar in a drunken brawl in 1877. A petition against liquor sale at the Post Traders was signed by over 200 enlisted men at Port Russell and forwarded to the President of the United States.
The Fort had a library from its very existence. The magazines and newspapers were donated by the Government and the commanding officers. The commanding officer had a great deal of influence on the types of magazines that the library could carry.
A schoolhouse was never built on Fort Russell even though the General Reorganiza-tion Law after the Civil War provided for schools for the post children and soldiers. School was held wherever the space could be provided. The teachers here enlisted men who taught the basics, and they received extra duty pay for their efforts. The books, supplies, and equipment were furnished by the Government.
The Utes of the White River Reservation revolted in 1879, killing an Indian agent and attacking a cavalry unit, inflicting very heavy damage. Word of this was tele-graphed to Fort Russell, where General Wesley Merritt and the troops of the Fifth Cavalry responded immediately. The force of 300 men and 600 horses reached Rawlins, Wyoming, by train and then covered 130 miles in 48 hours. General Merritt met the Utes in battle at Milk River and defeated them. Thirty seven Utes were killed in battle with General Merritt’s forces reporting no casualties. The victory ended the uprising and assured peace in the area.
Community relations between Fort Russell and Cheyenne were always good. The soldiers and the Fort stabilized the economy by purchasing many of their needs from the local merchants. The only strain came with the drunken sprees that paydays would bring; but this was more than compensated for by the support and participation the Fort gave to the town. The Fort had brought more than 1,000 soldiers into the Wyoming Territory from 1870 through 1880. This represented about 23 percent of the territory’s labor force.
Fort Russell became an infantry post in 1883. The last of the cavalry units were withdrawn in June of that year.
In 1885 the War Department made Fort Russell a permanent post due to its strategic location. The fort was rebuilt at the cost of $100,000 as an infantry post large enough for eight companies. Twenty seven buildings were constructed including new officers’ quarters, NCO quarters, and brick barracks. In order to make the base more presentable, the War Department $400 also spent for trees, cottonwoods and spruce, and purchased 50 bushels of grass seed. Cotton-woods from Camp Carlin were transplanted on Fort Russell when the camp was dissolved in 1890.
The Fort was moving into the modern world in the years around 1890. Sewage and water systems, a delicate topic prior to this, were installed. Modern appliances, such as the telephone and electrical lights, were now on the installation.
Wyoming became a state 10 July 1890. The fort provided a full dress military parade and a band for the festivities.
The last decade of the l9th century was a peaceful one for the United States. As a result, the Army reached very low ebb. The appropriations from Congress were small in amount and hard to obtain. Fort Russell, as with many military installations, fell into disrepair. Morale was at its lowest point and desertion was commonplace. The quality of recruits also fell drastically.
Fort Russell was called upon four times in the 1890s for false alarms and area disturbances. The false alarms dealt mainly with the Indians. They were called mainly because the press had blown something out of proportion. A threatened Indian uprising at the Pine Ridge Agency in Nebraska brought the troops, equipped for a full winter campaign, in 1891. The problem was that the Indian agent had been starving the Indians, causing a great deal of tension. Once the rations were issued, the threat of an uprising dissipated. The troops were also dispatched to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where it was rumored that the Bannock Indians of Idaho were going to raid the town. They were only passing through the town to visit the Shoshones at the reservations. This was the last of the threatened Indian uprisings in Wyoming. .
The Johnson County War and the escorting of 147 captured Commonwealer members of Coxey’s Army from Green River to Boise, Idaho, for trial were the area disturbances that called for military aid. Fort Russell’s duties were that of transport and protection of these prisoners from the civilian popula-tion.
The Spanish American War began with the torpedoing of the Maine on 15 February 1898. President McKinley immediately called for a volunteer army and a formal declaration of war from Congress. Fort Russell became a major mobilization for the war. The Eighth Infantry, stationed at the fort, departed Wyoming on 21 April 1898, two days prior to the formal declaration of war. In May, the Wyoming National Guard, under the command of Major Frank M. Foote, was mustered into service at Fort Russell as the First Wyoming Infantry. They transferred to a Camp in the Philippines on July 31. The First Wyoming Infantry performed meritoriously in the battle for Manila. It was the first battalion to reach the walls of Manila. Theirs was the first American flag raised after they had captured the Luenta Barracks. Prior to returning home, these troops also participated in quelling the Filipino Insurrection.
The Spanish American War was the last event of the l9th century that Fort D. A. Russell participated in. The Fort had contributed greatly to the establishment of the Union Pacific, Cheyenne, and Wyoming in its initial 43 years of existence.
The 20th century was to witness more role changes for Fort Russell. Changes that affected the United States and the entire world.
FORT RUSSELL FORT WARREN: 1900 1940
The latter years of the Nineteenth Century were relatively quiet ones. Just before the turn of the century Fort Russell and the United States had become involved in the Spanish American War. Looking into the new century the next 40 years would be a period of transition. There would be two world wars, a change in the name of the Fort, and significant changes in the assignments for the post ultimately leading to the birth of a new era.
Following the Spanish American War, Congress passed a military reorganization act, limiting the armed forces to 60,000 men. As a result of this measure, every military installation was studied as to location and facilities, and many faced the prospect of being vacated. In an effort to preclude this happening to Fort Russell, Wyoming Senator Francis E. Warren, who was a member of the Military Affairs Committee in Congress, used his influence to have the post declared a permanent installation. In a letter to the Secretary of War, Senator Warren defined the advantages of the post: “Fort Russell is a well built post, healthy, convenient, with good water supply, sewage, etc. It is three miles from the city of Cheyenne, but a railroad, the Cheyenne and Northern, passes directly through the post. There is a most excellent target range for artillery as well as infantry practice, and an immense sweep of advantageous ground for drill practice of any kind.”
But several years would pass before the decision would be made, years in which several changes would occur. Fort Russell needed a guaranteed water supply if it were to expand and this was accomplished by a contract with the city of Cheyenne in 1903.
In 1904 Crow Creek flooded and caused a change in the layout of the Fort. Later that year when two artillery barracks and two artillery stables were built the stables was the first to be built out of the creek bottoms. Although not necessitated by the creek, the two new barracks were the first two story buildings to be constructed.
By 1906, the studies on which posts to retain were completed, and Secretary of War, William H. Taft, made the following recommendation: “It seems to me the general policy should be to do away with the small posts as rapidly as possible and to concentrate the Army as far as practicable in regimental and brigade posts, care being taken to utilize in every possible way those posts of recent construction and especially those which by their location are capable of being expanded into regimental or brigade posts without too great cost.”
Fort Russell met Secretary Taft’s requirements and consequently he directed that it become a permanent installation and be expanded to a brigade post. At this time the post had barracks and quarters for a regiment of infantry, two batteries of field artillery, and four troops of cavalry. In addition there was a target and maneuver reserve of some 36,800 acres. .
