Updated: Feb 15
The land for camp Joseph T Robinson was established in 1917 when the United States approved Little Rock as the site for a Southeastern military base. Originally named Camp Pike after General Zebulon Montgomery Pike (who was not an Arkansas native), it was renamed in 1937 after Senator Joseph T Robinson (who was an Arkansas Native) died. Construction to build the camp began in June and finished in November of the same year, employing over 10,000 workers to construct this base! By September 8, 1917, there were 1,500 men in the camp. The base trained as many as 100,000 men by the fall of 1918 benefitting the military but also the central Arkansas economy. Massive quantities of food, weapons, clothes, and more were needed to care for soldiers boosting the local businesses. After the first World War,
the base was used as a demobilization center till 1922 when the land was given to the state of Arkansas as a training base for their national guard. Citizen Military Training Camps were conducted throughout the 1930s and Camp Robinson was one that hosted former President Harry S Truman as the Camp Commander in August 1933. In 1935 the 3797th company of the Civilian Conservation Corps was settled at Camp Robinson to restore older buildings and construct new quarters. Despite the land being given to Arkansas, the United States allowed a clause that gave back base control to the military. By 1940 Camp Robinson was reinstated as a facility for the 35th division to begin training.
After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the 35th division was moved to California. But then in 1944, they were shipped to England where they participated in the D-Day invasion as one of the divisions to land on Omaha Beach. They fought across France, Belgium, and Germany till the war ended. Throughout WWII there was a Branch Immaterial Replacement Training Center on base to prepare men for combat regardless of specialties; there were 5 branches within the BIRTC to organize the 16,200 soldiers. At the same time the Medical
Replacement Training Center was teaching soldiers to be medical professionals with about 13,500 trainees. The year 1944 brought the end of the MRTC and the BIRTC and introduced the Infantry Replacement Training Center which was similar to the previous organizations. It had around 21,000 soldiers max at a time, however, this ended in 1946 shortly after the war concluded. September of 1943 brought German POWs to Camp Robinson, mostly members of Rommel’s North Africa Korps. It had a peak of about 3,000 German soldiers in their war facility. With 10 chapels, 3 libraries, 8 theaters, a field house as well as the ability to host 3 basketball games, and an Olympic-sized swimming pool, Camp Robinson has been an important training area throughout the wars. Today the base is home to the training of the Arkansas National Guard and the Arkansas National Guard Museum. The base is also home to the National Guard Marksmanship Training Center and the National Guard Professional Education Center where members receive job-related training.