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Charles Wesley Chapman (1889-1918) Texte en langue anglaise

Nous avons noté à l'article Combats aériens - 1914-1918 (Suite), la mort le 3 mai 1918 du pilote américain Charles W. Chapman Jr, second lieutenant du 1er groupe de chasse de la 94ème escadrille, abattu en flammes près d'Autrepierre. Voici quelques compléments biographiques, où l'on apprend qu'il aurait été inhumé près de Remoncourt par les Allemands.

The Amherst memorial volume
A record of the contribution made by Amherst College and Ahmerst Men in the World-War 1914-1918
Claide M. Fuess
Amherst College, 1926


O dauntless youth, O soul of fire,
Enskied, you have a winged pyre;
You fell to earth enwrapped with flame:
You fell, but from your ashes rise
What consecrates your sacrifice, -
The honor of your country's name!
Harry Leroy Haywood

Second Lieutenant Charles Wesley Chapman was the first Amherst man to fall in action during the World War. Born at Waterloo, Iowa, he attended the West High School in that town, where he had a notable record as an athlete. At Amherst, which he entered in 1914, he was Business Manager of the Olio, played on his class basketball team, and joined Phi Delta Theta. In the spring of 1917, when he had not completed his junior year, he enlisted in the Franco-American Ambulance Corps, sailing on May 19; but when he reached France, he secured a transfer almost immediately to aviation, and, after a course of training at Avord, Pau, Cazaux, and Plessis-Belleville, became a member of the 94th Aero Squadron in the famous Lafayette Escadrille. In February, 1918, he received his commission as Second Lieutenant, and shortly afterward he christened his own machine " Lord Jeff."
Lieutenant Chapman's letters to his family and friends, which have been printed in a pamphlet for private circulation, comprise an exceedingly interesting account of the training for air combat. When he was still comparatively a novice, he wrote:
"You asked me to tell you something about the 'sensations' of flying. As a source of sensation I think it is a fizzle, - nothing to compare with a close game of golf or chess. I have found myself at times on the point of drowsiness when some few thousand metres in the air and have wished fervently I could go down. As for feeling thrilled because of height, it is surprising how safe you feel strapped in a 15-metre Nieuport and so high that you look like a speck from the ground. The highest that I have been is 5000 metres (16,000 feet) and I got no particular sensation of height at all. The greatest
sensation of height I ever had was the first time I took a machine ten metres off the ground. When I felt myself pass into space and looked down at the ground, it looked as far from me as the earth must look to the angels."

In a letter dated April 22, 1918, he told of his first experience in action:
"Well, I have been baptized with fire. I have made my first patrols. My initiation took place from 6 to 7 A. M. three days ago. ... I was over the lines for an hour learning the sector. Finally I decided to go down and see where I was. ... I cut my engine and came down through the clouds. Just as I came out of the clouds I heard a crack ! crack ! I looked off to one side and saw small puffs of black smoke which I knew were Boche anti-aircraft guns exploding. A second later I saw red streaks going past me on the other side and I knew that these were the tracer bullets from the machine guns. I looked down at the ground and saw that I was exactly over the German trenches. I put on my motor and headed for the nearest cloud. It couldn't have taken me more than a minute to get to it but it sure seemed long. All the time I could hear the shells exploding and now and then see another streak of a tracer. . . . When I had finally landed I looked over my plane. There wasn't a bullet hole in it."