In 1907 expansion of the post began with construction of cavalry barracks, additional artillery barracks, brick stables, and a Cavalry Drill Hall, as well as new officer and noncommissioned officer quarters. This new construction would take until 1910 to complete.
The first decade of the Twentieth Century brought other steps toward modernization and improvement of life for the poet. An electric generating plant for post lighting had been constructed in 1903, some 21 years after the first such plant went into operation in Cheyenne. The year 1909 saw the establishment of a sewer contract with the city of Cheyenne.
Trouble began along the border with Mexico in 1911. In March mobilization of troops and deployment of those troops on maneuvers began at San Antonio, Texas.
On 26 February 1913, the 11th Infantry and 4th Field Artillery left Fort Russell for the Mexican border. The troops were as busy keeping curious sightseers out of harm as they were in keeping the hostile Mexicans from crossing over and fighting on American soil. While it was not actual war, it was trying service for the troops and was so well accomplished with so little display that it was accepted simply as a part of the day’s work for the Army.
In 1914, conditions were still very bad. On 8 9 March 1916, Francisco Villa attacked Colombus, New Mexico, killing American soldiers and civilians. On 10 March, the following day, General John J. Pershing was put in command of the United States forces on the border. This command marched 400 miles into Mexico. All cavalry regiments of the Army except the Second were in the field at this time.
The Punitive Expedition withdrew from Mexico in February 1917, after a “practice war” in which several innovations had occurred and valuable lessons had been learned. Among these were the first use of trucks and aircraft on the battlefield. This was a precursor of changes to come in the impending World War.
When Austria declared war on Serbia on 28 July 1914, the Laramie Republican editor (W. E. Chaplin) observed that “if a general war is brought on in Europe the waste will be tremendous. It will take years of ‘trimming’ American tourists to get the money back.” Wyoming seemed a long way from the battlefront in the first months of the war. With Germany generally regarded as the aggressor and with only 2,500 German born in the state, the Allies received sympathy from the beginning.
No one in Wyoming in 1914, 1915, and 1916 appeared anxious to take an active part in the war, and the great majority supposed that the United States could remain aloof while enjoying rising prosperity. Aerial navigation had taken hold of the entire civilized world as no other subject in recent times and represented a movement that no forces could possibly check. “In its military aspects, it is a subject we must seriously consider whether we wish to or not, and the sooner this fact is acknowledged and measures taken to put us abreast with other nations, the better it will be for our national defense.”
When the United States declared war on Germany in April, 1917, the American Army was poorly prepared. Congress passed the first draft legislation in May of that year. National mobilization was swift and effective. Men were given a few months training then shipped overseas to fight the Kaiser’s troops. Fort D. A. Russell became a mobilization point and a training base for field artillery units.
The nation surprised the enemy with the dis-patch with which it supplied fighting men, food, raw materials, equipment, and munitions. Except for the last two categories, Wyoming contributed its share and more. Approximately 12,000 Wyoming men entered military service, about six percent of the population.
In these critical days, Wyoming was quite clearly less isolationist than the Middle West. Pacifists were scarce in Wyoming, apart from the 1,400 unobtrusive citizens who had voted Socialist in 1916. Some 2,000 German Americans were probably hoping for continued neutrality, yet they said little publicly. Actions of the legislature give us some idea of how most of the people felt. The legislature unanimously approved a resolution in favor of conscription before Congress acted on it, and also unanimously passed a resolution commending President Wilson for severing diplomatic relation with Germany.
Brigadier F.W. Wilson commanded the post during demobilization. Morning Reports of 31 March 1919, showed 385 casualties at the post; 22 June 1919, showed 1,377; and 30 September 1919, showed 37. The garrison strength 31 December 1919 was 592 officers and men. December 31, 1920, showed no change in organization and a garrison strength of 1,000.
On 11 November 1918, the Wyoming State Tribune cried: “This is the greatest day in the history of Christendom since that Easter morn on Calvary when Christ rose.”
Newspaper editors discussed Wilson’s proposed League of Nations, generally opposing United States membership in the League without substantial reservations. President Wilson “hurled defiance at League enemies” in an address at the Princess Theater in Cheyenne on 24 September 1919. Senator Kendrick usually supported Wilson’s efforts to put the United States into the League of Nations without Senator Lodge’s reservations. In March 1920, however, Kendrick broke with Wilson and voted with Warren on the majority for the League with reservations. The vote, 49 to 35, was short of the necessary two thirds required for treaty ratification.
The national demobilization plan for the per-sonnel and their units called for them to be processed out of the service at military units nearest to the home of the individuals. Fort Russell reported its first casualties in March, 1919.
Brigadier F.W. Wilson commanded the post during demobilization. Morning Reports of 31 March 1919, showed 385 casualties at the post; 22 June 1919, showed 1,377; and 30 September 1919, showed 37. The garrison strength 31 December 1919 was 592 officers and men. December 31, 1920 showed no change in organization and a garrison strength of 1,000.
Two regiments of cavalry were stationed at Fort D. A. Russell for a time during the war. In anticipation of the departure of the cavalry, the War Department in June 1918 proposed the establishment of home guard companies to handle any trouble, which might arise in the absence of troops. Under Major George M. Slinery of Thermopolis, seven home guard companies were organized at Basin, Casper, Laramie, Newcastle, Sheridan, Thermopolis, and Wheatland. The names of 468 Wyoming servicemen who died during the war appear on the bronze memorial table in the rotunda of the State Capitol. The home-service department of the Red Cross compiled a list of 881 other Wyoming men who were wounded. The total number of American lives lost in the war was 125,500 out of a total of 4,800,000 men in service.
The Reorganization Act of 4 June 1920, pro-vided for a maximum strength of the Army to be 280,000 enlisted men and 17,717 officers. The Reorganization Act of 4 June 1920 created new branches of Army service. The reorganization of the armed forces did not immediately affect Fort Russell, however the reservation was one time inspected as a possible air base.
The years between the two world wars hare pleasant ones at Fort Russell. Much of the time has spent in beautifying the post and improving living conditions there. Relations with the residents of Cheyenne were very cordial. Cavalry and artillery units were stationed there during most of the 1920s. The cavalrymen mounted their animals and added color to the Frontier Days parades and rodeos. A local historian described this participation by the troops: “The Frontier parades were the most picturesque ever staged in Cheyenne, or ever likely to be for the grim utility of modern war equipment cannot compare in glamour with the magnificent cavalry troops of that day. The horses were some of the finest the Army ever owned, for they were selected as nearest to standard from the thousands of World War purchases; and a G. I. truck can’t inspire the same romantic thrill as the old white covered supply wagons drawn by the Army mules.
