Fort Chaffee
Fort Chaffee Maneuver Training Center is in the northwest Arkansas
Arkansas is a state located in the southern region of the United States. Its name is an Algonquian name of the Quapaw Indians. Arkansas shares borders with six states , and its eastern border is largely defined by the Mississippi River...

 region adjacent to the city of Fort Smith
Fort Smith, Arkansas
Fort Smith is the second-largest city in Arkansas and one of the two county seats of Sebastian County. With a population of 86,209 in 2010, it is the principal city of the Fort Smith, Arkansas-Oklahoma Metropolitan Statistical Area, a region of 298,592 residents which encompasses the Arkansas...

, located one mile (1.6 km) southeast of Fort Smith Regional Airport
Fort Smith Regional Airport
Fort Smith Regional Airport is a joint civil-military public commercial service airport located three miles southeast of the central business district of Fort Smith, a city in Sebastian County, Arkansas, USA. FSM is governed by the Fort Smith Airport Commission as established by the City of...

. The Arkansas River
Arkansas River
The Arkansas River is a major tributary of the Mississippi River. The Arkansas generally flows to the east and southeast as it traverses the U.S. states of Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. The river's initial basin starts in the Western United States in Colorado, specifically the Arkansas...

 flows eastward along the northern border of the post. Interstate 40
Interstate 40
Interstate 40 is the third-longest major east–west Interstate Highway in the United States, after I-90 and I-80. Its western end is at Interstate 15 in Barstow, California; its eastern end is at a concurrency of U.S. Route 117 and North Carolina Highway 132 in Wilmington, North Carolina...

 is five miles (8 km) to the north on the opposite side of the river. Fort Chaffee is primarily used as a training facility by regional National Guard
United States National Guard
The National Guard of the United States is a reserve military force composed of state National Guard militia members or units under federally recognized active or inactive armed force service for the United States. Militia members are citizen soldiers, meaning they work part time for the National...

 and Army Reserve
Army Reserve
Army Reserve may refer to:*Military Reserve Force*Army Reserve *United States Army Reserve...

 units as well as active military units from other installations. Fort Chaffee currently houses no active units.


Fort Chaffee was originally named Camp Chaffee. Camp Chaffee was established in response to the US need for more troops for the imminent involvement in World War II. Construction on Camp Chaffee was started in September 1941, with troops arriving on the base in December 1941. In March 1956, the name of Camp Chaffee was officially changed to Fort Chaffee, to indicate and recognize the permanent nature of the base.

Fort Chaffee, located just outside of Fort Smith (Sebastian County) and Barling (Sebastian County) on Arkansas Highway 22, has served the United States as an army training camp, a prisoner of war camp, and a refugee camp. Currently, 66,000 acres are used by the Arkansas National Guard as a training facility, with the Arkansas Air National Guard using the fort’s Razorback Range for target practice.

During World War II, in addition to providing a training facility for US soldiers, Fort Chaffee served as a POW camp, housing 3000 German prisoners of war.

Groundbreaking for what was then Camp Chaffee was held on September 20, 1941, as part of the Department of War’s preparations to double the size of the U.S. Army in the face of imminent war. That month, the United States government paid $1.35 million to acquire 15,163 acres from 712 property owners, including families, farms, businesses, churches, schools, and other government agencies. The camp was named after Major General Adna R. Chaffee Jr., an artillery officer who, in Europe during World War I, determined that the cavalry was outmoded and, unlike other cavalry officers, advocated for the use of tanks. It took only sixteen months to build the entire base. The first soldiers arrived on December 7, 1941, the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The installation was activated on March 27, 1942. From 1942 to 1946, the Sixth, Fourteenth, and Sixteenth Armored Divisions trained there. During World War II, it served as both a training camp and a prisoner-of-war (POW) camp. The major purpose of the camp was to train soldiers for combat and prepare units for deployment, but from 1942 to 1946, there were also 3,000 German POWs there. The creation of the camp caused the nearby town of Barling to experience a tremendous boom in housing and businesses.

