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Fort Chaffee is in the northwest Arkansasmarker region adjacent to the city of Fort Smithmarker, located one mile southeast of Fort Smith Regional Airportmarker. The Arkansas Rivermarker flows eastward along the northern border of the post. Interstate 40 is five miles to the north on the opposite side of the river. Fort Chaffee is primarily used as a training facility by regional National Guard and Army Reserve units as well as active military units from other installations. Fort Chaffee currently houses no active units.

Fort Chaffee


History

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.

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.

A sign titled "New Horizon" in front of Fort Chaffee indicates the number of Vietnamese refugees who has been resettled, as well as the number remaining at the camp.


Fort Chaffee has twice served as a primary center for housing foreign refugees. First, it held Vietnamese refugees following the Fall of Saigon in 1975. It played a similar role with Cubansmarker in 1980, following the Mariel Boatlift. Riots among the Cubans were a key factor in Governor Bill Clinton's loss of the office in 1980. The latest use of Fort Chaffee to house refugees was when Hurricane Katrina 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.

Fort Chaffee served as the home of the U.S. Army's Joint Readiness Training Center from 1987 to 1993. In September 1997, command of Fort Chaffee was transferred from the US Army to the Arkansas Army National Guard.

In recent years, Fort Chaffee has forfeited large portions of land to the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority (FCRA), an organization with the purpose of stimulating the local economy.

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 and damaged or destroyed 150 abandoned buildings at Fort Chaffee.

Other uses of Fort Chaffee

There were three movies filmed at Fort Chaffee: A Soldier's Story and Biloxi Blues and The Tuskegee Airmen.

In 1958, the entertainer Elvis Presley stopped off at Fort Chaffee en route to his basic training at Fort Hoodmarker, Texasmarker. It was here that the public information officer John J. Mawn told a news conference that Presley would receive the standard "G.I. haircut" and would resemble a "peeled onion". Mawn, thereafter stationed in Germanymarker, was the technical advisor for Presley's film G.I. Blues. Arlie Metheny, another information office, also coordinated Presley's induction at Fort Chaffee.

References


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