Chapin High School is the newest high school in the
EPISD.  It is also the home of a four-year
per-engineering program. The staff and faculty, are
dedicated to success in the community and in the
school. Below is the story of John L. Chapin as told
by Dan Wever Trustee EPISD


The school is privileged to honor the
memory of an El Pasoan who courageously
represented our country and our community.
CPT John L. Chapin
School Web Site

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through El Paso and visited. These friends had a daughter just 4 months older than John named Velma. It seemed that John always spent all of his time with
Velma when they were visiting and it was said that John and Velma fell in love at the age of 9. These were hard years in the United States and the World. We
were in a depression and many, many people did not have jobs and children went to bed hungry much of the time. After high school John enrolled at New
Mexico A & M. He completed 2 years there and transferred to Texas A & M. He graduated from Texas A & M in 1936 with a degree in Chemical Engineering.
Velma had graduated from a college in Los Angeles in 1934. John took 2 years longer because he had to drop out a semester now and then to earn money
to continue his education. John and Velma had written letters and visited all through the college years both knowing that some time, the day would come,
when they would be married. The day did finally arrive and they were married on April 21, 1937. John and Velma were blessed with a son, Paul, who was born
on December 27th 1938. John had many job offers with his degree in Chemical Engineering, as this was a fairly new field at the time. However most of the
offers were very low paying, so much so, that he was able to make more money working in the post office in El Paso. He took graduate courses at UTEP
which at the time was the College of Mines. John wanted to be a doctor and he had all of the science courses he needed and was ready to apply for Medical
School. About this time the El Paso National Guard almost begged him to join them as their Chemical Warfare Officer. He talked it over with Velma and they
decided he would join the National Guard unit for a year and then go to the University of California Medical school. It was thought by both of them that the
extra money would make medical school a little easier as the country was still in the terrible depression. As luck would have it there were maniacs running
amuck in Europe (Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini) and John Chapin's National Guard unit was activated as Company 'E', 141st Infantry, 36th Division of
the United States Army in November 1940. Company "E" was a group men and boys, many of whom could not speak English, some from Juarez, all Hispanic,
except for the officers, one of whom was 1st Lt. John L. Chapin. Many of these "boys" had dropped out of Austin, Bowie and El Paso High Schools to join the
guard because they knew we were in for some tough battles in the future and they wanted to be trained. Company "E" left El Paso without much fanfare
because this was still before the attack on Pearl Harbor. While training Chapin was promoted to Captain and made company commander of Company "E".
Captain Chapin had been trained at Texas A&M so he was already a skilled officer. The Hispanic men in his company grew to respect him because of his skill
as an officer and fairness in dealing with day to day problems in the military. He also grew to love his men because he had 5 chances to advance to the rank
of Major but he turned them all down because he would have had to leave "his" boys. He was addressed by his men as Captain John but among themselves
he was affectionately called Daddy long legs as some of his men later reminisced. The company was stationed in many places around the United States and
got some of the best training that was available at the time for our soldiers. Velma accompanied him to many of the stations with their son Paul. When the
trips across country got to be too much she took Paul back to California to stay with her parents until Capt. John came home. On his last 4 day leave before
shipping overseas, he spent most of his time with his son who was not quite 4. Velma and Paul put John on a train December 12, 1942. This was the last time
excerpt from the 36 Division War Museum material. 'Salerno was one of the bloodier, more critical operations of the Second World War. For a time the action
hung in the balance as strong enemy counterattacks smashed and threatened the very existence of the initial beachhead. But at the last a gallant defense
held firm and Salerno was won. This was the opening struggle of the long and bitter Italian campaign. Of the battles and of the winter months that were
ahead, General Walker upon their conclusion could forthrightly state, "I do not recall any campaign in the whole history of the United States Army in which
soldiers have had to endure greater hardships or have performed greater deeds of heroism than this campaign in Italy." "E" Company became known as a
fierce fighting unit and on December 16th, during the attack of San Pietro, Captain Chapin was wounded and hospitalized. He was told that the wound would
probably earn him a ticket home. When he heard this, he was quoted by two different sources, one of whom was Gabriel Navarrete, another famous hero of
Company "E as saying "No, I brought these boys overseas and with the help of God will take them back to Texas or die trying." Shortly thereafter he got word
that the Division had orders to cross the deadly Rapido River. He left the hospital, some say the hospital had him listed as AWOL, and rejoined his men to
lead them across the river. Everyone knew the Rapido river crossing was a suicidal mission but Captain John led his men across against odds that were
staggering. (There was a congressional hearing about why these men were sacrificed in this action. It was recognized as a mistake and everyone was told
that the way the military learns is by learning from its mistakes.) His men were the very few that got across the river. They got pinned down and needed relief
but it arrived about 15 minutes too late. There was evidence that they had run out of ammunition but they had cleared the way through the barbed wire thus
paving the way for the next group to take their objectives. Many lives were saved by their actions and many El Paso men, most of them Hispanic, died or were
captured on this day January 22, 1944. From the El Paso Times. Two dead heroes of El Paso were awarded the Silver Star for "magnificent courage and
devotion the duty." Receiving the posthumous awards are Capt. John L. Chapin and Staff Sgt. Roque O Segura. From the War Department's citation "Their
infantry unit was ordered to cross a river in Italy on Jan 22, 1944, the attack being initiated under heavy enemy artillery, mortar and machinegun fire, which
continued throughout the operation. These infantrymen evidencing complete disregard for their own safety displayed outstanding courage. Advancing in the
face of overwhelming enemy fire they crossed the river and moved valiantly toward their objective. While so doing they met their death. Their magnificent
courage and devotion to duty in the face of vastly superior odds served as an outstanding example and inspiration to all who witnessed this action. Capt.
John L. Chapin loved all of his men and they in turn loved him. Strange words for men of death and war but truth is stranger than fiction. Velma did not learn
of his death until February 22, 1944 a full month after he died. He was found in a foxhole with a telephone in one hand and his carbine in the other. His
personal effects returned to Velma included a link bracelet she had bought for him and his Texas A&M ring. Both still caked with the Italian mud that he had
died in. The letters from home he had carried in his pocket were soaked through with his blood as much of the land Company 'E" had been fighting for was
soaked with theirs. The Italian soil did not discriminate against Hispanic blood; it accepted it along with Capt. John's and many thousands of other brave men.
Capt. John and many of his men are at their final resting-place in a cemetery in Italy. On all of their gravestones are three letters that signify that they all
earned the greatest honor a country can give its military men. KIA Killed in Action.