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 and worked in a hotel, as a bus boy.

    Alva joined the Wisconsin National Guard in Janesville after graduating from high school in 1940, and was known as "Chipper" to the members of his tank company.  In the fall of 1940, 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.
     A typical day of training at Ft. Knox, started at 6:15 with reveille.  Most of the soldiers had been up at 5:45 so that they could wash, dress, and be on the line at 6:15.  Breakfast was from 7:00 until 8:00 A.M., and from 8:00 to 8:30 A.M., the soldiers did calisthenics.  Afterwards they attended various classes which included instruction in .50 and .30 caliber machine gun, pistol, map reading, care of personal equipment, military courtesy, and training in military tactics.
    At 11:30, the soldiers got ready for lunch which was from noon to 1:00, followed by more classes until 4:30 P.M.  Retreat was at 5:00 P.M., in dress uniforms, which was followed by dinner at 5:30.  At 9:00, it was lights out, but the soldiers were allowed to remain awake until 10:00 when taps was played.
   In August 1941, the 192nd was sent to Louisiana to take part in maneuvers.     
   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 on Monday, October 27th, as part of a three ship convoy.  During this part of the trip, many tankers had seasickness, but once they recovered they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP They arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd.  The soldiers were given leaves so they could see the island. 
    On Wednesday, November 5th, the ships sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes. 
When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila.  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.  The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20th, and docked at Pier 7 later that morning.  At 3:00 P.M., the soldiers disembarked and were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  The truck drivers drove their trucks to the fort, while those assigned to tank maintenance remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks.                 
    At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized that they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.  He made sure that they had what they needed and that they received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner.  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 1st, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  From this time on, two tank crew members remained with each tank at all times.

    The morning of December 8th, December 7th in the United States, the 192nd was ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field.  A week earlier, they had been given assigned positions around the airfield to guard against enemy paratroopers.  At 8:30, the American planes took off and filled the sky.  They landed at 11:30 and lined up near the mess hall.    
    The tankers were eating lunch when a formation of 54 planes was spotted approaching the airfield from the north.  The tankers believed the planes were American. As they watched, raindrops fell from the planes.  When bombs exploded on the runways, they knew the planes were Japanese.   
    When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield.  Since the battalion's bivouac was near the main road between the fort and airfield, the soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks and trucks.  Anything that could carry the wounded was in use.  When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the wounded under the building.  Many of these men had their arms and legs missing.  
    After the attack on December 12th, the company was sent to the Barrio of Dau so it would be close to a highway and railroad against sabotage.  On December 23rd and 24th, the company was in the area of Urdaneta, where the tankers lost the company commander, Capt. Walter Write.  After he was buried, the tankers made an end run to get south of Agno River.  As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening. They successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
    From there, the company was sent to join the other companies of the 192nd just south of the Agno River.  On December 25th, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road.  The tanks were asked to hold the position for six hours; they held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th.
    The tankers were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th.  The 192nd, and part of the 194th, fell back to form a new defensive line the night of December 27th and 28th.  From there they fell back to the south bank of the BamBan River which they were suppose to hold for as long as possible.  The tanks were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th serving as a rear guard against the Japanese.  A Company was sent, in support of the 194th, to an area east of Pampanga.  It was there that they lost a tank platoon commander, Lt. William Read. 
    On a road east of Zaragoza, on December 30th, the company was bivouacked for the night and posted sentries.  The sentries heard a noise on the road and woke the other tankers who grabbed Tommy-guns and manned the tanks' machine guns.  As they watched, a Japanese bicycle battalion rode into their bivouac.  When the last bicycle passed the tanks, the tankers opened up on them.  When they stopped firing, they had completely wiped out the bicycle battalion.  To leave the area, the tankers drove their tanks over the bodies.
   As the Filipino and American forces fell back toward Bataan, A Company took up a position near the south bank of the Gumain River the night of December 31st and January 1st.  Believing that the Filipino Army was in front of them allowed the tankers to get some sleep.  It was that night that the Japanese lunched an attack to cross the river.
    On January 1st, the tanks of the 194th were holding the Calumpit Bridge allowing the Southern Luzon forces to cross the bridge toward Bataan.  General Wainwright was attempting to hold the main Japanese force coming down Route 5 to prevent the troops from being cut off.  General MacArthur's chief of staff gave conflicting orders involving whose command the defenders were under which caused confusion.  Gen. Wainwright was not aware these orders had been given.
    Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridges over the Pampanga River.  Due to the efforts of the Self Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted.  From January 2nd to 4th, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.
    The tanks often were the last units to disengage from the enemy and form a new defensive line as Americans and Filipino forces withdrew toward Bataan.  The night of January 7th, the A Company was awaiting orders to cross the last bridge into Bataan over the Culis Creek.  The engineers were ready to blow up the bridge, but the battalion's commanding officer, Lt. Col. Ted Wickord, ordered the engineers to wait until he had looked to see if they were anywhere in sight.  He found the company, asleep in their tanks, because they had not received the order to withdraw across the bridge.  After they had crossed, the bridge was destroyed.
    While American and Filipino forces were withdrawing from the Pilar-Bigac Line, the battalion prevented the Japanese from overrunning the position and cutting off the withdrawing troops.  The morning of January 27th, a new battle line had been formed and all units were suppose to be beyond it.  That morning, the tanks were still holding their position six hours after they were suppose to have withdrawn.  While holding the position, the tanks, with self-propelled mounts, ambushed, at point blank range, three Japanese units causing 50 percent casualties.
    On January 28th, the tank battalions were given the job of protecting the beaches.  The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast.  The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.
    The soldiers were hungry and began to eat everything they could get their hands on to eat.  The Carabao were tough but if they were cooked long enough they could be eaten.  They also began to eat horse meat provided by the 26th U. S. Cavalry.  To make things worse, the soldiers' rations were cut in half again on March 1, 1942.  This meant that they only ate two meals a day.   
    The Japanese also were dropping surrender leaflets with a scantly clad blond on them.  The Japanese would have been more successful at getting the Americans to surrender if the picture had been hamburger, since the men were so hungry that they most likely would have surrendered for a good meal.
    On January 28th, the tank battalions were given the job of protecting the beaches.  The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast.  The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.
    A Company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese troops who had been trapped behind the main defensive line.  The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to replace a tank in the pocket.  Another tank did not enter the pocket until the tank, which had been relieved, had left the pocket.
    To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used.  The first was to have three Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank.  As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole.  Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually exploded.
    The other method to use to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the foxhole. The driver gave the other track power resulting with the tank spinning around and grinding its way down into the foxhole.  It was for their performance during this battle that the 192nd Tank Battalion would receive one of its Distinguished Unit Citations.
   The soldiers were hungry and began to eat everything they could get their hands on to eat.  The Carabao were tough but if they were cooked long enough they could be eaten.  They also began to eat horse meat provided by the 26th U. S. Cavalry.  To make things worse, the soldiers' rations were cut in half again on March 1, 1942.  This meant that they only ate two meals a day.   
    The Japanese also were dropping surrender leaflets with a scantly clad blond on them.  The Japanese would have been more successful at getting the Americans to surrender if the picture had been hamburger, since the men were so hungry that they most likely would have surrendered for a good meal.   
    On March 2nd or 3rd, during the Battle of the Points.  The tanks had been sent in to wipe out two pockets of Japanese soldiers who had been landed behind the main defensive line.  The Japanese were soon cut off.  When the Japanese attempted to land reinforcements, they landed them at the wrong place creating another pocket.   Both of the pockets were wiped out.
   The company's last bivouac area was about twelve kilometers north of Marivales and looking out on the China Sea.  By this point, the tankers knew that there was no help on the way.  Many had listened to Secretary of War Harry L. Stimson on short wave.  When asked about the Philippines, he said, "There are times when men must die."  The soldiers cursed in response because they knew that the Philippines had already been lost.