An example of the post’s contribution to entertainment is the field meet program that follows:
“l3th Cavalry Post D. A. Russell, Wyoming”
Program of Field Meet
Complimentary to visiting Frontier Park
June 10, 1922Regimental Press l3th Cavalry
List of Entries
Event #1 Musical Drill
#2 Roman Race
#3 Polo Ball race
#4 Pony Express Race
#5 Cossack Race
#6 Slow Mule Race
#7 Officers Steeplechase
During the early 1920s, the l5th Cavalry was transferred to the l8th Cavalry and the 53rd Infantry was placed on the inactive list. For five years, 1922 1927, the post was garrisoned entirely by artillery and cavalry organizations. At this time it was not unusual for the animal strength to outnumber the garrison strength of the post.
Years of peace at Army posts are usually pleasant years, or so it seemed at Fort Russell. By 1925 the United States had lapsed again into a profound state of peace. The commissioned strength of the Army had been reduced to 12,000 officers, and the enlisted strength to 125,000 men. The garrison at Fort Russell was not affected by the reduction in any particular way, but followed the old tradition and turned its collective attention to improving living conditions, making roads, and beautifying the grounds.
Relations between the post and Cheyenne were cordial and cooperative. An athletic “bowl” was built and sports received considerable attention. While the “horse” organizations were here, polo was the great game. There were three polo fields on the reservation, two practice fields and one exhibition field.
During the late 1920s an extensive reforesta-tion program was under way. Western yellow pines were brought down from Pole Mountain and planted according to a definite landscape plan. A detachment of men has sent to the Pike National Forest in Colorado for evergreens. They returned with 2,000 trees and today there is ample proof of the success of their mission on the reservation. Major Orlando Ward, 76th Field Artillery, and Lieutenant Jean Edens were the officers supervising the reforestation program that resulted in the planting of yellow pines and evergreen trees throughout the post. These plants thrived, and today they highlight the landscape of the base.
In 1925 the Fort Russell Target and Maneuver Range was made a part of the Pole Mountain District of the Medicine Bow National Forest to be jointly administered by the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of War.
June 1927 saw the last cavalry units leave Fort Russell never to return. The 4th and l3th Cavalry departed and were replaced by the lst and 20th Infantry. The latter joined elements of the 76th Field Artillery, which had been on the post since 1922.
On 1 January 1930, a presidential decree changed the name of the post to Fort Francis E. Warren. Senator Warren, who had earned the Congressional Medal of Honor during the War Between the States, had come west to Wyoming and established himself as a capable public official. He served on the Cheyenne City Council as mayor of the city and as the first governor of the state of Wyoming before being selected to represent the state in the United States Senate. Warren was a respected member of that body for 37 years, until his death in 1929. In recognition of his services to the state and nation, the post with which he had so long been associated was named in his honor.
The early 1930s were generally uneventful for Fort Warren, aside from the depression years complicated by a rather extensive drought. In 1934 the War Department enlarged the rifle range by the purchase of about 1600 acres. In 1939 an exchange of a very small acreage was made, and to the present time the boundaries remain un-changed. The new post theater and the gymnasium were completed in 1939. And so ends the era of peace at Fort Warren.
FORT WARREN: 1940 1947
Until October 1940, Fort Francis E. Warren had seen little change except that which comes with slow, steady growth and improvement. Governor Nels H. Smith had made no plans for the purpose of protection of public utilities in the event of war, but stated that if he was advised what protective measure should be taken, and then Wyoming would be glad to act accordingly and would render full support. The era of peace ended with Hitler’s conquest of Europe. On 16 September 1940, a selective service and training act was passed by Congress, which was designed to provide a military force sufficient to defend the American nation and its territorial possessions. This would necessitate the expansion of the country’s current training facilities. The new draft was to affect Fort Francis E. Warren immediate-ly. The life of the Fort had been threatened occasionally. Senator Joseph C. O’Mahoney has been credited with saving the Fort just before World. War II. Not only did the Fort survive, but also it grew tremendously and did more than anything else to make Cheyenne wartime boomtown.
Chambers of Commerce, businessmen, the Commerce and Industry Department, City. Mayors, and the states political leaders sought to secure the establishment of military installations in the state in order to give work to building craftsmen. Expansion of Fort Francis E. Warren was the principal fruit of this quest. In October 1940, General George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff, announced plans for new construction at Fort Warren. This construction began in November 1940, and was completed by March of 1941 when the training program began.
Citizens of Cheyenne could see national de-fense preparations dramatically represented by the breakneck construction of the multimillion-dollar Quarter master Training Center at Fort Warren. In six month’s time, the Fort had doubled its size with up to 5,000 men engaged in construction. A military city consisting of 282 temporary type frame buildings complete with all utilities and streets was built on the south bank of Crow Creek. At the declaration of war some 387 buildings stood, a number sufficient to house a garrison of 20,000 soldiers. Wyoming Secretary of State Lester C. Hunt recalled, “I saw the second largest city in the State of Wyoming, the Fort Warren Quarter master Training Center, built from scratch within six months time, using primarily Wyoming labor.”
Thus, March 1941 brought the activation of the quartermaster Training Center at Fort Warren. Along with it came the “War on Crow Creek.” With the arrival of the Quartermaster Center there were two commands at Fort Warren, the Post Headquarters on one side of Crow Creek, and the Quartermaster Replacement Training Center on the other side, with considerable attendant duplication and confusion. The Center received housekeeping and other services from the old Post. The Center also overflowed into the old Post whenever space was available. Tensions grew between the two commands until consolidation under Brigadier General J. A. Warden on 28 October 1942. The Center split again in February 1943, then eventually consolidated in March 1945 under Brigadier General H. L. Whittaker.
Next to arrive at Fort Warren were motor operations and motor maintenance schools. The first officer candidate school for the Quartermaster Corps was added and graduated 3,800 before deactivation. There was also a school for those graduating from the Reserve Officer Training Corps. These along with the five regiments of quarter-master trainees, service command units, and members of the Second Army added to the population of Port Warren in 1942. March 1943 brought the first arrival of the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps. Railroad battalions of the Transportation Corps arrived and began using facilities of the Union Pacific Railroad for training purposes in 1944. A prisoner of war camp was activated at Fort Warren on 1 February 1945 although in November 1943 some 3560 German soldiers were observed working on housing facilities. Japanese inductees came for physical examination and were moved on to Heart Mountain Relocation Center. The POW camp was deactivated 27 April 1946, but left behind are lasting memories of confinement there. At the edge of the post cemetery, in a plot, which has been fenced off to separate it from the rest of the graves, lie remains of nine soldiers—eight Germans and one Italian who died in the camp. In June 1945 Fort Warren was made the Redeployment Center for both the Quartermaster Corps and the Transportation Corps.
The impact of Fort Warren on Cheyenne during the war years had many ramifications. The economic consequences were tremendous. The soldiers and their dependents that came to Cheyenne spent uncounted millions of dollars; booming Fort Warren spelled prosperity for Cheyenne and the state.
