Thousands of families in Pueblo, Colorado, have supported the U.S. military through their service since World War I, when chemical weapons were first used, and their support continues as the chemical weapons artifacts produced during the Cold War are destroyed here.
“Many people consider World War I to be ancient history,” says Charlene Garcia-Simms, genealogist and special collection librarian, Pueblo City-County Library District. “But Pueblo’s finest men and women had a notable contribution to the Great War and historical elements of this time live on in the Pueblo community today.”
In 1952, the depot began storing chemical weapons. During the Korean War, peak employment was reached with nearly 8,000 civilians working at the depot.
While thousands in the Pueblo community have supported the military by protecting, and now by destroying the stockpile, others have directly served in combat.
In 1917, Pueblo’s first round of WWI draftees was identified, according to The Pueblo Chieftain. High school boys prepared for service with practical training in different fields of engineering.
By the end of the war, 3,000 local men served, according to Over There: Pueblo, Colorado Deaths in World War One, written by local historian Michael P. Thomason.
Today, the Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant is destroying chemical munitions containing more than 2,600 tons of mustard agent. More than 1,300 trained technicians work at the highly-automated pilot plant, located on the grounds of the U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot.
Generations of Puebloans have worked at the depot, keeping the chemical stockpile safe and now working to destroy the obsolete weapons, bringing a chapter in history to a close.