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Lowry AFB

In 1993 it was announced that Lowry AFB, at the east edge of the City of Denver, Colorado, would be closed as part of cost reduction measures being taken by the US military. Lowry AFBclosed on 01 October 1994. On 12 April 1993 the Air Staff approved moving small missile maintenance training from Lowry AFB to Vandenberg AFB, California, where it would be consolidated with large missile maintenance training.

The Air Reserve Personnel Center is an active-duty FOA located on the grounds of the former Lowry Air Force Base in Denver. Its workforce is charged with providing essential services and administration for the nearly half million women and men of the Air Reserve components in support of the Air Force mission. The center also maintains the master personnel records of all Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve members. The Defense Finance Accounting Service - Denver Center (DFAS-DE) is located on Lowry Air Force Base (AFB).

Lowry Air Force Base has been an integral part of the history of the US Air Force and the city of Denver for over 60 years. The base was named after Denver native, US Army Lt. Francis B. Lowry, who was killed in action during World War I. Lowry was an observer in an aircraft that was shot down over enemy lines near Crepion, France on September, 1918. Lowry Field was originally located near East 38th Avenue and Dahlia Street. This airfield hosted both US Army Air Corp and Colorado (Air) National Guard units. This site is now occupied by Park Hill Municipal Golf Course.

In 1937, President Roosevelt authorized funds to relocate Lowry field to its final site near East 6th Avenue and Quebec Street. The base started its training mission in earnest the following year. World War II caused Lowry to greatly expand it facilities in order to train bomber aircrews along with a large number of other technical specialists.

After the war, Lowry continued to train technicians for all branches of the US military. On June 7, 1951, Lowry's 3415th Technical Training Wing formed a Guided Missiles Department. It taught courses in guidance, control, and propulsion for such systems as Matador, Falcon, Rascal, Snark, and Navaho. By 1962, the Department of Missile Training was providing the Air Force with over 1,000 trained missile specialists per year.

From 1953 to 1955, Lowry became President Dwight D. Eisenhower's "Summer White House" from which he conducted affairs of state while Mamie Eisenhower, a Denver native, visited with family. 1953 also turned Lowry into a movie star with the filming of The Glenn Miller Story starring Jimmy Stewart, June Allyson, and Harry Morgan. Several scenes were shot in and around the hangar that now houses the Museum. In 1955, the United States Air Force Academy was established at Lowry AFB pending construction of its facilities in Colorado Springs. On 11 July 1955 the first class (of 306 cadets) was sworn in at the Air Force Academy's temporary location at Lowry AFB. The USAFA remained in operation at Lowry from 1955 to 1958.

Due to the close proximity of the residential area around Lowry and the increase in the number of high performance jet aircraft accidents at the base, flight operations at Lowry ceased in 1966. In 1976 the US Air Force Accounting and Finance Center moved from its old location near East 40th Avenue and York Street to newly built facilites at the southwest corner of the base.

The 1980s saw Lowry's training mission expand into aircraft armament modern avionics, and space operations. In October 1986 ATC initiated an undergraduate space training program at Lowry AFB, CO, providing a basic preparation for space operational assignments. The Maintenance Officer's Nuclear Munitions Course was also conducted at the Lowry AFB Technical Training Center. Comptroller, transportation, and intelligence training moved to Sheppard AFB from Lowry AFB in the fall of 1954. In the late 1980s intelligence training consolidation brought general intelligence training from Lowry AFB to Goodfellow AFB.

Lowry hosted the first Titan I ICBM missile site located on the bombing range east of Denver. This was conveniently close to the Titan I's manufacturer, the Martin Company (now Lockheed Martin) located in Littleton, Colorado. The Titans were operational from 1962 to 1965.

On March 13, 1958, the Air Force Ballistic Committee approved the selection of Lowry to be the first Titan I ICBM base. Construction of launchers and support facilities began on May 1, 1959. Deployment of the missiles entailed a 3 x 3 configuration, meaning that each of the three complexes had three silos grouped in close proximity to a manned launch control facility.

The Omaha District of the Army Corps of Engineers contracted a joint venture led by Morrison-Knudsen of Boise, Idaho, to construct the silos. A 144-day steel strike in 1959 caused delays and forced Morrison-Knudsen to resort to winter concreting. Despite this problem and others caused by constant design modifications, Morrison-Knudsen completed the project on time with the lowest construction costs of any ICBM base in the country at the time. Fairly smooth management-labor relations contributed to the success. The project also maintained the best safety record in the missile construction program up until that time. Use of a safety net was credited with saving many lives. Three workers did die during the project, although one of these deaths was the result of a motor vehicle accident that occurred off site.