Socially, the men in uniform aided gayety to Cheyenne community life at all class levels. The single men provided dates for the young women in the city. An editorial in the Wyoming Eagle in April 1942 noted that one third of the people seen on the streets of Cheyenne on weekday evenings were in Army uniform, and on Saturday evenings the fraction increased to two thirds.
Although harmony was usually dominant in the relations of the Fort and the capital city, occasional discord was inevitable. A G.I. sometimes wore out his welcome when whiskey made him noisy and quarrelsome, or on those rare occasions when he engaged in criminal activity. Senator F. E. Warren, for whom the Fort is now named, once referred to a quotation, “Everybody loves the Army when in war, and everybody hates the Army when in peace.” The people of Cheyenne did not look upon men in uniform with unlimited affection in the 1930s—no people adjacent to a peacetime military establish-ment ever did. The misdeeds of a few soldiers left an indelible impression. So, when war came, the people of Cheyenne had a well developed set of attitudes, which were modified but never completely re-placed.
Soldiers at Fort Warren regularly supported the base, community, and war effort, some of the best athletic teams ever to play in the state performed at Fort Warren during the war years and offered entertainment for the troops and civilians. Noteworthy was the 1943 1944 basketball team, which reached the Semi-finals of the National AAU Tournament in Denver. Among its starters were Private Ken Jastro who later played with Denver University and Private Emer Robinson who starred with the Harlem Globetrotters. John Kosich, who first caught the eye of sports fans while playing football for the Fort Warren Broncs, later became a star for the University of Wyoming. During Frontier Days in the summer of 1943, Warren soldiers participated in daily ceremonial battalion parades, display of mobile field units, WAC drill, wall scaling, trick drill squads, motorcycle and jeep drill squads, and jeepsteer roping exhibition. Also, some 17 soldiers completed in the rodeo.
Throughout the war, soldiers and civilians alike contributed to the scrap metal fund. A Civil War cannon and two World War I Howitzers that were posted at the gates of Fort Warren were donated. During these years many gave blood through local Red Cross donor drives. War Bonds were sold to further support the cause. Here at Fort Warren enough War Bonds where sold by February 1944 that a B-29 Superfortress was purchased. It was named the “Buckin Bronc” after Fort Warren and sent to the battle of Japan. Some 200 Warren soldiers were sent to Hollywood throughout the war to make training films. Cadres from the Medical Corps, Quartermaster Corps, and Engineering Corps were went to Macon, Georgia; Camp Roberts, California; and Camp Walters, Texas. Engineers were sent to Alaska to work on the highway and to Turkey to set up a Turkish Engineering Base. Fort Warren soldiers also took part in numerous maneuvers at Fort Lewis, Washington; Camp Ripley, Minnesota; Fort Lee, Virginia; and Pole Mountain, Wyoming. The latter was about 20 miles west of the Fort and one of the most modern training operations of the day.
Soldiers from Fort Warren were also called upon to fight yet other battles. In August 1943 there were two fires that over 300 soldiers were recruited to fight. In March 1944, more were sent for relief efforts after a South Dakota blizzard.
Fort Warren opened its doors to many visitors during the course of the War. Tours were given to the Sioux Indians, University of Wyoming students and faculty, town tours during Army Day, and school tours for children of the installation. Fort Warren was also visited by popular celebrities such as Robert Young and Annie Rooney. Lt Commander Jack Dempsey, of the Coast Guard, former world champion fighter, was present at the War Bond Boxing Benefit as referee in Alliance, Nebraska.
Fort Francis E. Warren was the most complete and modern cantonment of the West. Its major wartime achievement was the training and graduating of over 122 ,000 specialists. Without these specialists, much of the complicated machinery and operations necessary in the support of the allied cause could not have occurred.
THE AIR FORCE YEARS
AIR TRAINING COMMAND
The Air Force became a separate service in 1947. Up to this point in time, the Army had controlled Fort Francis E. Warren. Following the advent of the Air Force, the Army relinquished jurisdiction of the Fort and it became an Air Force installation.
The first Air Force personnel to occupy the base were members of the 463rd Air Force Base Unit, the Aviation Engineer School, under the command of Colonel John C. B. Elliott. As part of the Army, this organization had been stationed at Geiger Field, Washington. The entire unit, including support personnel was transferred to Fort Francis E. Warren. The aviation Engineer School taught courses in engi-neering, construction utilities, and allied skills.
Being relatively new, the Air Force still showed signs of once being part of the Army. The base was still called “Fort” Francis E. Warren. Units assigned to the 463rd were still called battalions and companies. Even personnel recognition programs such as “Soldier of the Week” reflected Army influence. Of course, this phenomenon was evident Air Force wide as the newest service began to grow and to establish its separate identity.
One item of particular interest to the Fort and civilian community at this time was talk of closing the installation because of a high occurrence of rheumatic fever in the Rocky Mountain Region. Congressional and military leaders had discussed this issue at length. The closing of Fort Francis E. Warren would cripple the local economy, and Congressional and local leaders fought hard to keep it open.
The issue was finally resolved on 15 May 1948, by a general order. The Aviation Engineer School was redesignated the USAF Technical School under the auspices of the Air Training Command. By this official recognition of operation, the continuation of the base as an Air Force installation was assured. Also of great interest to the area was a visit by President Truman on 6 June 1948. He toured Cheyenne and base facilities. It was the first presidential visit since President Roosevelt had stopped over in 1936.
On 4 August 1948, the Department of Administration and Supply Training was transferred from Lowry Air Force Base, Colorado, to Fort Francis E. Warren. Following this acquisition, the 463rd Air Force Base Unit was reorganized into the 3450th Technical Training Wing on 28 August 1948. The reorganization of the school doubled personnel strength. Later, on 8 September 1948, the Department of Automotive Training was added to the Wing. It had also transferred from Lowry. Simultaneous to the increase in Wing strength and activity, the Government estab-lished a research laboratory at the Fort to study rheumatic fever and respiratory ailments common to the area. This laboratory was run by the Army.
The year 1949 kicked off with a bang, as a record breaking blizzard hit the base and region on 2 4 January. The storm hampered the school’s operations as it lost many man hours of instruction. The blizzard hit on a weekend and many students and base personnel were stranded in the surrounding region. The storm had been so crippling that President Truman declared a national emergency in Wyoming and surrounding state. Following the blizzard, Fort Francis E. Warren was tasked with assisting in Operation Snowbound, a disaster relief operation. The Wing provided bulldozers, trucks, personnel and supplies in helping “dig” the region out of the storm’s aftermath. Air Force personnel assisted many cities such as Laramie, Rawlins, and Casper in recovering from the disaster. The operation was a total success and eventually ceased in March 1949.