From 1948 to 1957, Chaffee was the home of the Fifth Armored Division. On March 21, 1956, Camp Chaffee was re-designated as Fort Chaffee; the army generally refers to something as a fort when it is a more permanent installation than a camp. In 1958, Chaffee was home to its most famous occupant, Elvis Presley. Presley received his first military haircut in Building 803. In 1959, the “Home of the U.S. Army Training Center, Field Artillery” moved from Fort Chaffee to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where it remains to this day.

Fort Chaffee has twice served as a primary center for housing foreign refugees. First, it held Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees following the end of the wars in Vietnam
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

 and Cambodia
Cambodian Civil War
The Cambodian Civil War was a conflict that pitted the forces of the Communist Party of Kampuchea and their allies the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the Viet Cong against the government forces of Cambodia , which were supported by the United States and the Republic of Vietnam The Cambodian...

 as from 1975 to 1976, Fort Chaffee was a processing center for refugees from Southeast Asia. The facility processed 50,809 refugees of the Vietnam War, giving them medical screenings, matching them with sponsors, and arranging for their residence in the United States. On May 6, 1980, Chaffee became a Cuban refugee resettlement center after the Cuban government allowed American boats to pick up refugees at the port of Mariel. Three weeks later, a number of refugees rioted at Chaffee and burned two buildings. State troopers and tear gas were used to break up the crowd, and eighty-four Cubans were jailed. In two years, Fort Chaffee processed 25,390 Cuban refugees. It played a similar role with Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

ns in 1980, following the Mariel Boatlift
Mariel boatlift
The Mariel boatlift was a mass emigration of Cubans who departed from Cuba's Mariel Harbor for the United States between April 15 and October 31, 1980....

. Riots among the Cubans were a key factor in Governor Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton
William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton is an American politician who served as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. Inaugurated at age 46, he was the third-youngest president. He took office at the end of the Cold War, and was the first president of the baby boomer generation...

's loss of the office in 1980. The latest use of Fort Chaffee to house evacuees was when Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season was a powerful Atlantic hurricane. It is the costliest natural disaster, as well as one of the five deadliest hurricanes, in the history of the United States. Among recorded Atlantic hurricanes, it was the sixth strongest overall...

 struck Louisiana in 2005. Many of the evacuees were sponsored or temporarily housed at Fort Chaffee. Many of the evacuees have since decided to make Fort Smith their new home. This has brought a slight increase to the city's economy.

In 1987, the Joint Readiness Training Center began training soldiers at Chaffee. The center was transferred to Fort Polk, Louisiana, in 1993. In 1995, the Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommended the closure of Fort Chaffee. The recommendation was approved with the condition that minimum essential ranges, facilities, and training areas were maintained as a Reserve Component Training enclave. On September 28, 1995, Fort Chaffee became a subinstallation of Fort Sill. In late 1995, the federal government declared 7,192 of Fort Chaffee’s 76,075 acres to be surplus and turned the land over to the state. The remaining 66,000 acres were turned over to the Arkansas National Guard for use as a training facility

A change-of-command ceremony was held on September 27, 1997. Command was transferred from the U.S. Army to the Arkansas Army National Guard when the U.S. Army garrison was deactivated, and Fort Chaffee became the Chaffee Maneuver Training Center for Light Combat Forces. The Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority was established to begin redeveloping the 6,000 acres that were turned over to the state. This was to include demolishing more than 700 buildings and rezoning land. The official redevelopment of the base began shortly after land was turned over, and the redevelopment authority is overseeing a number of residential, commercial, and industrial projects in what is known as Chaffee Crossing. On January 6, 2005, ground was broken for the Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center, which now sits on 170 acres that was previously a part of Fort Chaffee.
With property transfers complete and minimal staff permanently stationed there, the Chaffee Maneuver Training Center was declared an open post. The gatehouses were abandoned, and most of the fencing was removed. Military Police patrols were discontinued, and emergency services turned over to the city of Barling, the Arkansas State Police, and Highway Patrol Troop H. This lasted until the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. Then, military installations were declared a closed post, and the center again took over emergency services. After Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in 2005, the empty barracks at Fort Chaffee were converted into temporary housing for more than 10,000 refugees from Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and other areas affected by the hurricane and its aftermath


During the morning hours of January 29, 2008, a mixture of high winds and fire (which local authorities determined later an electrical brush fire) burned approximately 100 acre (0.404686 km²) and damaged or destroyed 150 abandoned buildings at Fort Chaffee.