The Lowry AFB Titan I Missile Complex IA is located approximately 15 miles southeast of Denver, Colorado, Township 5 South, Range 65 West of the Sixth Principal Meridian, Section 5, Arapahoe County. The missile complex is located in the center of the 442-acre missile site. The complex is bounded by a chain-link fence and contains approximately 36 acres. An access road (approximately one half mile long) runs from Quincy Ave. north to the missile site. The missile site is situated on a hilltop. Vegetation consists of a few trees and native grasses.

Prior to construction of the Titan I Missile Complex the property was part of the Lowry Bombing Range. The 59,814 acre bombing range, operated from 1 July 1952 to 31 December 1952, was used by the local Navy, Lowry Air Force Base, and the Air National Guard for practicing bombing and strafing missions and for demolition of unusable Air Force munitions. The bombing range was decontaminated (visually searched) and cleared for unrestricted use in May 1963. Since the Titan I Missile Complexes were already completed at that time, they were not searched and subsequently have not been cleared. Titan I Missile Complex 1A is located in the northwest corner of the bombing range. Since construction of the Missile Complex involved extensive excavation, and the target area of the bombing range was approximately four miles southeast of the Missile Complex, it is unlikely that any unexploded ordnance would be present at the site today.

In September 1958, construction began on Titan I Missile Complex 1A, the first of six complexes constructed within an 18 mile radius. The excavation was started in May 1959 using an open cut method with depths ranging from 38' to 72'. The missile silo shafts were excavated by mining crews to a depth of 163'. The construction of the underground facilities were of reinforced concrete and structural steel with steel lined tunnels. An unusual requirement was the blast-proofing of elements incorporated into the work with the major mechanical and electrical elements shock-mounted to withstand all explosions except a direct hit. The heavy construction phase was completed on 4 June 1961. The complex was made up of three missile launching silos.

The complex is made up of the following:

    (1) Three launch stations, each with a missile silo, supporting equipment terminal, propellant terminal and propellant system.
    (2) One guidance facility with two antennas and one antenna
    (3) One underground control center.
    (4) Utility and service facilities, including an underground powerhouse for the electrical generating, heating, ventilating, and air conditioning equipment.
    (5) Interconnecting tunnels for utility distribution and personnel access.
    (6) Utilities, including roads, water storage and distribution, sanitary system, exterior lighting, portal, air intake, and exhaust.
    (7) Water wells to provide all water for operation.
    (8) Access road and perimeter fence.

The missile complex borders the Lowry Landfill to the west. The Lowry Landfill is owned by the city of Denver and it is a known source of pollution of the Dawson and Denver Aquifers. The landfill was placed on the national priority list in 1984 under Superfund legislation. The missile complex has three launch silos which penetrate the ground to a depth of 160 feet.

On November 19, 1964, Defense Secretary McNamara announced the phase-out of remaining first-generation Atlas and Titan I missiles by the end of June 1965. This objective was met; on June 25, 1965, the 724th SMS and 725th SMS were inactivated. SAC removed the last missile from Lowry on April 14, 1965.

Titan I Missile Complex 1A was reported to be excess and referred to the General Services Administration (GSA) for disposal action on 12 August 1965. GSA sold the 242-acre tract of land to Carl Rosenfield by Quitclaim Deed dated 31 January 1969. The current owners are ACJ Partnership. The land is leased for grazing livestock. The area is targeted for annexation by the City of Aurora. The owners future plans for the land is development for commercial or multi-family residential use. Plans of the future development indicate a new highway will run north from Quincy Ave., along the access road, and through the missile complex.

Although the strategic missiles were gone, missile training remained a vital component of Lowry's mission. In 1972, the 3415th Technical School became the USAF School of Applied Aerospace Sciences with missile training continuing within the Department of Aerospace Munitions Training. In 1978, this department would be redesignated the 3460th Training Group.

In 1980, Lowry Technical Training Center acquired a B-52D from Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, and stabilized another B-52 on base for use in training crews to load Air Launched Cruise Missiles (ALCMs) and Short Range Air Missiles (SRAMs). Although Chanute AFB, Illinois, served as the primary training center for the Peacekeeper ICBM, Lowry supported training for this strategic missile by providing maintenance and repair training for the Peacekeepers' reentry vehicle at a state-of-the-art facility opened in 1985.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:52:16 ZULU