LEONARD FIELDING CHAPMAN, JR., USMC
General Leonard Fielding Chapman, Jr., 24th Commandant of the Marine Corps, was born 3 November 1913, in Key West, Florida, and graduated from high school in DeLand, Florida. In 1931, he entered the University of Florida where he became a member of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps unit for four years. Upon graduation in June 1935, he was commissioned as a Marine second lieutenant, 8 July 1935.
After completing The Basic School at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, 2dLt Chapman served with the 1st Battalion, 10th Marines at Quantico, Virginia, from April 1936 until August 1937. In June 1938, after completing Field Artillery School at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, he was assigned to the 10th Marines at Marine Corps Base, San Diego, California. He was promoted to first lieutenant in September 1938.
In June 1940, 1stLt Chapman departed San Diego for Honolulu. There he completed Gunnery School on board the USS New Orleans prior to reporting to the USS Astoria in July 1940 for a two-year assignment as Commanding Officer of the Marine Detachment. He was promoted to captain in April 1941.
On board the USS Astoria following the outbreak of World War II, Capt Chapman took part in the early Pacific raids culminating in the battles of the Coral Sea and Midway, and earned the Navy Commendation Ribbon with Combat “V.” He was promoted to major in May 1942 and returned to the United States late that June.
Major Chapman was assigned to Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, in August 1942 as an instructor in the Artillery Course. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in May 1943, and that October was named Executive Officer of the Artillery Section at Marine Corps Schools.
In June 1944, LtCol Chapman again departed for combat duty, joining the 1st Marine Division in the Pacific area. He earned the Legion of Merit with Combat “V” for meritorious service as Operations Officer, 11th Marines, and Commanding Officer, 4th Battalion, 11th Marines, during combat at Peleliu in September and October 1944; and the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V” as 4th Battalion Commander at Okinawa, April to July 1945.
Following the war when he returned to the continental United States, LtCol Chapman served as Secretary of the General Staff, Fleet Marine Force (FMF), Pacific from September 1945 to July 1946. From August 1946 until May 1949, he was stationed at Headquarters Marine Corps (HQMC), Washington, D.C., serving as Executive Officer, G-3 Section, Division of Plans and Policies.
Ordered to Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, LtCol Chapman served as Coordinator, Reserve Artillery Training Unit; completed the Amphibious Warfare School, Senior Course, in June 1950; then served as Chief of the Supporting Arms Group, Marine Corps Development Center. While at Quantico, he was promoted to colonel in July 1950.
In July 1952, Col Chapman departed Quantico for Camp Pendleton, California, where he joined the 3d Marine Division as Commanding Officer, 12th Marines. He sailed with the division in August 1953 for Japan, where he continued to command the 12th Marines. In August 1954, he was named Commanding Officer, Marine Barracks, U.S. Fleet Activities, Yokosuka, Japan, serving in this capacity until May 1956.
In July 1956, Col Chapman assumed duties in Washington, D.C., as Commanding Officer, Marine Barracks, and Director of the Marine Corps Institute. Two years later, he was promoted to brigadier general on 1 July 1958.
Following his promotion, BGen Chapman was assigned to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, serving as Commanding General, Force Troops, FMF, Atlantic, until August 1961. He reported to HQMC in September 1961 for duty as Assistant Chief of Staff, G-4 and was promoted to major general on 1 November 1961. For exceptionally meritorious service in this capacity from September 1961 through December 1963, he was awarded his second Legion of Merit.
On 1 January 1964, MajGen Chapman was designated as Chief of Staff, with the rank of lieutenant general. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal by the Secretary of the Navy. On 1 July 1967, LtGen Chapman became Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps. While serving as Assistant Commandant, he was awarded the Armed Forces Management Association Merit Award for 1967.
On 4 December 1967, LtGen Chapman was nominated by President Lyndon B. Johnson to be the 24th Commandant of the Marine Corps and was confirmed by the Senate on 13 December 1967. On 1 January 1968, he was promoted to general on assuming the office of Commandant.
During his first year in office, Gen Chapman traveled widely, covering nearly 100,000 miles while visiting Marines stationed around the world. The heavy commitment to Vietnam took him to that country twice in 1968. In January 1969, President Pak Chong-Hui of the Republic of Korea presented Gen Chapman the Order of National Security Merit, First Class. Later that month, Gen Chapman earned a Gold Star in lieu of a second award of the Distinguished Service Medal.
By the end of his tenure, Gen Chapman witnessed the III Marine Amphibious Force withdrawal from Vietnam and the strength of the Corps drop from a peak of 289,000 to 198,000. Anticipating an austere budget and fewer Marines, he had earlier made his move for a "hard, lean, fully combat-ready Corps,'' reduced in size, but not in professionalism. Prior to his retirement, President Nixon presented Gen Chapman a third award of the Distinguished Service Medal, 10 December 1971.
General Chapman retired 1 January 1972 and became U.S. Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization. He died 6 January 2000 at age 86 from complications resulting from cancer. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors on 14 January 2000.
A complete list of General Chapman’s medals and decorations include: three awards of the Distinguished Service Medal; two awards of the Legion of Merit, one with Combat “V;” the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V;” the Navy Commendation Ribbon with Combat “V”; two Presidential Unit Citations; the American Defense Service Medal with Fleet Clasp; the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Meal with one silver star in lieu of five bronze stars; the American Campaign Medal; the National Defense Service Medal with one bronze star; the Korean Service Medal; the Korean Order of National Security Merit, First Class; the Vietnam National Order, 2nd Class; and the United Nations Service Medal.
Commandants of the Marine Corps