The Technical School continued to grow as the Department of Fixed Wire Communication Training was transferred from Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, in June 1949. With this acquisition, the school then had four major departments. The Departments of Administration and Supply Training, Automotive Training, Fixed Wire Communi-cation Training, and Utilities Training. The mission of the school was to provide individual technical training for airmen and officers of the USAF, Air Reserve, other departments of the National Defense Establishment, and Foreign Nationals, as directed by the Commanding general of the Air Training Command.
The school controlled a system of civilian contract technical training schools through-out the US. For example, Clerk and Typist Training was conducted by contract at Bowling Green University, Automotive Training at Vale Technical Institute and Basic Automotive Maintenance at Oklahoma A & M. These schools and courses taught varied through time as contracts expired and new ones started. The school also trained many foreign allied personnel from countries such as Turkey, Belgium, Canada, Greece, Egypt, Norway, and the Philippines.
On 7 July 1949, Colonel Elliott was sent to the National War College and was replaced as Base Commander by Colonel Charles Backes. Later, in November of that same year, Fort Francis E. Warren WAS redesignated Francis E. Warren Air Force Base. Although the main function of the base was that of a technical training school, tenant organizations performed various other missions. The 521st Air Force Band, stationed at the base, performed for many base and local community functions. For example, the band was a familiar sight at the Cheyenne Frontier Days celebrations and parades.
On 1 April 1951, the 187th Fighter Squadron of the Air National Guard, stationed at Cheyenne Airport, was activated to full military service because of the Korean Conflict. Francis E. Warren Air Force Base provided logistical support for the squadron until it was reassigned in December. On 8 May 1951, the base also assumed logistical support of the Filter Center activated in Casper, Wyoming. These are just two exam-ples of the base’s functions outside of normal technical training.
Base records from the period repeatedly list two problems faced by the Wing. The cause of the problems was the sheer number of students that were in resident training. Total base personnel sometimes exceeded 12,000. This created problems with housing and respiratory ailments. A limited amount of billeting created cramped living conditions for most students, which led to easily, contracted ailments. The base has constantly building and remodeling facilities to house and teach students. The number and types of training squadrons fluctuated; therefore, the Wing was in a constant state of adaptation to keep up with changing requirements.
On 11 June 1952, Francis E. Warren Air Force Base was called upon to provide logistical and manning support to the National Park Service in fighting a large fire in the Roosevelt National Forest, Colorado. The base responded quickly with both supplies and personnel. In all, 919 base personnel took part in fighting the fire. This was just one more example of the base’s responsiveness to the needs of the sur-rounding region.
Although the base did not have a runway, it did have aircraft assigned to the Wing. The numbers and types fluctuated as reassign-ments were numerous; but, a B 25, several C 47s, and T 6s were some of the aircraft stationed at Cheyenne’s Municipal Airport for the Wing.
On 1 August 1953, Colonel William A. R. Robertson became the new base commander. Under Robertson, business was as usual. The Wing’s mission remained the same but there were several changes in courses taught. Colonel Robertson was succeeded by Brigadier General Orrin L. Grover in the spring of 1955. During this period, the 521st Air Force Band became the 3450th Air Force Band, but its duties remained the same. It continued to perform for base personnel and the civilian community.
On 27 May 1956, Colonel Hilbert F. Muenter took over as base commander. He remained in that position for the remainder of the 3450th Technical Training Wing’s existence at Francis E. Warren Air Force Base. On 1 May 1959, the wing was officially deactivated. Its subunits were dispersed to other bases such as Chanute Air Force Base, Illinois, and Air Training Command relinquished control of the base to the Strategic Air Command.
THE ATLAS PERIOD
The mid 1950s brought a new life to the frontier post of Francis E. Warren Air Force Base. The Department of Defense decided in May 1957 to place the first operational ICBM base at Francis E. Warren Air Force Base. The next two years would be a transition period as the Air Training Command gave way to the Strategic Air Command.
The 4320th Strategic Missile Wing was acti-vated on 1 February 1958 to man the Wing, but was soon redesignated as the 706th Strategic Missile Wing. The 706th consisted of three squadrons, which were the 549th, 564th, and the 565th Strategic Missile Squadrons. The men of these squadrons would have the honor of posturing the first Atlas “D” missiles assigned to Francis E. Warren Air Force Base.
Construction started in April 1958 on the nation’s first operational ICBM complex. Initial configuration of the sites called for two launch control centers each having command of three missiles.
The Wing’s Atlas “D” missiles started arriving in November 1959. The first missile arrived by trailer convoy, while another arrived by a C 133 aircraft. The arrival by aircraft was the first time an Atlas missile was transported by air.
The fall of 1960 saw an increase of activity at Francis E. Warren Air Force Base. Construction of all launch sites was almost completed. Trained combat crews were arriving from Vandenberg AFB and the 564th Strategic Missile Squadron was certified as the first operational ICBM unit in the Strategic Air Command.
The 706th Strategic Missile Wing was again redesignated. The 706th Strategic Missile Wing now became the 389th Strategic Missile Wing on 1 July 1961.
The 389th Strategic Missile Wing was placed in an increased state of readiness due to the Cuban crisis on 21 November 1962. All missiles were placed in launch ready status. The Wing was to stay in this advanced readiness posture until 27 November 1962. The 389th Strategic Missile Wing received notification on 14 December 1963 that a tentative date for the deactivation of the Wing would be in January 1965. On 25 March 1965, the 389th Strategic Missile Wing was deactivated and replaced by the 90th Strategic Missile Wing.
Thus, came the end of the era in which the Atlas missile and 389th Strategic Missile Wing completed their tour of duty as guardians of the free world. As had happened often in the history of Fort D. A. Russell, Fort Francis E. Warren, and Francis E. Warren Air Force Base modernization actions were occurring: The Atlas was being replaced by a new ICBM.
MINUTEMAN REPLACES TITAN
The date, 27 May 1958, although not readily apparent, would become an important turning point in the future of Francis E. Warren AFB. On that day, Headquarters USAF secured the approval of the Department of Defense for the development of the Minuteman Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. The missile was to be the second-generation answer to the rapidly proliferat-ing ICBM race between the USSR and the United States.
The Minuteman program was oriented toward the mass production of a simple, relatively inexpensive, efficient, and highly survivable weapon system capable of destroying all target types with consistent reliability. Unlike previous weapons it possessed an all inertial guidance system and the capability of being fired from hardened and widely dispersed underground silo launchers. By design as well as policy, it was expected to, “ride out” an enemy first strike before responding. Survivability was ensured by the relative inaccuracy of warheads at the time. The Minuteman missiles destined for installation at Francis E. Warren AFB were the B” model, a three stage, solid propellant rocket with a range of 5,500 nautical miles and improved accuracy over its predecessor.
