by Rob L. Bussard
21st Space Wing Public Affairs
1/20/2016 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Located
within buildings that were constructed from 1928 through 1941, the
Edward J. Peterson Air and Space Museum here is a free unique asset
dedicated to telling the story of Peterson AFB, Cheyenne Mountain Air
Force Station and the North American Aerospace Defense Command.
"With only 11 field museums in the Air Force, Peterson is very lucky to
have one" said Gail Whalen, the museum director. "It is here that the
history of the base is told to visitors by our displays and our
complement of over 50 volunteers, called docents."
The docents provide a warm welcome and appear eager to explain
Peterson's history. It began life as the first Colorado Springs
Municipal Airport, then in 1942 the area was leased by the city to the
Army Air Forces and renamed Colorado Springs Army Air Base. Later its
name changed again to Peterson Army Air Base in honor of 1st Lt. Edward
J. Peterson, a World War II Army Air Corps pilot and Colorado native who
was killed in a crash here on Aug. 8, 1942.
Docents will tell visitors that as a B-24 bomber training and aerial
photo reconnaissance training base, Peterson prepared Soldiers for WWII
action. Once WWII ended, the base returned to its origins as the
municipal airport. Then in 1951 the base was reactivated as an airfield
supporting the relatively new USAF Air Defense Command.
"The base has always had an association with air defense, both U.S. and
North American air defense," said Jeffrey Nash, the museum's assistant
director. "And it still does today with the very first Air Force space
In addition to being an Air Force field museum, the age-old facilities
are on the National Register of Historic Places and are also considered a
Colorado State Historic District.
"The museum has an agreement with the 21st Space Wing that because of
the historical designations, the 21st Civil Engineer Squadron will
maintain the structures in as much of their original condition as
possible," Nash said.
The museum consists of four original structures - the airport passenger
terminal, two identical aircraft hangars and the original airport
manager's home, now known as "The Spanish House."
The terminal was built in 1941 and reflects the Art Deco architectural
movement of that time. Serving as the entry point to the museum complex,
period styling and fixtures attest that it was built to be a Colorado
Springs showplace. It houses the museum gift shop, theater, and various
exhibits related to early Colorado Springs aviation and WWII Peterson
Built in 1928, one of the hangars is known as the City Hangar and is the
oldest structure of the museum. It houses a P-47 Thunderbolt fighter
aircraft that was restored by museum volunteers.
"That P-47 was my initial introduction to the museum," Nash said. "As a
volunteer prior to gaining employment here, it took a team of us
slightly more than five years to restore it. In 2005 it was ready and
put on display."
The City Hangar also contains various missile assemblies, various space
satellites, radar displays and the crown jewel - a ballistic missile
launch control facility mock-up. Other NORAD and CMAFS displays dot the
The other hangar was built in 1930. Known as the Broadmoor Hangar, it's a
duplicate of the City Hangar. Nash explained that future plans are to
expand the museum's visitor and exhibit space into it, after restoring
the hangar inside and out to return the features of its original design.
Within a circle created by these three landmarks, an award-winning
airpark with over 16 U.S. and Canadian aircraft and missiles reside as
outdoor static displays for visitors to roam and learn about. Designed
by museum staff to be a walk through time, each display has an
informational plaque for visitors to peruse as they learn about air
defense of North America during the Cold War.
There are also four other off-campus static aircraft strategically
located at different areas around base, along with a Minuteman III
intercontinental ballistic missile on Peterson Road.
The museum is popular with civilian tourists.
"We average over 20,000 visitors a year" said Nash, "and most of those visitors have no military affiliation."
Visitors without a form of military ID will require a visitor's pass,
which can be arranged by calling (719) 556-4915, or requesting one via
their online form found at the museum website at http://petemuseum.org/.