|Sgt. Alva J. Chapman
| Sgt. Alva J. Chapman was born on June
27, 1921, in Seattle, Washington. He was the son
of Arthur & Lena Chapman and had three younger
sisters. His family moved to Janesville,
Wisconsin, where he was raised at 309 Holmes
Street. He was working in a hotel, as a bus boy,
when he was inducted.
the Wisconsin National Guard in Janesville after
graduating from high school in 1940. He was
known as "Chipper" to the members of his tank
the fall of 1940, Alva was called to federal service
when the Janesville Tank Company was
federalized. He went with the company, now A
Company, 192nd Tank Battalion to Fort Knox,
Kentucky. There he would train for almost a
year before the battalion was sent to Louisiana on
maneuvers during the late summer of 1941.
On December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Alva lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field. Since Capt. Write had expected the attack after hearing the news of Pearl Harbor, Alva and the rest of A Company had been sent to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard it against attack.
Alva fought for the next four months to slow Japan's inevitable victory. When word of the surrender reached the members of A Company, Alva and the other soldiers destroyed their equipment. They then went to Mariveles at the southern tip of the Bataan Peninsula.
It was from Mariveles that Alva began the march with 1st Lt. John Bushaw and M/Sgt. Ossie McDonald. It took the three soldiers fourteen days to complete the march. Of the three friends, only Alva Chapman would survive life in the prison camps.
Alva was first held as a POW at Camp O'Donnell. He
was then sent to Cabanatuan #1. It was while a
POW there that Alva went out on a work detail to Ft.
McKinley. On the detail with him
were Owen Sandmire, Dale Lawton, Lloyd Richter and Forrest Knox. The
POWs drove trucks for the Japanese. While he
was on this detail, a Japanese guard took the time
to help Alva learn Japanese. The reason Alva
wanted to learn Japanese is that he wanted to speak
the language well enough to stay out of trouble.
It was also on this detail that Alva was hit in the
head with the butt of a gun by a Japanese
guard. The guard succeeded at cracking his
skull. The result was that Alva had a tender
spot on his head and lived with headaches the rest
of his life. Alva
had been hit by the guard because the truck he was
driving would not start. The guard believed
that Alva was disrespecting him, so he hit Alva.
When the work detail was finished, Alva was returned
Alva was sent to Bilibid Prison to be processed for shipment to Japan. While he was boarding the Nissyo Maru, Alva watched as other POWs who had already boarded were carried from the holds of the ship dead. On July 17th, the Nissyo Maru sailed for Japan.
The ships encountered an American wolf pack made up of
the American submarines of U.S.S. Crevale, the U.S.S.
Angler, and the U.S.S. Flasher. During the
attack several ships in the convoy were sunk. Attempting to avoid the wolf pack,
the ships did not arrive at Takao, Formosa, until
July 27th. The next day the Nissyo Maru sailed
for Moji, Japan, arriving there on August 3rd.
The conditions in the hold were so bad that the men
had passed out or died. Alva recalled that one
of the worse experiences about the trip was that
1533 men were packed so tightly into the holds that
no one could sit down.
After arriving in Japan, Alva was sent to a sub-camp of Osaka near Nagoya, Japan. The POWs soon learned that if the foreman of the detail believed they were sincerely making an attempt to work, their lives were easier. If he did not believe they were attempting to do the best they could, he beat them.
At some point. Alva was transferred to Narumi Camp. The POWs in this camp were used to manufacture wheels. One of the things Alva found amazing was that both the Japanese guards and officers found the Americans interesting. The officers, in particular, were extremely interested in the United States. Since the Japanese feared punishment, they would seldom show their interest. If they did show it, they would only do so when there were no other Japanese around the POWs.
With Alva in the camp were Delmon Bushaw, William Nolan, and Lewis Wallisch. The four members of A Company had spent four years of the war together and had become best friends.
When liberation came, the POWs thought about taking to the hills. They decided that this was not a good or safe plan, so they remained in the camp until liberated by American forces.
After he was liberated, Sgt. Alva J. Chapman was returned to the Philippines. In September 1945, he boarded the U.S.S. Gospar which arrived at San Francisco on October 12th. There he was treated to improve his health. He was discharged on February 23, 1946. He returned to Janesville and worked as an engineer for the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad. During this time, he had continued to have bouts of malaria.
On September 4, 1947, Alva married Betty Jane Kolbs in Oregon, Illinois. He and his wife resided in Janesville and raised four children.
Alva Chapman died of a stroke on August 7, 1976, and was buried in Block 293, Lot 2, Grave 4 at Oak Hill Cemetery in Janesville.
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