On May 3, 1918, Chapman fought his last spectacular battle. Five American pilots were patrolling at dawn over the German lines, Chapman being the youngest of the group, by whom he was always known as " the kid." The official account states that five enemy planes - four monoplanes and one biplane - were sighted and pursued. Chapman, attacking the biplane, finally shot it down. While he was thus engaged, one of the enemy monoplanes disengaged itself and, having the advantage of a higher altitude, swooped down upon him. The two planes, inextricably entangled, fell in flames behind the German lines. The American aviators were naturally very proud of the daring spirit which Chapman displayed. Norman Hall said at the time, "Poor Chapman had tough luck. He's the first now. It's a gamble who will be the next, but no one is worrying. It's a great life while it lasts." His father was later notified that Lieutenant Chapman had been buried with military honors by the Germans near Remoncourt, on the Franco-German border but in French territory, with a cross over his grave.
Lieutenant Chapman was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by the Commander-in-Chief, with the following citation:
"On May 6, 1918, in the region of Autrepierre, while on patrol duty, he courageously attacked a group of four monoplanes and one biplane, and succeeded in bringing down one before he himself was shot down in flames."
He received also a citation from General Gerard, commanding the 9th French Army. Lieutenant James A. Meissner, one of his comrades in the squadron, wrote Chapman's mother:
"The whole squadron feels his loss deeply, for constant cheerfulness makes many friends and lightens many hardships. I do not doubt but that he died with a smile on his lips, confident in the success of his attack and glorying in the thrill of an air battle. Nothing can be more consoling to you than that he was doing his utmost for his country in the service of which none but the best are
found, - the air fighters."
Major Hueffer, his Commanding Officer in the First Pursuit Group of the 94th Aero Squadron, wrote to his father:
"Allow me to extend to you my sincere sympathy at the loss or capture of your very gallant son, whom I considered one of the the most competent and courageous of our pilots."
The Amherst Student, in commenting editorially on Chapman's death, had the following paragraph:
"Quiet, congenial, helpful, Chapman lived among us and made a host of friends by his sincerity and kindness. He was one of those men always ready and able to do his share. The honor he won for himself was the recognition and respect of his college mates for his pleasing and worthy personality."
Amherst men will always be glad to remember that the " Lord Jeff," although battling against overwhelming odds, did account for one at least of the enemy before it fell; and Lieutenant Chapman's name will long be cherished by those who admire deeds of heroism.

The Lafayette flying corps
Ed. by James Norman
Ed. 1920


Charles W. Chapman, Jr., Waterloo, Iowa.

Service in French Aviation:
Date of enlistment: June 10, 1917.
Aviation Schools: June 16, 1917, to February, 1918, Avord, Pau, Cazeaux, G.D.E.
Breveted: October 30, 1917 (Caudron).
Final Rank: Caporal.

Service in U.S. Aviation:
Commissioned Second Lieutenant: February 21, 1918.
At the Front: 94th Pursuit Squadron, March 3 to May 3, 1918.
Killed in combat: (Toul Sector) May 3, 1918.

Distinguished Service Cross.
Croix de Guerre, with Palm.

G.H.Q., A.E.F.
On May 3, 1918, in the region of Autrepierre, France, while on patrol duty, he courageously attacked a group of four monoplanes and one biplane and succeeded in bringing one down before he himself was shot down in flames.
By Command of General Pershing

Sous-Lieutenant Chapman, Charles Wesley, Pilote Escadrille Americaine N° 94
Glorieusement tombé au cours d'un combat contre un groupe ennemi après avoir abattu un de ses adversaires en flammes.


Those of us who were with Chapman at Pau will always remember an incident that threw light on the determination concealed beneath his modesty and reserve of manner. It was in the acrobatics class,
when man after man was sent up alone in the 13-meter Nieuport to do his first spins and aerial summersaults. At last, Chapman's turn came, and up he went to spin and flip with the best of us - but when he landed those who gathered around the machine noticed that his face was white and that he staggered as he walked. That evening he told us - the first spin had made him deathly ill, his head swam, and the sky went black before his eyes. In this condition, expecting every moment to faint, he had finished with honors the full course of acrobatic flying. We urged him to apply for two-seater work where trick flying is not required, but he persevered and soon overcame his attacks of faintness. On the 3d of May, 1918, near Autrepierre in Lorraine, Chapman died as he had lived, cleanly and gamely fighting till he was shot down within the enemy lines.


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