Feasibility studies were initiated in 1961 to determine the compatibility of the plains sur-rounding the base. The base offered a natural location for the requirements of a solid fueled missile: It was far enough inland to preclude a surprise attack from sea launched ballistic missiles, sparsely populated, and located in a northern latitude. Francis E. Warren AFB had already supported the ongoing Atlas program and therefore selection in March 1963 was appropriate.
Opening bids were made on the $150 million Minuteman missile project on 11 October 1962. Cheyenne and the base had swelled with anticipation and contractors as 2,000 company representatives arrived to win the contract for 200 missile silos and 20 launch control centers. Designated Wing V, Francis E. Warren AFB’s missile complex would be the largest in the World upon completion.
The impact on the surrounding area was immense. An immediate influx of skilled and unskilled labor inundated the area in anticipation of construction. Boeing and Morrison Knudsen, the major contractors, provided transient quarters consisting of trailers and mobile homes. Very little land had to be used; slightly less than two acres per launch site and four and a half acres for the launch control facility. The entire complex, however, would encompass 8,300 square miles covering portions of Wyoming, Nebraska, and Colorado as far away as 130 miles east and 110 miles north and south. Approximately 2,300 miles of hardened, pressurized underground cables were to be used to interconnect the launch control facilities with the missile launchers. The launch facilities were dispensed at three to seven mile intervals. Every flight of 10 missiles was monitored by one launch control facility. Fifty launch facilities and five launch control facilities constituted a squadron.
On 25 October 1962, ground was broken for construction in Flight A of Squadron 1. Observation of the subterranean work prompted one reporter from the Wyoming Eagle to quip, “This Minuteman missile business is like fighting a war caveman style.” It certainly was a sophisticated operation. Before completion, “enough concrete to build a one lane highway from Cheyenne to Salt Lake City, enough steel to build 60,000 automobiles, and enough excavation to dig a three feet wide by six feet deep ditch from Cheyenne to Omaha”, had been used or dug up.
An interesting aspect of the construction was the digging of the silo shafts. Excavation crews updated old well drilling techniques to missile age status. Using giant rotary augurs mounted on 90 ton cranes with bits as wide as 15 feet, they bored through the ideal soil conditions to depths of 94 feet. Good weather and a wealth of experience gained in previous missile site construction programs resulted in rapid progress in digging the shafts and fitting them with steel liners. The structures, designed to last indefinitely, were a strange site for the typical farmer on whose land the construction took place. “One Corps of Engineers officer commented that some future archeologist might dig up these structures with untold thousands of years hence and say, ‘What strange houses these people lived in.’”
The 200th and final hole was excavated out of a wheat field 10 miles south east of Wheatland, Wyoming, on 10 June 1963. Site A 6, located a few miles north of Egbert, Wyoming was officially turned over to the US Army Corps of Engineers and Boeing Company on 2 October 1963 for installation of electronic equipment, missile checkout and assembly. It was not until 9 June 1964 when the first of 200 Minuteman missiles were shunted into Francis E. Warren AFB by a switch engine pulled railroad flatcar. The arrival, “symbolized possibly more than anything ever has done, the definite, long range embarkation of Francis E. Warren AFB upon the missile age wholly committed now to this form of defense weaponry a transition that has taken it from the blue coat horse cavalry of General J. J. Reynolds to the space age blue suit technicians of General William S. Raeder.” The arrival also signaled the future of Francis E. Warren AFB as one of the major centers of this nation’s defense efforts. It also ensured that Cheyenne and Francis E. Warren APB would continue in its expand-ing role as a historic military establishment.
That first Minuteman missile of the nation’s largest wing was emplaced three days after its arrival at Francis E. Warren AFB. Four hours later at a remote site near Chugwater, Wyoming, the 200th and final silo was turned over to the Air Force Site Activation Task Force. On 1 July 1965, 200 special dignitaries gathered at Francis E. Warren AFB’s front gate to signify turnover of the wing from the Air Force Systems Command, responsible for construction, assembly and checkout, to the Strategic Air Command, responsible, for maintaining then on operational alert. The turnover bolstered the United States defense, system significantly as 200 Minuteman missiles were declared operational, the culmination of 33 months of intensive labor.
The latter half of the 1950s and the first half of the 1960s was a time of frantic activity at Francis E. Warren AFB as the United States initiated and refined its ICBM force. With the completion of the transition from the Atlas to the Minuteman weapon system, Francis E. Warren AFB would find the latter half of the 1960s to be a period of calm.
The 1970s got off to a good start at Francis E. Warren Air Force Base, when on 1 January 1971, Harold A. Strack, Wing Commander, was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General. This made him the 9Oth Strategic Missile Wing’s first general officer commander. The only other senior personnel change that year occurred on 17 April as Colonel Harold L. Swanagon became the 9Oth Combat Support Group Commander when Colonel Ross L. Clements retired.
On 3 March 1971, the 9Oth Services Squad-ron passed an interesting milestone. On that date its Foil Pack division prepared its one millionth frozen meal. The division prepares frozen meals for all Minuteman wings.
All was not pleasant in 1971. In April five base personnel were killed when their C 47 aircraft crashed short of the runway at Cheyenne Municipal Airport.
Francis E. Warren Air Force Base has always hosted dignitaries and on 21 May 1971 it was host to Nohuhiko Ushika, Japanese Ambassador to the United States.
On 1 July 1971 the 4th Strategic Missile Division was assigned to Francis E. Warren Air Force Base. The 4th had been a World War II bomb wing, which was deactivated in 1949. It was reactivated in 1951 as the 4th Air Division, later to be the 4th Strategic Aerospace Division. Coincident with its assignment to Francis E. Warren Air Force Base, the 4th was to command all Minuteman missile wings.
The final item of interest in 1971 was the announcement that Francis E. Warren Air Force Base’s AlC Kathleen Enderson would be SAC’s first “WAF, Security Policeman.
On 3 January 1972, Brigadier General Strack left for a Pentagon assignment and relinquished command of the 9Oth Strategic Missile Wing to Colonel Paul E. Bell, former Deputy Commander for Operations at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota.
On 1 February 1972, the missile combat crews were assured of earlier return from alert. The price, however, was earlier departure as pre-departure briefing time was moved from 0930 to 0730.
Also on 1 February Colonel George F. Bennett succeeded Colonel Milburn Jackson, as Vice Commander of the 9Oth Strategic Missile Wing. Colonel Bennett’s tenure was short though as Colonel William H. Bush replaced him on 29 April 1972.
Brigadier General Gerald G. Fall, Jr., became Commander of the 4th Strategic Missile Division on 9 June 1972. General Fall had formerly been Wing Commander at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana.
September and November brought two more dignitaries to Francis E. Warren Air Force Base. The first was Princess Margriet of the Netherlands. The latter was General John C. Meyer, Commander in Chief of the Strategic Air Command.
