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Sharing Stories and Smiles: WWII Veteran James Chapman

Sharing Stories and Smiles:

WWII Veteran James Chapman

Gwen Akers

The Ashland Beacon

 


Going from the small town of Louisa, Kentucky to the shores of Okinawa was quite a shock for WWII veteran James Chapman. Yet, this experience would be one that would stick with him, as he would share his stories of becoming a soldier, a father and a hero.

  Homegrown in Louisa, Kentucky, James Chapman joined the army at the age of 17 in 1942, following the enlistment of his 3 older brothers. Little did he know when he signed those papers and headed off to Oregon for training, that he would embark on the adventure of a lifetime. One that would lead him on a path of inspiration, hard work and determination that has affected both his community and his family.

  “He had a lot of stories to tell. He would talk for hours about his war days and stuff like that,” detailed Chapman’s daughter, Sharon Tackett. “A lot of people would just come and sit and talk with him.”



  Chapman wasn’t always full of these stories, however after training in and out of Oregon and the California areas he found himself enchanted by the landscape and the people wherever he went. Everything he saw inspired him, and after his time in the service his experiences and stories became the highlight of so many people around him.


One story in particular is that of Chapman’s favorite sight, that of Crater Lake in Oregon, one he encouraged his daughter, Sharon Tackett, to go see. In the past year, Tackett was able to go visit it herself and marvel at both the beauty and serenity of the view. Staring out over that lake, it was like a part of him was there with her.

  After deployment, Chapman was active in the invasion of the Mariana Islands, as well as the liberation of the Philippines from Japanese control during World War II.

  Chapman was also involved in the storming of Okinawa, which was the final island battle before the anticipated mainland invasion of Japan. The Battle of Okinawa occurred on April 1, 1945, and sought to give Allied forces an airbase to launch further attacks. Featuring some of the most violent kamikaze attacks of the war, a joint corps of the Army and Marines faced well-dug in Japanese forces.

  Here, Chapman suffered a head injury from artillery or mortar rounds that exploded close to him. Chapman also served in the battle of Hacksaw Ridge and was awarded two Purple Hearts for his service on Okinawa and Iwo Jima.

  After his time in the service, Chapman joined the U.S. Corps of Engineers where he worked as a diver servicing and building dams. He used his diving skill set to help the community as well, working in search and rescue.


Always independent and self-reliant, Chapman lived a long and full life, living by himself until 3 days before his passing. Leaving behind several children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren, Chapman’s legacy lives on in the smiles of his family.

  Chapman, always wanting to serve the community and be a beacon of light for both his family and friends, was always known to be a storyteller—believing that only through experience can one truly learn and understand. Tackett fondly remembers her father talking to the Meals on Wheels group who would bring him his groceries.“He was just full of little stories,” expressed Tackett with a smile.

  Chapman stayed in the army through 1945, and promptly returned to Kentucky where he began working on dams and for the Corps of Engineers. Chapman did not let his retirement from the army stop him from always helping those around him, as he also used his diving skills for search and rescue when he could.

  An avid cook, camper and fisher, Chapman went every year to Fallsburg to enjoy the weather and scenery–all the way up until his 101 birthday. Last year, his family went in his honor and decorated a golf cart in remembrance.

Now, every time someone looks out over Crater Lake or remembers one of Chapman’s stories, they will remember him not only for his 2 Purple Hearts or time on the diving search and rescue team, but as the hero he was: not only to his family but to his community as well.

 

 

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