Camp Hale, Colorado
Camp Hale is a former military training facility located to the north of Leadville, Colorado. The camp was constructed during the summer of 1942 over a 7 month period, and it is best known for acting as the training grounds for the Tenth Mountain Division.
This site was chosen for the camp because of its railroad accessibility, plentiful snowfall, and surrounding mountain terrain. Camp Hale was named for Brigadier General Irving Hale. Approximately 14,000 out of the 16,000 soldiers that were stationed here were belonged to the Tenth Mountain Division.
The camp site is located at an altitude of approximately 9,300 feet. Camp Hale was as large as 247,243 acres at its peak. Approximately 70 ski instructors were recruited to teach ski techniques to the troops on Cooper Hill.
Prior to being named Camp Hale, this area was referred to as Pando, Colorado. Planning for the construction of the camp was initiated on April 3rd, 1941. By April 7th a group of contractors had been selected for the job. A report filed by the Eighth Corps Board of Officers on June 23rd, 1941 gives an assessment of the Pando site. This report suggests that the army had not yet decided on a final camp site at this point.
The original plans for the army post called for enough housing to accommodate 20,353 officers and troops. This number was soon adjusted to 16,392 officers and troops (Anticipated).
87 temporary baracks and 12 mess halls were built to facilitate the construction workers. As the project neared completion, some of the facilities that were designed to be used by troops were utilized by the construction workers as needed. Some workers lived in the nearby town of Leadville, while others lived in off-site camps and trailers. In total; approximately 11,425 workers were on-site at the peak of construction.
State Highway 24 ran directly through the intended camp grounds. This highway was relocated to a new route that traveled around the camp.
Military units that used Camp Hale for training included;
CIA Training of Tibetan Troops
The Central Intelligence Agency used Camp Hale to train Tibetan freedom fighters from 1958 to 1964. A plaque commemorating these CIA agents and Tibetan fighters can be found on the site of the former Camp Hale. The government has never officially acknowledged that this training took place. The historical record has been established by the accounts of the Tibetan nationals that trained here, and the CIA officers who trained them.
This camp played a role as a prisoner of war camp during World War 2.
The most notorious incident at Camp Hale occurred in Feb. of 1944 when Private Dale Maple helped 2 Nazi war prisoners escape to Mexico from the camp. Maple was caught and eventually sentenced to life in prison for his crimes.
Weather and Winterization
The Weather Bureau estimated that the local annual snowfall average at the time of construction was 163.5 inches. Minimum winter temperatures at construction had been calculated to be as low as approx. 40 degrees fahrenheit. Summer temperatures were predicted reach their max. at approx. 90 degrees.
Approximately 425 camp vehicles had kits installed that would heat the battery and keep the motor warm while the vehicle is turned off overnight.
The following facilities could all be found at Camp Hale after construction was completed. Much of the information below is taken from the 1942 job completion report which can be found here Camp Hale Report.
Due to the isolation of this camp, some facilities operated in a capacity that was greater than what would be expected at a different army post. The motor vehicle repair facility was responsible for maintaining all vehicles at the camp, rather than specializing in a mechanical niche.
Camp Hale Newspaper
The first edition of the Camp Hale newspaper was published on Dec. 18th, 1942. The newspaper was published without a title. A contest was created with a $5 prize being offered to the serviceman who submitted the best title.
The camp newspaper was named the Camp Hale Ski-Zette for its second issue. This publication was not much different than any regular newspaper that would have been published at the time. You would find information about upcoming events, religious services, and changes around the military camp. As the war effort moved forward, soldiers could read about allied force victories on the front-line.
The Camp Hale Ski-Zette was published once per week on every Friday. It is unclear exactly when the newspaper stopped publishing new volumes. The last volume that the Colorado Ski Authority has been able to locate in the historic archives was published on June 3rd, 1944.
You can see a screen shot of the front page of the Ski-Zette below. A link to full versions of this newspaper and other historic Colorado newspapers can be found on this page: Colorado History Resources.
Camp Hale Today
Visitors to the area can still see the concrete remnants of the old military structures that were in place here. There are several dirt roads that allow visitors to explore the former Camp Hale area. Movement is restricted here due to the presence of old military ordinances that can still be found in certain areas. Camp Hale is the site of an ongoing effort to remove contamination and munitions that remain from this army post.
Camp Hale is located in the White River National Forest. There are several campgrounds near the main Camp Hale area where camping is permitted.