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To understand the history of Chaffee you must understand the nation’s urgent need for firepower and armor. Camp Chaffee was established in 1941 as part of the Selective Service and Training Act (SSTA).
In 1940 the U.S. Army ranked 17th in the world in size, between Romania and Portugal. The U.S fielded two armored divisions, newly activated in April of 1940 and three understrength infantry divisions. In 1940 Germany had 10 armored divisions and 76 infantry divisions in France alone.
The SSTA authorized America’s first peace time draft and allocated funds to build camps to train the new force. The U.S. Military built 80+ new camps to train the new recruits. The camps were the machine that built the war machine for America and the arsenal of democracy.
The greatest generation wasn’t great yet, they were green civilians. At Camp Chaffee and the other camps across the country, they earned their army green on live fire and impact ranges. The Army trained armored, infantry, artillery, cooks, medics, mechanics, airborne, and multiple other type of soldiers. Camp Chaffee was designed to train armored divisions and the 6th, 14th, and 16th armored divisions (AD) trained here.
Each of our units went on to celebrated and storied histories. Chaffee units fought in Normandy, across the Rhine and into Czechoslovakia. The 6th and 14th ADs are recognized by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum as liberator units. The 16th AD is celebrated in Pilsen Czech Republic as the Liberators of Pilsen. Chaffee units served with Patton’s Third Army and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Some were decorated by Patton. After the war the 5th AD was stationed here as a training unit.
World War II is arguably the seminal event in human history. Camp Chaffee played a significant role. We have an opportunity and responsibility to link our cultural heritage, artistic expression, and local economic, social development. By highlighting our history, values, and stories we aim to establish a deeper community connection and foster a sense of community identity and involvement.
After the war Camp Chaffee, redesignated Fort Chaffee, continues to serve as a bastion of American Readiness.
Camp Chaffee is an American treasure. Many of these camps no longer exist or have been repurposed. We see historic Camp Chaffee as representative of all the camps and a place to tell the story of American readiness and freedom. It is an opportunity to develop our cultural history within the national WW 2 narrative and provide an economic and social impact on our community.