Born in Junction City, Kansas on 23 September 1884, Adna Chaffe was the only son of a distinguished soldier, Adna Romanza Chaffee, Sr., who would rise to the rank of Major General. Major General Chaffee graduated from West Point in 1906, 31st in his class of 78 graduates.
Commissioned a Cavalry Lieutenant, his first tour of duty was with the 15th Cavalry as part of the Army of Cuban Pacification. An extremely competent horseman, he next was assigned to theMounted Services School at Fort Riley, Kansas from 1907-1911, where he commanded the mounted detachment serving the students and staff of the Army War College. He was also a member of American Equestrian Teams that competed world-wide. Chaffee then attended the French Cavalry School at Saumur for a year, returning to teach again at Fort Riley.
Chaffee's next posting was with the 7th Cavalry in the Philippines (1914-1915). He was then reassigned to the Staff and Faculty at West Point as the Senior Cavalry Instructor in the Tactical Department (1916-1917). Now a Captain, Chaffee next served as the adjutant for the 81st Division as it prepared to depart for France in WW I. During the war he served as an Assistant G3 Operations officer in the IV Corps and then as the G3 of the 81st Division during the St. Mihiel and Meu se-Argonne offensives. Promoted to the temporary rank of Colonel, he became the G3, III Corps for the duration of the war and remained with the corps for occupation duty in 1919.
Colonel Chaffee returned to the United States in 1919 as an instructor at the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth. In 1920 he attained the permanent rank of Major, having reverted to his permanent rank of Captain after the war. Chaffee held a variety of positions with the 3rd Cavalry and IVth Corps after his tour at Fort Leavenworth. He became the G3 for the 1st Cavalry Division in 1921 and remained at Fort Bliss through 1924. After attending the Army War College, he assumed command of a squadron of the 3rd Cavalry from 1925 to 1927. Following this command, he moved to the War Department's General Staff (1927-1931), was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and worked on developing mechanized and armored forces for the Army. Chaffee left the General Staff in 1931 to serve as the Executive Officer of the newly formed 1st Cavalry (Mechanized) at Fort Knox.
Returning to Washington, D.C. and the War Department in 1934, Chaffee served as the Chief of the Budget and Legislative Planning Branch (1934-1938) and returned to Fort Knox in 1938 to assume command of the 1st Cavalry (Mech). He was promoted to Brigadier General in November 1938 and given the command of the 7th Mechanized Brigade. He led the embryonic unit through crucial maneuvers conducted in Plattsburgh and Louisiana 1939-1940). The Louisiana Maneuvers in particular are noteworthy for the impact they had on developing U.S. mechanized doctrine.
In June 1940, Brigadier General Chaffee was appointed the Commander of the Armored Force, responsible for integrating all branches of the Army into mechanized warfare As such he played a major role in the development and fielding of the 1st and 2nd Armored Divisions. Promoted to Major General in October 1940, he was given command of the I Armored Corps. Unfortunately, before many of the major armored battles of World War II that changed the face of modern warfare forever Major General Chaffee died of cancer on 22 August 1941 in Boston, Massachusetts.
Nonetheless, General Chaffee is still considered the father of the Armor branch.
He is buried next to his father in Section 3 of Arlington National Cemetery.
Born at Orwell, Ohio, April 14, 1842, he entered the Regular Army as a Private, 6th United States Cavalry, July 22, 1861. Soon afterward he was made First Sergeant of the Troop. He was promoted to Second Lieutenant, March 13, 1863 and to First Lieutenant on February 22, 1865 and to Captain, U. S. Army, October 12, 1867.spouse:
For several years, his regiment was employed in almost continuous action against Indians in the Southwest where he proven himself a brave and stubborn fighter. For gallantry in various actions, he was promoted to Major in March 1868 and on February 27, 1890 to Lieutenant Colonel.
Meanwhile, on July 7, 1888, he had been promoted to Major and assigned to the 9th U.S. Cavalry, one of two regiments in the Regular Army composed of black men. He was an instructor in Cavalry Tactics at the Fort Leavenworth School for Officers, 1894-96.
On June 1, 1897, he was promoted to Lieuteant Colonel of the 3rd U.S. Cavalry and made commandant of the Cavalry School of Instruction at Fort Riley, Kansas, a post he held at the outbreak of the Spanish-American War.
He was appointed Brigadier General of U.S. Volunters onMay 4, 1898 and was promoted to Major General, U.S. Volunteers, in July. He was honorably discharged from the Volunteer Service and reappointed Brigadier General, U.S. Army, April 13, 1899.
From December 1898 he served as Chief of Staff to the Governor-General of Cuba. He commanded the troops which captured El Caney, and practically closed the Santiago Campaign.
On May 8, 1899, he was promoted to Colonel of the 8th U.S. Cavalry and on July 19, 1900 was assigned to comand U.S. troops with the Allied armies in China, with the rank of Major General of Volunteers. He took an active part in the advance on Peking and in establishing order after the capture of that city. After looting of the ancient Imperial Observatory in Peking, he addressed a strong protest against this and similar depredations to Count von Waldersee, Commander in Chief of Allied Troops.
On the reorganization of the Regular Army in 1901, he was appointed Major General and commander of the Military District of the Philippines and on January 8, 1904 he was promoted to Lieutenant General and Army Chief of Staff. It had taken him 43 years to bridge the chasm between Private and Chief of Staff of the entire Army, the widest space and most difficult task which an Army man can attempt and in two years he was ready to retire. He was 64 years olf and 45 of his years had been spent in the uniform of his country.
He died in Los Angeles, California, on November 1, 1914 and was buried in Section 3 of Arlington National Cemetery.