Approximately 10:00 PM local time on the night of August 3, 2011 another fire broke out on the 90 acre former medical complex. This was, according to the National Weather Service, the hottest day in FT Chaffee history at 115 degrees Fahrenheit. This fire destroyed the hospital complex and nearly 120 buildings in the area. The fire's cause was ruled accidental.

Other uses of Fort Chaffee

Fort Chaffee has a rich military history, but it also has a bit of Hollywood history. In 1984, the movie A Soldier's Story
A Soldier's Story
A Soldier's Story is a 1984 drama film directed by Norman Jewison, based upon Charles Fuller's Pulitzer Prize-winning Off Broadway production A Soldier's Play. A black officer is sent to investigate the murder of a black sergeant in Louisiana near the end of World War II...

, starring Howard E. Rollins Jr. was shot at Fort Chaffee. Four years later, the Neil Simon movie Biloxi Blues
Biloxi Blues (film)
Biloxi Blues is a 1988 American comedy film directed by Mike Nichols and starring Matthew Broderick. The screenplay by Neil Simon is based on his semi-autobiographical 1985 play of the same title.-Plot:...

, starring Matthew Broderick, was filmed there. The most recent visit from Hollywood was in 1995 for The Tuskegee Airmen
The Tuskegee Airmen
The Tuskegee Airmen is a 1995 HBO television movie based on the exploits of an actual groundbreaking unit, the first African American combat pilots in the United States Army Air Force, that fought in World War II.-Plot:...

with Laurence Fishburne and Cuba Gooding Jr.

In 1958, the entertainer Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley
Elvis Aaron Presley was one of the most popular American singers of the 20th century. A cultural icon, he is widely known by the single name Elvis. He is often referred to as the "King of Rock and Roll" or simply "the King"....

 stopped off at Fort Chaffee en route to his basic training at Fort Hood
Fort Hood, Texas
Fort Hood is a United States military post located outside of Killeen, Texas. The post is named after Confederate General John Bell Hood. It islocated halfway between Austin and Waco, about from each, within the U.S. state of Texas....

, Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

. It was here that the public information officer John J. Mawn told a news conference
News conference
A news conference or press conference is a media event in which newsmakers invite journalists to hear them speak and, most often, ask questions. A joint press conference instead is held between two or more talking sides.-Practice:...

 that Presley would receive the standard "G.I. haircut" and would resemble a "peeled onion". Mawn, thereafter stationed in Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, was the technical advisor for Presley's film
A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...

 G.I. Blues
G.I. Blues
G.I. Blues is a 1960 Elvis Presley musical motion picture played as a romantic comedy. It was filmed at Paramount's Hollywood studios, with some pre-production scenery shot on location in Germany before Presley's release from the army. The movie reached #2 on the Variety weekly national box office...

. Arlie Metheny
Arlie Metheny
Captain Arlie Metheny was a United States Army officer during World War II and the Cold War, who served as public information spokesman at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, at the time Elvis Presley was inducted into the military.Metheny was the eldest of seven children born to a cotton farmer in Silverdale...

, another information office, also coordinated Presley's induction at Fort Chaffee.


Fort Chaffee was featured in episode 10 of the 4th season of Ghost Adventures
Ghost Adventures
Ghost Adventures is a weekly American paranormal television series that premiered on October 17, 2008 on the Travel Channel. Currently produced by MY-Tupelo Entertainment , the program follows and stars ghost hunters Zak Bagans, Nick Groff, and Aaron Goodwin, as they investigate locations that are...

on Friday, November 19, 2010.
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