Fort Chaffee Army Base in Fort Smith on map

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Fort Chaffee Army Base in Fort Smith, AR Arkansas Military Bases


Fort Chaffee, Arkansas is located in the northern part of the state and serves as a training installation for Army Reserve soldiers and National Guard. Aside from the reserve soldiers, it occasionally hosts active soldiers, but for small amounts of time. There are currently no active troops inhabiting the base. The camp is located between Fort Smith, the Arkansas river and Interstate 40.


The camp construction began in September, 1941. It took a couple of months for the place to be functional, with the first soldiers getting there in December, same year. The camp was not in the general plan of the government. Instead, it was built as a response to the high needs of the US government for more troops before the inevitable involvement in World War II. The place was initially called Camp Chaffee. In 1956, the government decided it should be a permanent base and renamed it to what it is today.


The general objectives of the camp during World War II were not just to train soldiers, but also to host the war prisoners and the refugees. It hosted over 3,000 German prisoners during World War II.


The camp is named after Adna R. Chaffee Jr., a hero who took amazingly useful and successful decisions during World War I. Coincidence or not, the first soldiers got at the base in the exact same day of the Pearl Harbor attack. After the end of the war, the camp hosted the Fifth Armored Division, until 1957. The base is more famous for the few days Elvis Presley spent here. As a matter of fact, this is where he got his first military haircut, in building 803.


As a refugee camp, the fort played a major role during the Vietnam and Cambodia wars, hosting around 51,000 refugees from 1975 to 1976. In 1980, it was the home of 23,000 Cuban refugees, after the Cuban government allowed the American boats to pick up the refugees from a local port. However, some of these refugees started rioting and 84 of them ended up in jail. In 2005, Fort Chaffee Arkansas played a similar role after Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana.


The housing system in Fort Chaffee is similar to any other city. Basically, the new soldiers can choose to stay at a hotel until they decide what to do. Then, they can get a real estate agent and choose to buy or to rent a place, judging on their families and possibilities. There is enough room for everyone, especially since the base serves for reserve troops mostly. The times when active soldiers show up are relatively rare, although there is plenty of space.


The facilities in Fort Chaffee are widely varied and ready to fulfill the needs of most inhabitants. There are currently three active chapels in the camp. There used to be six, but two of them were closed and one was taken down and turned into tennis courts and other recreational places. The place has its own media publications, as well as bars, clubs, pubs and a very advanced health care system.