    On April 4, 1942, the Japanese launched an attack supported by artillery and aircraft.  A large force of Japanese troops came over Mount Samat and descended down the south face of the volcano.  This attack wiped out two divisions of defenders and left a large area of the defensive line open to the Japanese.  When General King saw that the situation was hopeless, he initiated surrender talks with the Japanese.
    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.  The three men thought about going into the hills but decided not to do it.   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 for a short time before he went out on a ten man detail to Manila.  Speaking of his time on the detail, he said, "I was awfully lucky through most of it.  When we were first captured, I was assigned to a ten man detail in Manila. The guard were pretty decent when they had a small number to handle.  At night we'd sit around and they'd teach us and their language and explain to us some things we asked about and we return information of that sort.  I got so that I could speak the Nip language enough so that it got me out of a lot of trouble., because if you were able to explain an incident, they usually accepted it. 
    The Nips as a rule were quite interested in Americans --- if they let themselves go to let it be seen.  The officers, especially, who were better educated than the guards, liked to associate with the American prisoners."

   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.
    In December 1942, Alva went out on a work detail to Ft. McKinley arriving there on the twelfth.  There, the POWs did cleanup work clearing the grounds of junk from the battle.  When the work was finished, they were moved to Nielson Field on January 29, 1943.  At Nielson, the POWs lived in barracks that were 150 feet long by 20 feet wide.  One quarter of the space was used for sick wards which meant the POWs slept shoulder to shoulder again.  Tables for meals were in the center aisle of each barracks.  The POW compound were they could walk around freely was 500 feet by 200 feet and surrounded by barbed wire.  Each day, the POWs had to walk almost five miles to and from the airfield.
    The POWs on the detail worked at constructing a northeast to southwest runway.  The work day for the POWs was from 8:00 A.M. until Noon and 1:00 P.M. until 5:00 P.M.  When they arrived at the airfield they were divided into two groups which alternated between working for a hour while the other and resting for a hour.  
    The work was hard and required the POWs to remove dirt and rock from one ares and dumping it onto the runways.  The dirt and rock was removed with picks and shovels and put into mining cars which were pushed by POWs to the area where they were going to be dumped.

    In May, 1943, the work was sped up.  The POWs weren't sure if this was because they were behind schedule or if the airfield was need because of the military situation.   The runway was built through rice paddies which made the work harder since they still had water in them. 
    POW work hours were changed in January 1944.   From this time on, the POWs started at 7:00 A.M. and worked until 11:00 A.M. to avoid the hottest part of the day.  In the afternoon, the POWs worked from 1:30 to 5:00 P.M.  They had their one day off a week cut to a half day a week.  On May 26th, the afternoon work hours were extended to 6:00 P.M.  At some point, some POWs were assigned to building a second runway about three miles from the camp.

   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.

    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.
    Recalling the event he said, "As they were loading more men --- trying to pack up all into one hold --- we saw them carrying men out the other side.  The heat in the crowded holds was so terrific they had evidently fainted.  When they did get all the prisoners loaded, there was barely room to stand.  We were fed two meals a day on the way to Japan, but not enough water.  The matter of food was never so bad. but we got so little water, we often could not eat what we were provided."

    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.
    "When we were in Nagoya camp we found it was better to let the foreman, who constantly stood over you for every little mistake or hesitation worked you over, have confidence in us by seeing our sincere efforts.  Then he assign us to work and allow us to do it ourselves.  We did general strong arm work there --- loading and unloading boxcars and coal for instance."

    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.  He worked for the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Minneapolis Railroad as an engineer.

    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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