Colonel Francis Fitzgerald assumed command of the 9Oth Combat Support Group on 3 November 1972 relieving Colonel Swanagon.
Francis E. Warren Air Force Base’s units were to achieve a number of firsts in 1973. Early in the year the 9Oth Security Police Squadron was named “Best Security Police Squadron in SAC.” In May the first female targeting officer was assigned to the Wing. Also in May, the Wing won the Blanchard Trophy signifying the best Missile wing in SAC. The Wing’s competitors finished strong as they moved from third place to first on the last day.
During 1973 the “Modification and Force Improvement Program” began which was designed to phase out the Minuteman I missile and replace it with the improved Minuteman III. It would also convert the weapon system to Command Data Buffer capability offering the flexibility to remotely retarget the missiles.
Organizational changes in 1973 saw the 9Oth Security Police Squadron reorganized as the 9Oth Security Police Group. In addition, in December the Military Airlift Command assumed control of the helicopters assigned to the base.
Three major personnel changes occurred in 1973. The first was on 28 June as Colonel Bobbie G. Guthrie became the Wing Commander. On 22 October 1973, Colonel Daniel W. Huff moved from being the Deputy Commander for Maintenance to the Vice Wing Commander. The Vice Commander position saw another new face in December when Colonel Christopher S. Adams, Jr., took over the job.
The year 1974 saw a first and a last at Fran-cis E. Warren Air Force Base. In February the 9Oth Services Squadron won the “Best in SAC” award. In September the last Minuteman I missile was removed from active service in the Air Force.
Personnel changes continued to occur in 1974. On 13 June, Colonel Adams moved up from Vice Commander to be Wing Commander. On 1 August Colonel (Brigadier General selectee) Melvin G. Bowling assumed command of the recently reorganized 4th Air Division, formerly Strategic Missile Division. And on 30 August Colonel John A. Brashear took command of the 9Oth Combat Support Group when Colonel Fitzgerald retired.
The other significant event of 1974 was the recognition of the historical significance of Francis E. Warren Air Force Base. On 21 June the base was designated a National Historical Site.
January 1975 was a month of endings for Francis E. Warren Air Force Base. The two year Force Modernization Program was completed giving the wing 200 Minuteman III missiles with remote targeting capability. On 22 January, the Wings last T 29 left and fixed wing aircraft operations were terminated.
Later in the year there would also be a first. On 31 October, AlC Barbara Johnson was the first female Launch Control Facility Cook to be assigned to the wing.
There were several awards presented to indi-viduals and units in the Wing. On 23 May, Captain Harold Snedker and lst Lt Robert Hilley received the Major General Charles N. Eisenhardt Minuteman Crew of the Year Award. The award was presented by the l5th Air Force Commander N. G. Harris. Also in May the Wing Codes Division received the l5th Air Force Excellence Award in Minuteman Coding Operations. In June, the maintenance complex was rated “Best In SAC” and the Wing was presented the Chadwell Trophy. One of the top honors in the Air Force was bestowed upon a Francis E. Warren Air Force Base airman in September. AlC Algene Baily, Jr., was named the Air Force Outstanding Airman of the Year.
The year 1975 also saw its share of personnel changes. In April, Colonel McIlmoyle assumed command of the 9Oth Combat Support Group. On 8 August, Brigadier General Harold E. Gross became 4th Air Division Commander. In December the Wing Commander, Colonel Adams, was promoted to Brigadier General. He was reassigned shortly thereafter and was succeeded by Colonel Ray E. Miller.
An interesting group was formed at Francis E. Warren Air Force in January 1976. The Fifth Cavalry (Reorganized) was to be a horse unit which would wear authentic cavalry uniforms of the latter l9th Century. The group was to be a fixture of the Cheyenne Frontier Days parades.
Three rounds of major personnel changes occurred in 1976. On 7 May 1976 Colonel Charles L. Lipscomb became 9Oth Combat Support Group Commander and Colonel Gerald L. McIlmoyle became the Wing’s Vice Commander. On 16 July Colonel Lipscomb moved to the Vice Commander position and Colonel Howard R. Tarleton replaced him as Combat Support Group Commander. On 29 September, Colonel James E. Cowan assumed command of the Wing during a change of command parade reviewed by Lieutenant General Bryan M. Shotts, l5th Air Force.
Several distinguished visitors came to Francis E. Warren Air Force Base in 1977. The first, in April, has Major General Thomas M. Sadler, Air Force Chief of Security Police. The second, on 20 May, was Major General Richard Bodycombe, Air Force Reserve. Later, in July, Lieutenant General William G. Moore, Commander in Chief, Military Airlift Command, visited the base. Then, in November, Lieutenant General Abner B. Martin, Director, Defense Mapping Agency, came to Francis E. Warren Air Force Base to inspect the Geodetic Survey Squadron, one of the base’s tenant units.
On 10 July the only major personnel change of 1977 occurred. On that date Colonel Nenneth D. Bodenhammer assumed command of the 9Oth Combat Support Group.
During 1977 the Wing went through two inspections with exemplary results. On 14 June the 3901st Strategic Missile Evaluation Squadron completed its inspection. It rated the Wing “outstanding” in two areas and “excellent” in four others. Then on 23 November the SAC Inspector General completed an ORI. The results were the best ever achieved by the Wing: 19 “outstanding” and 52 “excellent” ratings.
On 21 September 1977 the new Composite Medical Facility opened its doors. This fourth hospital in the history of the installation housed all health care in one building with modern medical equipment.
The 9Oth Communications Squadron became the 2149th Communications Squadron on 1 October 1977. This re-designation was the result of a re-organization in the Air Force Communica-tions Service.
The Wing continued the winning streak started in 1977. When it completed a 3901st SMES inspection in January 1978, Major General James S. Murphy, l5th Air Force Vice Commander, called it the best he had ever seen in SAC. On 2 March the Wing received the John R. McNeil Memorial Trophy for the best Minuteman Maintenance in l5th Air Force and the Duane W. Hollis Memorial Award for the best Codes Divi-sion in l5th Air Force. Then in May the Wing’s team completed a successful run in the Olympic Arena competition. Although it finished second, the team brought home four individual trophies. Finally, on 21 July the Wing received an overall “excellent” rating following a SAC IG ORI.
Distinguished visitors to Francis E. Warren Air Force Base during 1978 included General Richard H. Ellis, Commander in Chief of SAC and his wife. There was also Major General Henry J. Mead, Air Force Chief of Chaplains, and Brigadier General William R. Brooksher, SAC Chief of Security Police.
During February 1978 Colonel Bodenhammer moved to the Wing Vice Commander position. He was succeeded as 9Oth Combat Support Group Commander by Colonel Thomas E. Morris. On 23 May Colonel John R. Lasater assumed command of the 4th Air Division.
