Chapman

 




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.

    Alva joined the Wisconsin National Guard in Janesville after graduating from high school in 1940.  He was known as "Chipper" to the members of his tank company.  In 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.
         The battalion traveled by train to San Francisco.  By ferry, they were taken to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island, they received inoculations and physicals.  Those members of the battalion who were found to have treatable medical conditions remained behind on the island.  They were scheduled to join the battalion at a later date.
   
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.S Hugh L. Scott and sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  They arrived at Honolulu on Sunday, November 2nd.  The soldiers were given leaves so they could see the island.  On November 5th, the ships sailed for Guam.  At one point, the ships passed an island at night.  While they passed the island, they did so in total blackout.  This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way.  When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables.  The ships sailed the same day for Manila and entered Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th.  They docked at Pier 7 and the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. 
    At the fort, they were greeted by Gen. Edward King.  The general apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.  He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own. 
Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
   
For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons.  The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea.  They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance.
   

    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.
    On January 29, 1943, the POWs were sent to Neilsen Airfield to extend runways.  They did the work with picks and shovels.  On October 25, 1943, the POWs were sent to Ft. Murphy to build runways at Zablan Airfield. 

    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.
  
According to medical records kept at Bilibid Prison.  Alva was admitted to the hospital ward on May 24, 1944.  with a wart on his left foot.  He was treated and discharged on May 27th and returned to the work detail.  On May 30th, he was readmitted with dengue fever.  He was discharged the next day and returned to the work detail.

    When the work detail was finished, Alva was returned to Cabanatuan. 

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.  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 there.

    Alva Chapman died of a stroke on August 7, 1976.  He was buried in Block 293, Lot 2, Grave 4 at Oak Hill Cemetery in Janesville.





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