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William Seymour Chapman Sr.
1916-1945

"You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word. It is victory. Victory at all costs. Victory in spite of all terrors. Victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival."

Winston Churchill

The cost of victory in World War II was high. It was filled with terrors. The road to victory was long and hard. It was achieved by the sacrifice of men like William Seymour Chapman Sr.

William Seymour Chapman Sr. was born on July 15, 1916, in Fayette County, West Virginia, the son of Peter Allen and Maude Ellen Chapman. Growing up in East Bank, West Virginia, he joined (or was joined by) siblings Peter, James, John, Betty, Thelma (married name: Rudd), and Rosalie (married name: Hamilton). William graduated from East Bank High School. His son says that his father was an outstanding baseball player. After high school, William worked for Union Carbide in South Charleston, West Virginia, before entering the service. He married Margaret Marie Thomas, and they had one child, a son, William S. Chapman Jr. They could have settled into a comfortable life, living the American dream, but World War II intervened.

Private First Class Chapman entered the U.S. Army on October 26, 1943, and was assigned to the 39th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division. He served in the European Theater from April 6, 1944, to February 5, 1945, when he was killed in action in Gemuend (Nordrhein-Westfalen), Germany.

The action in which the 39th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division, was engaged on February 5 is well-documented, for they were involved in the Battle of Hürtgen Forest. The 9th Infantry Division was the first American unit involved in this battle, which in reality was a series of actions lasting from mid-September through mid-February. Although not as well known as the Battle of the Bulge, which was occurring nearby and simultaneously with some portions of the Hürtgen Forest battle, the latter “was the longest battle the Americans had ever fought in the history of the United States military.” (Source: Peter Chen, “The Battle of Hürtgen Forest: 19 Sep 1944 – 10 Feb 1945,” World War II Database, Web, accessed 12 Aug. 2015.)
Edsall

A GI helps his squad’s BAR man up a steep wooded hill in the Hürtgen. Courtesy National Archives

The importance of the 50 square mile area of the forest lay in its access to the remainder of Germany, access that would ultimately lead to the winning of the war. But the terrain favored the defending Germans and thus the advancing Allies struggled to gain and maintain a foothold. Chen continues: “Replacement troops flowed into the forest constantly, but not at a rate that replaced the mounting number of casualties….” Ultimately the U.S. would suffer 33,000 casualties, 9,000 of which were attributed to non-combat causes such as illness and friendly fire. Finally achieving victory in that battle on February 10 (ironically just five days after the death of Pfc. Chapman), the strategic value of the forest would be debated by historians and military personnel, some of whom argued that the battle was fought in vain. For those who would feel the effects long after the battle, however, it was decidedly not fought in vain.

Bronze Star

The Bronze Star

Purple Heart

The Purple Heart

For his meritorious service and ultimate sacrifice, William S. Chapman Sr. received two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star.

Due to the chaos of war, casualties are sometimes buried several times—first in battlefield graves and later in military cemeteries overseas, and even later they may be brought home. Pfc. Chapman was originally buried in the Henri-Chapelle Cemetery in Belgium, the American cemetery geographically closest to where he and his comrades in arms fell in Hürtgen Forest.
Angel Statue

Angel Statue at Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery in Belgium. Courtesy American Battle Monuments Commission

grave marker

Grave marker for William S. Chapman Sr., courtesy Lee Atkins, Find A Grave, accessed 9 April 2015. Photo used with permission

When it became possible for families to request that their loved ones be returned to the U.S. for reburial, he was brought home and laid to rest in Montgomery Memorial Park in London, West Virginia.

Family information provided by William S. Chapman Jr.
Article prepared by Patricia Richards McClure
August 2015

Honor...

William Seymour Chapman

West Virginia Archives and History welcomes any additional information that can be provided about these veterans, including photographs, family names, letters and other relevant personal history.


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