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, the 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. Coincident or not, the first soldiers got at the base on 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.
Like 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.