Our history: Glenwood played part in WWII effort through War Bonds, Naval Hospital | PostIndependent.com

Our history: Glenwood played part in WWII effort through War Bonds, Naval Hospital

The staff of the United States Naval Convalescent Hospital pose for a photograph ca. 1944. The hospital was established in the Hotel Colorado building for the purpose of rehabilitating soldiers suffering the physical and psychological effects of World War II. The Navy leased the hotel, Hot Springs Pool and vapor cave from 1943-46.
Glenwood Springs Historical Society |

CELEBRATING HISTORY

The Post Independent this year is celebrating local institutions’ anniversaries — including our own — with a special feature many Sundays through the year. The PI traces its roots back 127 years, but 125 as a daily, while the White River National Forest looks back on 125 years and Colorado Mountain College marks 50 years, as does Sunlight Mountain.

Today we offer the third installment of Post Independent history and the events it chronicled locally in the 1940s.

The world was in the midst of World War II in the European and Pacific theaters. And the little mountain town of Glenwood Springs played its part by supplying troops, with locals volunteering, and through local businesses selling war bonds. The war hit close to home.

WAR BOND DRIVES

As late as 1944, the war effort picked up as the fourth and fifth war bond drives aimed to supply troops with essential needs like uniforms, food and medical supplies, as well as weapons and ammo in a major push to finish off the war.

During the fourth drive, which ran from Jan. 18 to Feb. 15, residents of Garfield County were asked to invest $462,000. Local businesses at the time, such as The Owl Cafe, the Glen Theatre, Ayers & Fick and the Glenwood Springs Creamery, offered sales that allowed residents to push most of their money toward the war bonds. More businesses followed suit during the next drive, which ran June 12 to July 8.

One of the biggest contributors was the Glen Theatre, which played war-influenced flicks to entertain and encourage donations. Movies such as “Flight for Freedom” (starring Rosalind Russell and Fred MacMurray) and “Behind the Rising Sun” (starring Margo, Tom Neal and J. Carrol Naish) played throughout 1944.

BOMBER CRASHES NEAR GLENWOOD

While the war bond drives were the big stories, the start of 1944 was a tough time for Garfield County. In November 1943, a B-26 medium bomber crashed in the vicinity of Adams Lake, approximately 12 miles from Glenwood Springs. It wasn’t discovered until March 1944, when Rifle sheepman Rufo Eisaguerrie and an employee spotted it while riding through the backcountry on horseback.

The Glenwood Post reported, “The announcement of the discovery was made late Monday by William D. Tipton, commandant at Peterson Field at Colorado Springs. The story revealing the first findings of the bomber had been made immediately following the discoveries, although details were not revealed until the army had notified the next of kin.”

Eisaguerrie and his helper first noticed burned tree stumps and scorched earth, which they thought was caused by lightning. Then the pair found a wheel from the plane and immediately notified authorities. Following an investigation by Army officials, and J.I. Burdge, the acting coroner of Garfield County, determined that the bomber crashed into the base of a cliff. The bomber was flying to Kansas’ Pratt Army Field from Salt Lake City.

NAVAL HOSPITAL HONORS SAILORS

While we know the Hotel Colorado to be a pristine, picturesque hotel, in the mid-’40s it served as the U.S. Naval Convalescent Hospital.

Following the precedent of earlier conflicts, the Navy Medical Department leased resort hotels during World War II throughout the country. They were commissioned to operate for the benefit of sailors and Marines recovering from the physical and psychic wounds of war.

The Hotel Colorado was officially commissioned in 1943. In 1944, the hospital held a large ceremony to honor Harrison K. Morgan of Seneca, South Carolina, who was presented a gold star, in lieu of a second purple heart. Commanding Officer E. L. McDermott, captain, (MC), USN, (Ret.), presented the gold star in front of the entire crew of the U.S. Naval Convalescent Hospital on June 15, 1944.

Morgan said, “I owe this decoration to my gunner, who was also wounded in this action. I will wear this silver star with pride.”

PURPLE HEART

On the same day, Aspen’s Thomas R. McNeil, a Marine platoon sergeant, was awarded a Purple Heart for his heroics in actions at Tarawa Atoll.

Maj. Gen. Julian C. Smith presented McNeil with the Purple Heart during a special Second Marine Exercise in honor of the conquers of Tarawa Atoll, according to the Glenwood Post.

McNeil was wounded on the first day of the battle at Tarawa Atoll, but stayed with his men until the island was secured.

KIWANIS CLUB FORMED

As the war raged on in Europe and in the Pacific, Glenwood Springs officially formed its chapter of the Kiwanis Club on June 28, 1944, at the Hotel Denver.

W. R. Greenman was elected president of the Glenwood chapter, while James J. Hannifan was named vice president. Lee H. Tomlin was named secretary-treasurer at the official meeting.

The club had 26 charter members from the onset. The first elected directors were: L.J. Wilson, Everett A. Oetken, Reno J. Moscon, Ray E. Houghton Sr., J. Charles Dawson, Q.L. Paolazzi, E.C. Rowe and Rev. C.E. Kessler.

The local chapter of the Kiwanis Club continues to thrive and will play a prominent role in Strawberry Days at Sayre Park later this month.


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