The year 1979 was another of firsts and awards. During February the Wing received the McNeil Trophy for the second consecutive year for best missile mainte-nance in l5th Air Force. Later in the year Colonel Cowan, Wing Commander, selected the first all second lieutenant missile combat crew. The crew was composed of 2nd Lt John M. Betts and 2nd Lt John M. Makuta, III, In June the Wing” s logistics area won the Charles D. Trail Award for outstanding logistics support. Then on 10 July the Wing participated in the only simultaneous launch of two ICBMs from Vandenberg Air Force Base.
The last year of the 1970s saw more visitors to Francis E. Warren Air Force Base. There were Lieutenant General James P. Mullins, l5th Air Force Commander; Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Robert D. Gayler; General Ellis; Lt General Mullins, l5th Air Force; and a British contingent which included Winston Churchill, II. The other “visitor” was the SAC Airborne Command Post. The “Looking Glass” aircraft was on display at the Cheyenne airport.
July 1979 saw both tragedy and triumph. A devastating tornado brought tragedy to the city of Cheyenne, but the work of many persons from Francis E. Warren Air Force Base who helped with rescue and clean up was a triumph of selflessness.
Personnel changes of 1979 saw the retirement of Colonel Cowan who had completed the longest tenure as Wing Commander. He was succeeded by Colonel Charles H. Greenley. On 1 July Colonel Walter Casey was named Wing Vice Commander, and on 16 July Brigadier General Daniel L. Patton assumed command of the 4th Air Division.
In early 1980, two Francis E. Warren Air Force Base officers attained personal achievements of note. In January lst Lt Steven A. Simon was picked to represent Wyoming as a torchbearer carrying the Olympic Flame to the Winter Games in New York. A month later Major Terry Adkins participated in the 1,000 mile dogsled race from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska.
Only two major personnel changes occurred in 1980. On 15 February 1980, Colonel Howard J. Brubaker assumed command of the 9Oth Combat Support Group. Later in the year, on 11 August, he moved to the Wing Vice Commander’s position and was succeeded by Colonel Bruce B. Wetmore. Visitors continued to come to Francis E. Warren Air Force Base in 1980. Secretary of the Air Force Doctor Hans Mark was on base 16 May. Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James W. McCoy had spoken at a tri service dining out a month earlier. In October students from the NATO Defense College came to Francis E. Warren Air Force Base as part of their tour of US military installations. Finally, in November Colonel Edsel Field, Commander, 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Wing, came to dedicate an UH lF helicopter display.
Francis E. Warren Air Force Base competi-tors continued to win. In April the Wing’s team scored the highest of any Minuteman Wing at the Olympic Arena. Later in October a team of Wing Security Policemen won the SAC marksmanship competition.
In June 1980, 13 Francis E. Warren Air Force Base personnel volunteered for and went on a 60 day TDY assignment to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida to assist in processing Cuban immigrants.
In late July, 9Oth Strategic Missile Wing crews participated in an electronically simulated launch of 11 missiles in the tri state area. One of these included actually explosively opening a launcher closure door.
Francis E. Warren Air Force Base chose to honor its predecessor unit in the summer of 1980. On 9 August Colonel Arthur H. Rogers, Jr., original commander of the 9Oth Bombardment Group was on hand for the ceremony to rename 5th Street, Rogers Street.
THE 80s AND PEACEKEEPER
In the 1980s, the units assigned to F. E. Warren Air Force Base continued the traditions of outstanding service to the country. In 1981, the 9Oth Security Police Group earned the Air Force and Strategic Air Command awards for the “Best Large Security Police Unit.” This achievement also earned them the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award.
On 11 June 1981, a new commander took charge of the 90 SMW, as Colonel Charles H. Greenly gave command of the wing to Colonel Martin M. Burdick. Colonel Burdick remained the wing commander until December 1982, when Colonel James P. Henry became the new wing commander.
Colonel Henry has the wing commander who received the news on 19 April 1983 that President Ronald Reagan announced a plan to deploy 100 Peacekeeper missiles at Francis E. Warren AFB. The plan developed under the Scowcroft commission called for the 100 missiles to be placed in the existing Minuteman III silos at Warren AFB.
In 1984, the 90 SMW started the year with a change in the wing commander’s office, as Colonel Arlen D. Jameson became the commander of the 90 SMW, replacing Colonel Henry.
The year 1984 stood as the most outstanding in the wing history at F. E. Warren AFB as the 90 SMW won more honors during this year than any other. In February, the wing won the “Riverside”, Trophy for the “Best Wing in l5th Air Force. In May, the wing’s missile competition team won the SAC Missile Competition at Vandenberg AFB, and brought back the “Blanchard” Trophy as the overall winner of the one-week competition. In June, the 90 SMW received the “Omaha”, Trophy as the “Best Wing in SAC.” This final trophy marked the only time in SAC History where one unit won the “Triple Crown” of the command (in which one unit won the SAC, numbered air force, and combat readiness competition in the same year).
The year 1984 also saw the start of construc-tion of the Peacekeeper support facilities at F. E. Warren AFB. In June, the contractors began work on the Reentry System Assembly, Surveillance, and Inspection building, the first of many to be built in support of Peacekeeper.
In 1985, the base saw some more triumphs, but also tragedy. In February, the 90 SMW won the “Riverside,” Trophy for the second year in a row. In August, tragedy struck the Cheyenne area, as the worst flood in the city’s history hit the community. Over six inches of rain fell in less than three hours. The base quickly brought personnel, equipment, food, and supplies into the community to aid in disaster relief. In September, even with the severe flooding one-month earlier, the base received the first Peacekeeper support facility, as on 6 September contractors turned over the Reentry System Assembly, Surveillance, and Inspection building to the Air Force. In December, the 90 SMW began the task of deposturing the first Minuteman sites for conversion into Peacekeeper.
Throughout 1986, the contractors from Boeing Aerospace worked many hours to complete modifications on the first Peacekeeper missile sites. The 90 SMW spent the year preparing personnel, equip-ment, and facilities for support of the new weapon system.
While accomplishing many of the prepa-rations, the 90 SMW came under the scrutiny of many Air Force organizations whose job it was to ensure the base’s readiness for the Peacekeeper missiles. In all, six inspections took place and were successfully passed by the wing and other units tasked in support of Peacekeeper.
In June 1986, the wing gained a new wing commander, as Colonel Gary L. Curtin assumed command of the wing from Colonel Jameson (on the same date Jameson was promoted to brigadier general).
In September 1986, the 90 SMW received the first Peacekeeper sites from Boeing, and one month later those sites became part of the US Strategic Triad. By December, the 90 SMW declared the wing met the Initial Operating Capability of the new weapon system with ten missiles on alert.
On 2 January 1987, as the base entered its l20th year of operation in Wyoming, the Air Force held an official ceremony to honor the 90 SMW, and the other units at F. E. Warren AFB for the Work done to achieve Peacekeeper operational readiness.